Nestlé highlights its commitment to breastfeeding in Central and West Africa

Nestlé is promoting and supporting breastfeeding as part of its commitment to improve maternal and infant nutrition in Central and West Africa.

This year, the company is scaling up its activities about the importance of breastfeeding by proactively engaging with healthcare professionals and employees in the region, and backing World Breastfeeding Week from August 1-7.

Nestlé strongly believes that breast milk is the ideal food for newborns and infants and has created a number of initiatives to raise awareness on the importance of right nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life.

Nutrition education
In Central and West Africa, low exclusive breastfeeding rates, poor feeding practices, and the use of inappropriate complementary foods in the first two years of life are far too common and can have an adverse effect on the development of children.

To help address these problems, Nestlé is focusing its activities and nutrition education on healthcare professionals (HCPs) as part of its commitment to implement nutrition education programmes in order to promote good nutrition practices. These activities are carried out in collaboration with Ministries of Health and professional associations.

This commitment is one of the company’s 35 pledges, which it aims to fulfil by 2020 or earlier, outlined in the Nestlé in Society report ‘Creating Shared Value and meeting our commitments 2013’.

The company is engaging with doctors, midwives, nurses, scientists and nutrition communities to extend its messages to the public.

It is doing this through the Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa (NNIA), which is part of the independent non-profit organisation the Nestlé Nutrition Institute (NNI), the world’s largest private publisher of nutritional information.

The NNI shares leading science-based information and education with healthcare professionals, scientists, nutrition communities and stakeholders in an interactive way.

The NNIA organises scientific symposia with leading international paediatricians and experts to share experiences and transfer skills to local HCPs. 

It recently held a symposium to promote maternal nutrition in Cameroon, and presented a paper to stress the need for optimal nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life at a conference in Ghana.

Three years ago, the institute also launched its training programme, the ‘CWAR Advanced Nutrition Workshop’ (CANUP), on maternal and paediatric nutrition for healthcare professionals in Central and West Africa. More than 300 HCPs have already been trained since 2011.

The NNIA also runs a five-day postgraduate training course ‘ESPGHAN goes to Africa’ on gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition, supported by the European Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN).

It will act as a centre of competency in the region to train highly skilled healthcare professionals.

A total of 26 participants from 11 countries have already completed the course this year.

Importance of breastfeeding
Nestlé is also developing breastfeeding education material in collaboration with Ministries of Health, professional associations and non-governmental organisations to teach mothers the importance of breastfeeding and good nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life through HCPs.

The company has furthermore invested in a new breastfeeding room at Ola During Hospital in Sierra Leone, where mothers are being taught how to breastfeed by healthcare experts.

The new facility, supported by the Ministry of Health, is located at the only teaching hospital in the country.

Complementary foods
To address the issue of inadequate complementary foods for infants in Central and West Africa, Nestlé is continuously innovating its offerings of fortified, nutritious complementary food products to help improve the nutritional status of infants and young children.

The company recently launched Cerelac Millet infant cereal fortified with essential micronutrients and probiotic Bifidus BL in Ghana, Senegal, Burkina, Mali and Côte d’Ivoire, and aims to roll it out to Nigeria later this year.

Supporting breastfeeding among employees
Within the company, Nestlé is proactively educating, engaging and supporting its employees in Central and West Africa on the importance of breastfeeding.

It is offering female employees the opportunity to take maternity leave in line with national legislation, plus additional weeks on top of this.

The company is similarly supporting fathers, offering them paternity leave according to standard national legislation, and extra days off.

Nestlé also provides flexible working time and breaks to allow mothers to continue breastfeeding when they return to work.

A number of breastfeeding rooms at some of the company’s offices in the region are already in use.

Engaging fathers
During this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, Nestlé is specifically engaging with its male employees to promote its internal campaign on how fathers can support breastfeeding.

Activities include interactive email campaigns, prize-winning competitions and quizzes, external speaker presentations and discussions.

Related information:
Nestlé maternal and infant nutrition
Nestlé Nutrition Institute
Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa