By; MATTHEW UKACHUNWA, Lagos
Breastfeeding counselling has benefits for babies, families and economies.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) made the above declaration while commemorating year 2020 breastfeeding week.
The theme of World Breastfeeding Week 2020, which was observed from Saturday 1st to Friday 7th August, is “Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet”.
“In line with this theme, World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF are calling on governments to protect and promote women’s access to skilled breastfeeding counselling, a critical component of breastfeeding support,” UNICEF said in news release dated 3rd August 2020.
It emphasized that breastfeeding provides every child with the best possible start in life, as weIl as delivers health, nutritional and emotional benefits to both children and mothers.
Breastfeeding forms part of a sustainable food system. But while breastfeeding is a natural process, it is not always easy. Mothers need support – both to get started and to sustain breastfeeding, the UN agency for children’s well-being stressed.
“Skilled counselling services can ensure that mothers and families receive this support, along with the information, the advice, and the reassurance they need to nourish their babies optimally.
“Breastfeeding counselling can help mothers to build confidence while respecting their individual circumstances and choices.
“Counselling can empower women to overcome challenges and prevent feeding and care practices that may interfere with optimal breastfeeding, such as the provision of unnecessary liquids, foods, and breastmilk substitutes to infants and young children, UNICEF explained.
“Indeed, analysis indicates that increasing rates of exclusive breastfeeding could save the lives of 820 000 children every year, generating US $302 billion in additional income,” UNICEF narrated.
It pointed out that skilled breastfeeding counselling can be provided by different actors including healthcare professionals, lactation counsellors and peer support providers, and in a variety of settings– in health facilities or clinics, through home visits or community programmes, in person or remotely.
According to UNICEF, during the CoronaVirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it is even more important to find innovative solutions to ensure that access to these essential services is not disrupted and that families continue to receive the breastfeeding counselling they need.