The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has advocated for six months paid maternity leave for nursing mother as part of efforts to improve workplace policies to boost breastfeeding.

The call was contained in a goodwill message by Dr. Tushar Rane, Chief of Field Office, UNICEF Nigeria Bauchi Field Office, during a Media Dialogue on World Breastfeeding Week 2023, held at Jamil Hotel and Towers, Azare, Katagum Local Government Area of Bauchi State, on Wednesday.

The Media Dialogue, organised by UNICEF, is part of efforts to commemorate the annual World Breastfeeding Week (WBW), and drew participants from the UNICEF) Bauchi Field Office in Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Plateau and Taraba States.

Rane argued that family-friendly workplace policies – such as paid maternity leave, breastfeeding breaks, and a room where mothers can breastfeed – can also have huge benefits for employers.

“These approaches generate economic returns by reducing maternity-related absenteeism, increasing the retention of female workers, and reducing the costs of hiring and training new staff,” he said.

“Nigeria currently implements two maternity entitlement provisions.

“The first, which is recognised at all levels of public service and codified in the Nigerian Labour Act, provides up to 12 weeks of maternity leave with at least 50% of salary and, upon return to work, half an hour twice a day during working hours to breastfeed.

“The second, recently adopted by the Federal Public Service and yet to be ratified by the states and local government civil service, is a 16-week maternity leave provision with full pay and two hours off each day to breastfeed up to six months after the employee resumes duty.”

The UNICEF Chief of Field Office said workplaces challenges to breastfeeding were one of the primary factors responsible for early cessation of breastfeeding.

“Women require sufficient time and support to breastfeed successfully,” he said.

“For working mothers, juggling between tasks and breastfeeding may be nearly often impossible.”

Speaking specifically on this year’s theme ” Enabling Breastfeeding: Making a difference for working parents”, Rane it brings attention to workplace breastfeeding.

“Women make up 20 million out of the 46 million workforce in Nigeria,” he noated.

“95 per cent are within the informal sector, while the formal sector only employs 5 per cent.

“Shockingly, only 9 per cent of organizations have a workplace breastfeeding policy, with only 1.5 per cent in the public sector.

“Women in the informal sector have nearly no support for breastfeeding”

He said that breast milk is the first vaccine that every child received at birth, adding that breast milk has the ability to safeguard infants against life-threatening infections.

He said breastfeeding also supports optimal brain development in children, and reduces the incidence of chronic childhood and maternal illnesses and ultimately lowering healthcare costs.

Also speaking, a member of the Bauchi State House of Assembly, Honourable Lawal Dauda, disclosed that the House would enact a law to increase maternity leave from three months six months for breastfeeding mothers to promote breastfeeding and boost child survival.

In his welcome address during the Media Dialogue, the Executive Director of the State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, Dr Rilwanu Mohammed disclosed that as part of efforts to enact the law, advocacies would be carried out to public institutions, MDAs, traditional rulers.

Mohammed said the executive arm of the state government is expected to submit a proposal to the state Assembly to extend the maternity leave.



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