Why Do We Need World Breastfeeding Week?
Happy August everyone! The first week of August is World Breastfeeding Week which is a global movement to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding awareness. I would like to touch on this topic as it is very important. As parents, we always want to give our children the best. Breastfeeding has many benefits for both baby and mother.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), no country in the world fully meets the recommended standards for breastfeeding. Currently, only about 40 percent of children under six months are exclusively breastfed (meaning nothing besides breast milk). Globally, investment in breastfeeding is far too low. Barriers to breastfeeding include insufficient paid family leave, unclear workplace breastfeeding policies, lack of designated areas in the workplace and public areas to breastfeed, and lack of community support for the breastfeeding mother. As a society, we have a lot of work to do!
Interesting Points About Breastfeeding
- The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. After six months, solid foods can be introduced to complement breastfeeding for two years or more. It is recommended that breastfeeding start within one hour of birth, breastfeeding is on demand (whenever the child wants it), and bottles/pacifiers should be avoided
- Breast milk provides all of the nutrients a child needs for healthy development. It contains antibodies from the mother which will help protect against certain illnesses. It is also affordable and readily available
- Breastfeeding also has health benefits for mothers including reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancer as well as postpartum depression
- Breastfeeding provides long-term benefits for children including better performance on intelligence testing as well as reduced risk of obesity as an adult
- The benefits of breast milk can not be replicated by infant formula as it does not contain the same protective antibodies. In addition, when not prepared properly, contaminated water and equipment can pose risks
- An international code requires all formula labels to state the benefits of breastfeeding and health risks of substitutes
- Early barriers to breastfeeding include separation of mother and baby, use of newborn nurseries, and supplementation with formula
- Many women who return to work after giving birth abandon breastfeeding due to insufficient time and no place to express and store milk
What Can Be Done?
WHO and UNICEF have come together with 20 prominent agencies to form the Global Breastfeeding Collective. The Collective is calling on governments and stakeholders to advance polices and programs to enable more mothers to breastfeed. Some of these initiatives include:
- enforcing the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes so that breast-milk substitute companies cannot mislead women;
- strengthening policy provisions that support family leave and breastfeeding in the workplace to encourage more working mothers to breastfeed their babies;
- improving the quality of maternity care to provide new mothers with breastfeeding support;
- increasing access to skilled breastfeeding counselling in the health system;
- fostering community networks that support women in breastfeeding;
- strengthening information systems to track progress towards the global goal of increasing breastfeeding; and
- increasing funding to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding.
This is not just the responsibility of the mother but everyone. Mothers need the support of their families, communities, and government in order to provide their children with the healthiest start to life. We need to come together to support the health and well-being of future generations.
Be sure to check out more information about World Breastfeeding Week
Disclaimer: This post is not to substitute for medical advice. If you think you are having a problem, contact your provider who knows your health history.