In effort to improve the health of mothers and babies, World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from August 1st through the 7th. This also commemorates the Innocenti Declaration signed in August of 1990 by government policy makers, UNICEF, the WHO, and other organizations in effort to promote, protect, and support breastfeeding. This global campaign is purposed to raise awareness with the objective to inform, anchor, engage, and galvanize action in relation to themes that relate to breastfeeding and its benefits.
According to the WHO, breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure the health and survival of babies. WHO actively works to promote breastfeeding worldwide as the best source of nourishment for infants.
Facts about Breastfeeding from the WHO
1– Breastfeeding for the first six months of life is critical.
Exclusively breastfeeding infants for the first six months of life helps them achieve optimal growth, development, and health. Across the globe, only 40% of infants under the age of six months are exclusively breastfed.
2– Breastfeeding protects infants from childhood illnesses.
Breast milk contains antibodies that help protect infants from common childhood illnesses such as pneumonia and diarrhoea, the two main global causes of child mortality.
3– Breastfeeding is also beneficial for mothers.
Breastfeeding reduces the risks of breast and ovarian cancer, type II diabetes, and postpartum depression. It also serves as a natural (albeit not fail-safe) method of birth control offering up to 98% percent protection in the first six months after giving birth.
4– Breastfeeding offers long-term benefits for children.
Breastfeeding is thought to contribute to a lifetime of good health. Adolescents and adults who were breastfed as infants are less likely to be overweight or obese, and are less likely to have type II diabetes.
5– Formula does not contain the antibodies found in breast milk.
The long term benefits for mothers and infants associated with breastfeeding simply cannot be replicated with formula. Furthermore, when infant formula is not properly prepared, there are risks that can arise due to use of unsafe water, unsterilized equipment, and the potential presence of bacteria that can be harmful.
6– Breastfeeding support for mothers is crucial.
Breastfeeding can come with difficulties. Support for mothers and access to breastfeeding specialists encourage higher rates of successful breastfeeding, and further promote the important practice.
7– Mothers should be supported in their breastfeeding efforts even when they return to work.
Many mothers stop breastfeeding when they return to work because conditions don’t allow for them to continue easily. Enabling conditions that promote continued breastfeeding in the workplace can help. Paid maternity leave, part-time work opportunities, facilities for expressing and storing breastmilk, and breaks for breastfeeding can help promote the practice while encouraging mothers.
8– Solid foods should be phased in around the age of six months.
As a complement to continued breastfeeding, it is recommended that solid foods be incorporated into a baby’s diet around the age of six months.