The Federal Government has set in motion the process to extend the maternity leave period of nursing mothers from 16 to 18 weeks.
The decision was part of the government’s efforts towards promoting exclusive breastfeeding for nursing mothers.
The Minister of Labour and Empowerment, Dr. Chris Ngige, who stated this on Tuesday, during the Lancet breastfeeding series and policy dialogue titled “Promoting Breastfeeding for National Development”, said the move was in line with the conventions of the International Labour Organisation.
Ngige also noted that his ministry would direct government as well as private institutions to have recreational centres to enable nursing mothers to breastfeed their babies.
He said, “If you go to the informal sector, some people don’t even make provision for maternity leave.
“So, women there have to beg to go on maternity leave. They could get like four weeks, and cover like additional two weeks for sick leave.
“These are the issues militating against exclusive breastfeeding, and even continuous breastfeeding. Exclusive breastfeeding is not practicable in this type of condition. So, what we’ve done is to get all the establishments to review their conditions of service so that this maternity leave can be entrenched for women who are in those facilities.”
The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, who had earlier hinted of the plan to extend maternity leave, said the non-compliance to exclusive and continuous breastfeeding was responsible for malnutrition in the country.
According to him, breast milk saves about $302bn spent on buying complimentary baby food globally.
The Co-author at the Department of Maternal, Newborn and Child and Adolescent Health, World Health Organisation, Dr. Nigel Rollins, said it was the responsibility of the men to improve the environment to support breastfeeding.
According to him, breastfeeding reduces a woman’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers.