WBW2021: Foundation, Partners Advocate Increased use of Mothers milk for Premature, ill babies

The Wellbeing Foundation Africa, (WBFA) and other partners including the Federal Ministry of Health have pledged their support to help mothers of premature and ill babies to successfully produce breastmilk and breastfeed in Nigeria.

The Foundation made this known through its Founder-President, Her Excellency Toyin Ojora-Saraki at a high-level stakeholder workshop in Abuja organized by WBFA, Medela Cares and the Federal Ministry of Health as part of the activities to mark the 2021 annual breastfeeding week. 

Mrs Saraki explained that the Wellbeing Foundation Africa has taken the bold step since 2014 to represent Nigeria in the Global Breastfeeding Initiative’s consultations, and from that point onwards birthed an intentional and deliberate community-centred frontline strategy to provide hands-on lactation education support for newly delivered women in Nigeria, noting that it was “an early investment that stood the test of resilience during COVID-19, and became the enabler for a strong start to building back better, where others may have floundered”.

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A mother of four premature babies herself, Saraki added that the foundation is committed to upskilling front frontline health care providers, and imparting knowledge that promotes and protects mother’s nutritional status, mental wellbeing, and lifestyle choices – before and during pregnancy. Specifically on breastfeeding, the WBFA is supporting Nigeria in key lactation-specific upskilling for all professionally qualified birth attendants to enable the establishment of mother-neonate latch within the first hour and day of birth.

“The organisation will build and deliver an online quality improvement toolkit to enable scale-up, monitoring and evaluation, alongside train-the-trainers workshops. We are focusing on the most vulnerable – 871,000 premature babies born in Nigeria annually by providing dedicated support to help mothers of premature and ill neonates successfully lactate and breastfeed in Nigeria. We are hereby pleased to be introducing Neonatal Intensive Care Unit specific strategies to the Federal Ministry of Health during 2021 World Breastfeeding Week.

“The WBFA strengthens primary health centres in Nigeria by remaining accessible, financially and geographically, thus, promoting a Continuum of Care that empowers frontliners to transition from community carers to community interlocutors” she said.

The Minister of Health Dr Osagie Enahire lauded WBFA and its partners for a taking a giant step focusing on lactation for NICU Babies. Represented by Dr. Binyerem Ukaire the head of the Nutrition Division of the Family Health Department in the ministry, Enahire highlighted that the initiative will go along a way in helping the ministry, NAFDAC and other stakeholders to work on a national guideline for the feeding of NICU babies.

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The WBFA National Programme Coordinator, Dr. Wale Otun on his part noted that babies on NCIU admission are often left out on breast milk feeding campaign as there are no national guidelines on lactation of NICU babies.

He stated that the poorly equipped facilities which are under staffed have had negative impacts on the quality of nutrition in NICUs thereby contributing to the morbidity and mortality of newborns. While calling on stakeholders to commit to developing another guideline on feeding of babies in Neonatal Intensive Care Units in Nigeria, Otun assured that the Foundation’s Medela Cares supported NICU program which has already taken-off in four health care facilities in Kwara, Lagos and the FCT strictly adheres to the World Health Organization (WHO) International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes Code and Nigeria Breastmilk Substitutes Law.

“871,000 premature babies are born in Nigeria annually; it is on this background that the Wellbeing Foundation and Medela Cares partnered on the Lactation Quality Improvement in the NICU program with the aim of improving health outcomes for neonates and their families. 

“We are focusing on improving the use of Mother’s Own Milk in the neonatal intensive care unit to the most vulnerable” Wale said.

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