Working together to support breastfeeding in Central and West Africa
At Nestlé, we believe we have a vital role to play in inspiring people to lead healthier and happier lives in Central and West Africa and across the globe.
This was how we started more than 150 years ago when our founder Henri Nestlé created an infant cereal that saved the life of a child and ever since, we have lived up to our purpose of “enhancing the quality of life and contributing to a healthier future”
Today, our 2030 ambition as the world’s largest food and beverages company is to help 50 million children lead healthier lives.
It is one of our three long-term ambitions and 42 commitments – in support of the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – which were recently announced in the report ‘Nestlé in society: Creating Shared Value and meeting our commitments 2016’.
Breast milk is best
We firmly believe that breast milk is the ideal nutrition for babies. This is why we support and promote the World Health Organization’s recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, followed by the introduction of nutritious and appropriate complementary foods, along with sustained breastfeeding, for up to two years of age and beyond.
However, in the Central and West Africa Region (CWAR), 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 are a major cause of childhood malnutrition, according to UNICEF.
We aim to support and encourage breastfeeding in the first 1,000 days of life, support breastfeeding mothers in the workplace and provide education programmes for good nutrition and feeding practices. We do this by sharing our expertise and engaging with those who are most involved in implementing good practices, such as parents, healthcare professionals (HCPs) and caregivers in the region.
We support breastfeeding and protect it by continuing to implement an industry-leading policy to market breast milk substitutes responsibly.
World Breastfeeding Week
Our efforts to support and endorse breastfeeding highlight the importance of World Breastfeeding Week from August 1-7.
This year, which marks the 25th anniversary of protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding worldwide, focuses on ‘working together for the common good’.
Raising awareness on breastfeeding
At Nestlé CWAR, we are raising awareness on the need for support systems to encourage new mothers to breastfeed with our internal 2017 theme ‘Breastfeeding. It takes all of us’.
As part of continuing efforts to create awareness, we are also engaging with parents and mothers-to-be through the Nestlé Start Healthy Stay Healthy Facebook page in Ghana and similar facebook pages for French speaking countries within Nestlé Central and West Africa region. This online social engagement and education platform is part of Nestlé Start Healthy Stay Healthy – a science-based education programme designed to help mothers and caregivers provide nutritionally and developmentally adequate nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a baby’s life.
Supporting breastfeeding mothers
We are also supporting and engaging with breastfeeding mothers to balance breastfeeding and work.
In 2015, we launched the ‘Nestlé CWAR Parental Policy’ for all our employees in the region.
Based on the International Labour Organization Maternity Protection Convention and the global Nestlé Maternity Protection Policy, the CWAR policy set out minimum standards that must be introduced across all Nestlé sites in the region at the end of 2016, and applies to all primary caregivers of newborns including fathers and adoptive parents.
The policy includes 14 weeks paid maternity leave with the right to extend maternity leave by up to six months, flexible working arrangements and a conducive work environment to breastfeed. We currently have five breastfeeding rooms available at our sites in CWAR for breastfeeding mothers.
As part of our objectives towards 2020 in support of breastfeeding, we target to advocate for a breastfeeding‑friendly environment by supporting the set-up of breastfeeding rooms in communities where we operate.
Collaborating with governments
In 2015, we worked with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone to create breastfeeding booklets for mothers in the country, which were distributed by HCPs.
In Cameroon, breastfeeding leaflets were also developed together with the Ministry of Health and a non-governmental organization CamLink as part of an existing partnership with the Ministry.
Since 2010, we have collaborated with the Ministries of Health in Cameroon and Nigeria to improve maternal and infant nutrition by supporting medical education sessions for HCPs to promote breastfeeding.
Working with healthcare professionals
We are continuing to work closely with HCPs as they provide parents with objective nutrition advice for babies and young children.
Each year, we bring together paediatricians from all over the region to the CWAR Advanced Nutrition Programme (CANUP) to share resources and research based on scientific data, and provide training on maternal and child nutrition. Around 5,000 health care professionals have been trained on topics such as “Helping Babies Breathe” and Neonatal Resuscitation. This is led by the Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa (NNIA), which is part of the Nestlé Nutrition Institute, the world’s largest publisher of nutritional information.
We also piloted the International Course in Applied Nutrition in Nigeria aimed at neonatal and
pediatric nurses and midwives in 2015. We introduced the Post Graduate Programme in
Pediatric Nutrition (PGPN) to provide HCPs relevant and up-to-date knowledge on pediatric
nutrition that can be integrated in the clinical setting. One of its objectives is to offer an engaging
scientific platform that refreshes the foundation of nutrition knowledge. The PGPN is jointly
offered by MedInscribe, a global medical knowledge service partner, in association with Boston
University School of Medicine (BUSM) with funding support provided by the Nestlé Nutrition
Institute as a way of providing high quality nutrition education to HCPs in the region and support
of government efforts to build capacity of HCPs. Over 800 HCPs have benefitted from this
programme in CWAR.
Read more about our commitment to support breastfeeding in the Nestlé in society global report 2016 (English PDF).