Breastfeeding supports and provides all children with the best start in life, as breastmilk contains antibodies that protect against many common childhood illnesses. Despite its benefits, evidence shows that a supportive breastfeeding environment for working mothers is lacking.
According to a national maternity entitlement survey jointly conducted by Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), UNICEF, and Alive & Thrive (A&T) in 2018, only 9% of the organizations interviewed have a workplace breastfeeding policy. And these policies were not consistent across states or sectors (only 1.5% of public sector and 23% of private sector organizations provided creches or daycare services at the workplace).
Therefore, as part of efforts to support baby-friendly workplaces to enable working mothers to breastfeed exclusively, A&T piloted a private sector engagement. With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, A&T, from 2019 – 2020, provided technical and financial support to NECA NNEW to promote workplace-friendly policies in the private sector. Like establishing breastfeeding/lactation rooms which have the potential to improve a nursing mother’s mental and physical health, productivity, and loyalty to the employer. This engagement resulted in the establishment of workplace creches/breastfeeding rooms by the NECA NNEW and Lagos State University Teaching Hospital. It culminated in the development and dissemination of the “Toolkit for Workplace Lactation Support Programme in Nigeria.”
The launch of the private sector workplace breastfeeding toolkit was held in Lagos with private and public sector stakeholders and the media in attendance. Mrs. Celine Oni, the Director, Learning and Development/Projects, NECA, was the chief launcher. In her remarks, Mrs. Oni indicated that unveiling the toolkit on workplace breastfeeding support in Nigeria provides another opportunity to reiterate NECA’s commitment to creating awareness and championing the utilization of the toolkit by its member companies.
Delivering the keynote address, Dr. Victor Ajieroh from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation called on all stakeholders to partner with the government of Nigeria to implement the Baby-Friendly Initiative Guidelines (BFIG). He said it ensures providing paid extended maternity and paternity leaves, onsite or near-site lactation rooms/creches, protection of nursing mothers from discrimination and job security while on leave. According to him, for societies and economies to thrive, countries and businesses need to support their workers through family-friendly policies as they get married, raise children, and cater to them till early adulthood.
In his remark, Victor Ogbodo, the project director of Alive and Thrive Nigeria, reiterated the quest to partner with the private sector to implement the National Baby-Friendly Initiative in the workplace. He said the partnership would ensure the provision of an environment that enables Nigerian workers to give their babies the best start in life as an investment in the future workforce.
The special guest of honor, Permanent Secretary of the Lagos State Primary Health Care Board (PHCB), represented by the Director of Medical Services & Disease Control, Dr. Adenike Oluwo, noted that Lagos was a pioneer state establishing the six months maternity leave to enable mothers to breastfeed exclusively. He expressed gratitude to those who partnered to put the toolkit together.
The toolkit was disseminated in Lagos state as part of activities to mark the 2022 World Breastfeeding Week themed “Step up for Breastfeeding: Educate and Support.” The event was hosted by the NECA NNEW with stakeholders from the Lagos State Ministry of Health, Lagos State Primary Health Care Board, Association of Nigerian Women in Business in Nigeria (ANWBN), International Chamber of Commerce, Access Bank, Eko Distribution Company, COWAN, ECOWA, ICCN, LBEF, Burtech, Omojola & Co., Elizade Nig. Ltd, Dansol Group of Schools, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, Lagos State University Teaching Hospital (LASUTH), 7Up Bottling Company, FinLab, Ladies on Wheel, and media Houses (Guardian Newspaper, Radio One, AIT, Lagos Traffic Radio, This Day, Media Mode, NAN, Wazobia and TVC News).
Alive & Thrive is an initiative managed by FHI Solutions and funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to save lives, prevent illness, and ensure healthy growth and development through optimal maternal nutrition, breastfeeding, and complementary feeding practices. A&T initiative in Nigeria has been promoting baby-friendly workplaces since 2016.