A dietician at the Trust Hospital in Accra, Mr Wise Letsa, has stressed the need for maternity leave to be extended from three to six months to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the country.
In an interview with The Mirror in Accra last Friday, he explained that the extension would enable mothers to practice exclusive breastfeeding since the current three-month leave hindered it.
“We should have a policy that can guarantee mothers to stay home for six months after delivery . Maternity leave should be extended to encourage exclusive breastfeeding, so that mothers actually have the time to practice the exclusive breastfeeding,” he explained.
Mr Letsa said workplaces should also be child –friendly to enable mothers to take their babies to work.
“If every organisation sets up a nursery, mothers can have breastfeeding breaks to feed their babies. Fathers should also support their wives by visiting child welfare clinics, among others. This would reduce the pressure on mothers and enable them to breastfeed their babies adequately,” he explained.
For women who are planning to give birth, he advised that they save their annual leave and add to the maternity leave to enable them do exclusive breastfeeding.
“At the same time, Fathers should also help with house chores to enable mothers have the right amount of rest they need when they are breastfeeding and also help babysit at night to prevent mothers going through stress and depression”, he added.
The dietician said babies who haven’t gone through the six months of exclusive breastfeeding, lose the first level of protection, which is referred to as colostrum and antibodies that help the baby to build immunity and protection from infections.
“Breastmilk has vitamin K and contributes to the growth of the baby’s liver hence it is important to breastfeed for six months. It is the best form of nutrition for babies; it is adequate in energy and protein among others.
Mr Letsa explained that the introduction of complementary foods only adds up to the breast milk to complement the breast milk because the breast milk is no longer adequate for nutrients and energy. “When you introduce complementary foods, it means that you are adding to the nutrients and energy that the milk can no longer provide,” he added.
World Breastfeeding Week
World Breastfeeding Week is an annual celebration which is held every year from August 1 to 7. This year’s event focussed on strengthening the capacity of actors that have to protect, promote and support breastfeeding across different levels of society.
The 2022 theme, “Step up for breastfeeding, educate and support” seeks to involve governments, communities and individuals in raising awareness about a sustainable breastfeeding environment.