Optimal breastfeeding practices benefit all mothers and children, regardless of where they live or level of economic well-being. Exclusive breastfeeding, in particular, is considered the cornerstone of child survival and health. It not only provides all the nutrients necessary for growth for the first six months of life, but also protection from many childhood life-threatening diseases and some noncommunicable diseases later in life. Breastfeeding contributes to child development, educational achievement and economic wellbeing.
Despite its numerous breastfeeding benefits, today´s world is not a supportive environment for women to breastfeed. To raise awareness and contribute to change that, this year´s theme of World Breastfeeding Week, from 1 to 7 Auguts, is "Together we can make breastfeeding sustainable".
When we think about breastfeeding, we relate it to the mother and her baby. However, effective breastfeeding depends on a collective effort as the reasons why a woman does not breastfeed her baby are many. Therefore, we all have a role to play, from family members to policy makers.
For too long, breastfeeding has been viewed as a personal issue rather than a collective societal responsibility. However, breastfeeding practices are influences by factors beyond their reach. For example, when women face obstacles because of limited or nonexistent maternity protection and rentless marketing by the breast-milk substitute industry.
In the Americas, less than 32% of the infants are exclusively breastfed within the first 6 months of life. This regional rate hides progress in specific countries, some of which have made considerable progress in increasing exclusive breastfeeding rates. It also hides the challenge of others who show little or no progress. Collective work at all levels could speed up the change needed to make real the right of every infant to be breastfed and every woman's right to breastfeed.
Some initiatives and strategies that can be promoted to achieve it are:
- Encouraging positive social actions by addressing misperceptions about breastfeeding and making breastfeeding a social standard.
- Demonstrating political will to incorporate breastfeeding into programs that promote maternal and child health and child development, and to prevent noncommunicable diseases and invest in these programs.
- Protecting breastfeeding against aggressive breast-milk substitutes promotion through the promulgation and monitoring of the Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (Code)
- Supporting breastfeeding in the workplace, with the ratification of the ILO Convention 183.
- Ensuring that all maternity services are aligned with the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative
- Babies and mothers worldwide failed by lack of investment in breastfeeding (WHO)
- Global breastfeeding scorecard 2017
- Comentary: Breastfeeding is not a one-woman job. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General and Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director
- Global Breastfeeding Collective
- World Breastfeeding Week
- Breastfeeding (UNICEF)