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A SHARED RESPONSIBILITY

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By Gul Nasreen
Tue, 08, 22

This week is World Breastfeeding Week. Every year August 1-7 has been set aside as a time to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding. You! takes a look...

A SHARED RESPONSIBILITY

World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is celebrated every year across the world - from August 1 to August 7. This global campaign aims to raise awareness about breastfeeding and its advantages. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival across the globe. The overarching goal of the week is to highlight the importance of breastfeeding, to encourage and promote breastfeeding and to improve the health of babies and mothers all around the globe.

Celebrated in more than 120 countries every year, World Breastfeeding Week aims to highlight the huge benefits that breastfeeding can bring to the health and welfare of babies and benefits to maternal health, focusing on good nutrition, poverty reduction, and food security. WBW has the dual goal of improving the health of babies and promoting, protecting, and supporting the rights of women to breastfeed anywhere and at any time.

#WBW2022 will focus on strengthening the capacity of actors that have to protect, promote and support breastfeeding across different levels of society. These actors make up the warm chain of support for breastfeeding. Target audiences including governments, health systems, workplaces and communities will be informed, educated and empowered to strengthen their capacity to provide and sustain breastfeeding-friendly environments for families. The theme is aligned with the thematic area 1 of the WBW-SDG 2030 campaign which highlights the links between breastfeeding and good nutrition, food security and reduction of inequalities.

Background:

World Breastfeeding Week dates back to 1979 when WHO started a battle against baby foods being promoted in the market, and brands interfering in breastfeeding in hospitals. Globally, it was noticed that powdered milk formula had a negative impact on the health of children and something needed to be done. In 1990, agencies and lawmakers got inspired by breastfeeding movement and signed Innocenti Declaration. World Breastfeeding Week has been celebrated since 1992 and includes annual themes such as healthcare systems and women.

Since 2016, World Breastfeeding Week is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2018, a World Health Assembly resolution endorsed World Breastfeeding Week as an important breastfeeding promotion strategy.

Benefits of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding, also known as nursing, is the best way to provide young infants with the essential nutrients required for growth and development. WHO says that breast milk is the ideal food for infants. It is safe, clean, and reliable and acts as the babies' first vaccine.

  • Breastfeeding is the best source of nourishment for infants and young children, and a proven lifesaving strategy that helps protect children against many common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea and pneumonia. It has been observed that breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be obese or overweight and are less prone to non-communicable diseases later in life.
  • Breastfeeding provides essential nutrition. Breast milk provides the energy and nutrients that infants need during the first months of life. It has just the right amount of nutrients for infants, proving to be great for brain growth and nervous system development, especially for premature babies. Nutrients found in breast milk include fat, protein, sodium, calcium, and iron.
  • The anti-infective properties in breast milk strengthen the immune system to prevent harmful bacterial growth. Breast milk contains antibodies that help protect against many common childhood illnesses, like asthma, obesity, type 1 diabetes, ear infections, gastrointestinal infections and sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Breastfeed newborns are less likely to suffer from constipation or diarrhoea compared to babies who drink formula, and it can provide a cost savings over formula. There’s no need to worry about contamination or recalls when it comes to fresh breast milk — it’s always sterile. And spoilage is only a potential factor for pumped milk that sits out or is refrigerated for too long.
  • Breastfeeding can also be beneficial to a mom’s health. It helps lower the risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, ovarian and breast cancers. Mothers who breastfeed recover from childbirth more quickly and easily. While breastfeeding, a mother’s body burns calories, which can help her lose the weight she gained during pregnancy. The hormone oxytocin, released during breastfeeding, acts to return the uterus to its regular size more quickly and can reduce postpartum bleeding.
  • For mothers, nursing means you can usually leave the house without baby bottles, nipples, cleaning supplies and other accessories. You can also forget about 2 a.m. trips to the kitchen for a formula refill; late-night feedings require just an easy-access nightie and a cosy, sleepy snuggle with your little one. (Just make sure you don't fall asleep while breastfeeding — always put your baby back in his crib once you're finished.)
  • For many mothers, that physical and emotional connection they get from nursing their babies is the ultimate benefit. (That's not to say that you won't bond with your child while bottle-feeding, however. It just might be in a different way.)

Covid-19 and Breastfeeding

With the world still in the midst of a global pandemic, it is a good time to recognise how breastfeeding contributes to the survival, health and wellbeing of all. Breastfeeding is key to effective implementation of sustainable development strategies especially in a post-pandemic world, as it improves nutrition, ensures food security and reduces inequalities between and within countries.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, more than ever, mothers need access to skilled support for breastfeeding. A woman with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 can breastfeed if they wish to do so by following few precautions. According to WHO, before breastfeeding, a mother should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. In case of unavailability of water, one can use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 per cent alcohol content. Additionally, one should always wear a mask during any contact with the baby, including while feeding.