Nigerian Health Worker Capacity training
Photo Credit: USAID Advancing Nutrition

Optimal breastfeeding benefits both mother and child and can save the lives of infants and children. Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to provide infants with the perfect blend of essential nutrients and other protective factors during the first 1,000 days, and provides numerous additional economic and social benefits to families and health systems. World Breastfeeding Week, celebrated annually in August, aims to galvanize action on breastfeeding. This year’s theme, “Step Up for Breastfeeding,” recognizes the importance of elevating breastfeeding across communities and health systems around the world.

To commemorate World Breastfeeding Week 2022, USAID Advancing Nutrition collaborated with the Nigeria Federal Ministry of Health to organize a two-day training on optimal breastfeeding. The over 120 health workers from six different area councils in Abuja (Abaji, Bwari, Kwali, Gwagwalada, Kuje, and Abuja municipal area councils) participated in the training on protecting and promoting breastfeeding.

In Gwagwalada, the training included doctors, nurses, midwives, and community health workers. Dr. Ekwueme Christiana, the lead trainer for the session, coached participants on optimal breastfeeding practices including—

  • early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth
  • exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months
  • introduction of nutritionally adequate and safe complementary (i.e. solid) foods at six months with continued breastfeeding up to two years of age or beyond.

The training was also attended by representatives from Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health, including the head of the Nutrition Division, Dr. Binyerem Ukaire. In her keynote address Pauline Adah, USAID Advancing Nutrition maternal, infant, and young child nutrition Advisor, noted that breastfeeding is integral to preventing numerous forms of childhood malnutrition, including wasting, stunting, and micronutrient deficiencies. Eke Eucharia, lead trainer at the Abuja Municipal Area Council (AMAC) cluster, further expressed that skilled breastfeeding support from midwives and nurses helps prevent childhood infections and mortality while boosting cognitive development.

Frontline health workers play a vital role in protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding as trusted members of their communities. Joan Peters, a health worker from the Primary Health Care Center in Abaji, said that following the training she would “ensure early initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of birth at [her] facility and encourage mothers on exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.”