Wife of the Lagos State Governor, Dr Ibijoke Sanwo-Olu, and other stakeholders have implored managers of organisations, to create work-friendly places for lactating mothers to take care of their babies.
They urged stakeholders, especially the private sector in other states to support family-friendly policies like six months maternity leaves, and workplace crèche to enable working mothers to breastfeed their babies exclusively as well as see it as an investment in human capital development.
Sanwo-Olu made the call at the opening of NECA’s Network of Entrepreneurial Women (NNEW)/Alive and Thrive crèche & lactation Centre, built inside the premises of the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), Ikeja.
Facilities at the centre include television, changing area for mothers, kitchen, refrigerator, warmer, cleaning areas, toys, closed-circuit television, camera, monitoring unit for parents to monitor babies, beds, chairs, and toilet.
Such centres, she observed, would go a long way in supporting breastfeeding mothers while maintaining their jobs, and career development.
She said the gesture couldn’t have come at a better time than now when the world is contending with new realities posed by unexpected COVID-19 pandemic, stressing that it would serve as a necessary impetus to encourage mothers especially the working class to exclusively breastfeed their babies, and engender appropriate complementary feeding after six months.
Sanwo-Olu, represented by a former Permanent Secretary, Primary Healthcare Board, Dr Ibironke Shodeinde, urged other reputable organisations to emulate the gesture by NNEW and Alive and Thrive Foundation, to maximise the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding, diet diversity, and prevent diseases such as respiratory infections, low growth, diarrhoea, osteoporosis and pneumonia in mothers and children.
“It is our collective responsibility to create the enabling environment for mothers to breastfeed optimally in the interest of all and the children. Fathers, mothers, and the communities must make it a priority to support nursing mothers to observe exclusive breastfeeding for the recommended period,” she said.
The NNEW’s President, Mrs Funmilayo Arowoogun, said providing such facilities across workplaces would improve breastfeeding practices, which could save appropriately 100,000 lives in Nigeria yearly, and enhance economic growth.
She explained that the collaboration with Alive and Thrive is to encourage the setting up of crèches in corporate organisations to give mothers the opportunity to breastfeed their babies maximally throughout the day, and not just when they get home tired at night.
According to her, breastfeeding is the most cost-effective intervention for reducing malnutrition and under-five mortality both of which are very high in Nigeria.
She said: “Research shows that infants under six months, who are not breastfed, are three to four times likely to die than those who receive any breast milk. Nearly half of all diarrhoea episodes and one-third of all respiratory infections would be prevented with increased breastfeeding. For children from six to 23 months, continued breastfeeding is associated with a 50 per cent reduction in death.”
The Chief Medical Director, LASUTH, Prof Adetokunbo Fabamwo, who described the gesture as a tripartite arrangement between NNEW, LASUTH, and Alive and Thrive, said 42.3 per cent of the Nigerian workforce is made up of women due to bad economy and the need to support their husband.
He said it is imperative to initiate good policies that will encourage women to take care of their babies.
The Project Director, Alive and Thrive, Victor Ogbodo, said it’s important to develop initiatives that would prevent a mother from losing her baby, noting that ensuring that nursing mothers and babies are close during lactating periods promote bonding.
He quoted a recent survey by the Federal Ministry of Health, Alive & Thrive, and UNICEF in 2018, showed that increasing maternity leave and benefits like having a crèche in workplaces is a win-win situation for the employers and the employees.
Also speaking, the Director-General of NECA, Dr Timothy Olawale, who insisted that crèche and lactation centres in workplaces boost employees’ productivity, disclosed that the Association has been encouraging its members to replicate such ideas.
He noted that for those in the private sector, enlightened self-interest dictates that the initiative must be embraced because there is a nexus between staff welfare and productivity while pledging to lead by example by establishing such a facility within the NECA Secretariat.