World Breastfeeding Week 2016

by Donna Walls, RN, ICCE, IBCLC, ANLC

The first World Breastfeeding Week was celebrated in 1992, born from the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) with support from the World Health Organization and UNICEF. It was decided that the first week of August would be designated as the time to promote, protect and support breastfeeding. Each year WABA identifies a specific “theme” to encourage education and support of breastfeeding, recognizing it as the optimum care and food for infants. Some of the previous themes range from the first theme of The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative to Empowering Women, Breastfeeding: The First Hour and now in 2016 the theme is Breastfeeding: A Key to Sustainable Development. So thinking of breastfeeding as an integral part of the sustainability movement, we can look at breastfeeding as a positive action for protecting mothers, babies and the planet.

Positives for Mothers

  • Saves money for other family needs
  •  Less work or school time missed with sick children
  •  Improved health as reduced incidence of breast and ovarian cancer
  •  Reduced risk of heart disease and osteoporosis
  •  Less incidence of mood disorders
  • Saves personal time and energy by not having to prepare feedings

Positives for Babies

  • Reduced risk of ear infections, diarrhea, allergies and asthma, obesity and diabetes
  • Reduces the risk of SIDS by 50%
  • Not in jeopardy from formula recalls
  • Food security in developing countries and during disasters
  • Reduces the time vulnerable babies need in acute and intensive care

Positives for the Planet

  • Reduced environmental contamination from production and transport of formula
  • Less use of energy in the home for preparation of food
  • No water needed for feeding or bottle preparation
  • No need for soaps or boiling equipment for formula preparation
  • Less waste going into landfills
  • Breastfeeding helps reduce the negative effects of pollution on the baby

In 2011, the United States Breastfeeding Committee proclaimed that world breastfeeding week would be expanded to the entire month of August. The US Breastfeeding Committee began “an outreach campaign inviting breastfeeding coalitions, member/partner organizations, and individual supporters to join online actions and conversations to build support for the policy and practice changes needed to build a “landscape of breastfeeding support.” So every year we take this time to reflect on how we as a culture, a community and as healthcare providers can promote, protect and support breastfeeding. In hospitals and birth centers do all you can to promote the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Encourage community organizations to provide active education and support to breastfeeding mothers and families both prenatally and after the birth of the baby. Discuss breastfeeding as a routine part of maternal and newborn healthcare and educate yourself on breastfeeding basics. Include breastfeeding in conversations or “marketing” of a cleaner, greener environment. We can all be a part of creating a culture where breastfeeding is the norm and all breastfeeding mothers are welcome to nurture and nourish their babies anywhere and anytime. 

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