Making a Success of Exclusive Breast-feeding – Olawuyi Olubukola


Breastfeeding requires the understanding and support of family members especially the father whose traditional role of providing food for the family should extend to promoting breastfeeding. Breast milk is economical and fathers do not need to pay to get it for their babies. They only need to ensure that mothers have adequate diet and drink enough fluids including clean water.

Fathers should encourage mothers to see the health care provider for advice during pregnancy if she has retracted nipples in order to avoid complications during breastfeeding. Fathers should encourage mothers to attend the antenatal clinic regularly where she will be taught how to care for the breast.


Breastfeeding is the feeding of an infant with breast milk directly from female human breast through lactation rather than from a bottle or any other container. Babies have a suckling reflex that enables them to suckle and swallow natural breast milk. It is recommended that mothers breastfeed for six months or more, without the addition of infant formula or solid food. This should be followed by supplemented breastfeeding for at least one or two years.

Why Exclusive?

Exclusive breastfeeding is fundamental for optimal growth and development of babies in the first six months of life. The 2008 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey (NDHS) revealed that the national average for exclusive breastfeeding rate in Nigeria is 13% for babies in the first six months of life. This is poor and below the world average of over 35%.

Nigeria is the largest contributor to neonatal deaths in Africa with neonatal mortality rate of 42 per 1000 live births. This dictates a need for urgent interventions that protect newborns. WHO estimates that over a million children can be saved worldwide through the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding.

It is also worth noting that each year, under-nutrition is implicated in about 40% of the 11 million deaths of children under five in developing countries, and lack of immediate and exclusive breastfeeding in infancy causes an additional 1.5 million of these deaths.

Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life is now considered a global public heath goal that is linked to the reduction of infant morbidity and mortality, especially in the developing world. Mothers have the right to breastfeed their children, and exclusive breastfeeding is an essential component of measures that need to be taken to ensure that each child's right to food, health and care is respected.


Breastfeeding is a natural instinct for mothers. However, establishing comfort for mother and baby during breastfeeding for the achievement of optimal breastfeeding benefits may require some learning. This is especially so for first-time mothers. Mothers should solicit for assistance with breast feeding early, so that optimal breast milk production can be established as needed by the baby.

Doctors, Nurses and in some cases, trained Lactation Assistants should be available to support mothers with breast feeding. Fathers and indeed family members have roles to play too by supporting mothers through the creation of the enabling environment for exclusive breastfeeding.

By OLAWUYI OLUBUKOLA, Paediatric Nurse, B.Sc, M.Sc Unilag, FWACN


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