The Editor, Sir:
We just ended the celebration of another Breastfeeding Week. The Gender Affairs Committee of G2K (Generation 2000) not only acknowledged the importance of this week, but the theme, 'Support Breastfeeding: Working Closely with Mothers', resonates with us and reflects the critical need for us to encourage and support our nation's mothers in breastfeeding.
Increasingly, research is finding a direct link between breastfeeding and the performance of children. One such study emanating from Harvard University and printed in the Journal of the American Medical Association of Paediatrics, indicates that, "young children who were breast-fed as infants score higher on intelligence scores than formula-fed kids, and the longer and more exclusively they were breastfed the bigger the difference."
It is therefore critical that more emphasis be placed on educating, not only mothers, but the entire population on the importance of breast-feeding, and that more is done to support our nursing mothers to ensure that the average period for which a child is provided with breast milk is extended.
In this regard, the Gender Affairs Committee of G2K is urging the Government throughout its ministries and agencies, to provide reasonable break times; a convenient space, and adequate storage facilities so that nursing mothers are able to express milk for their children for a period of up to a year after the birth of the child.
We note that developed countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom have gone the route of legislating these provisions so as to bind all employers. We are also aware that our Government early this year mentioned its desire to take this approach, but as is customary, we have heard nothing since.
However, the Government need not start through legislation, but has the power to set the example with its own offices. Not only would this be an excellent initiative to build a stronger nation, but could be seen as an additional benefit for mothers employed in the public sector. This, coupled with a strong education campaign, we believe, would be able to have a tangible impact on the propensity of our mothers to breastfeed and would give real impact to the concept of a breastfeeding week.
Gender Affairs Chairperson, G2k