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World Breastfeeding week

This topic provides information about World breastfeeding week that is celebrated every year during 1-7 August.

World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from 1 to 7 August to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. It commemorates the Innocenti Declaration signed in August 1990 by government policymakers, WHO, UNICEF and other organizations to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is the best way to provide infants with the nutrients they need. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding starting within one hour after birth until a baby is 6 months old. Nutritious complementary foods should then be added while continuing to breastfeed for up to 2 years or beyond.

World Breastfeeding Week 2019

This year, the theme is "Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding". The theme was chosen to be inclusive of all types of parents in today’s world. Focusing on supporting both parents to be empowered is vital in order to realise their breastfeeding goals.

Empowerment is a process that requires evidence-based unbiased information and support to create the enabling environment where mothers can breastfeed optimally. Breastfeeding is in the mother’s domain and when fathers, partners, families, workplaces, and communities support her, breastfeeding improves.

Family-friendly policies – such as paid parental leave – enable breastfeeding and help parents nurture and bond with their children in early life, when it matters most. The evidence is clear that during early childhood, the optimal nutrition provided by breastfeeding, along with nurturing care and stimulation, can strengthen children’s brain development with impacts that endure over a lifetime.

Family-friendly policies are particularly important for working parents. Mothers need time off from work to recover from birth and get breastfeeding off to a successful start. When a breastfeeding mother returns to work, her ability to continue breastfeeding depends on having access to breastfeeding breaks; a safe, private, and hygienic space for expressing and storing breastmilk; and affordable childcare at or near her workplace.

Time off work is also important for fathers: Paid paternity leave allows fathers to bond with their babies and promotes gender-equality, including through the sharing of childrearing and household responsibilities.

Returning to work too soon is a barrier to the early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months and continued breastfeeding until age 2 or longer – practices that can boost children’s immune systems, shield them from disease, and provide protection from noncommunicable diseases later in life. Breastfeeding also protects maternal health -- women who breastfeed reduce their risk of breast and ovarian cancers.

In addition to their impact on children, family-friendly policies support women’s participation in the workforce, improve their physical and mental health, and enhance family well-being. They also advance business objectives and strengthen the economy. Such policies have been shown to increase employee retention, improve job satisfaction, and result in fewer absences. In short, family-friendly policies are good for families, babies and business.

As the world marks World Breastfeeding Week, WHO and UNICEF call on governments and all employers to adopt family-friendly policies – including paid maternity leave for a minimum of 18 weeks, and preferably, for a period of six months – as well as paid paternity leave.

Objectives of WABA World Breastfeeding Week 2019

  1. INFORM - people about the links between gender-equitable parental social protection and breastfeeding
  2. ANCHOR - parent-friendly values and gender-equitable social norms at all levels to support breastfeeding
  3. ENGAGE - with individuals and organisations for greater impact
  4. GALVANISE - action on gender-equitable parental social protection to advance breastfeeding

Source: WABA World breastfeeding Week website

Related resources

  1. WHO World breastfeeding Week
  2. WHO Infographics on Breastfeeding
  3. WABA World Breastfeeding Week 2019 Materials
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