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Breast milk provides all the food and water that baby needs during the first six months of life, it promotes better health for mothers & children alike. It decreases the risk of mothers developing ovarian & breast cancer, postpartum hemorrhage, diabetes & heart disease.

The theme for 2019 World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is, “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding”.

The #WBW2019 slogan 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 realize their breastfeeding goals.

The 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, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), La Leche League International (LLLI), The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM), Wellstart International, the Global Goals, and the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) – to promote the role that breastfeeding plays in valuing our wellbeing to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

This year, organizations and partners are calling on governments and all employers to adopt family-friendly policies that supports breastfeeding, to promote the importance breastfeeding and help parents nurture and bond with their children in early life, when it matters most. This includes enacting paid maternity leave for a minimum of 18 weeks, and paid paternity leave to encourage shared responsibility of caring for their children on an equal basis.

Mothers also need access to a parent friendly workplace to protect and support their ability to continue breastfeeding upon return to work by having access to breastfeeding breaks; a safe, private, and hygienic space for expressing and storing breast milk and affordable childcare.

Breastfeeding promotes better health for mothers and children alike. Increasing breastfeeding to near-universal levels could save more than 800 000 lives every year, the majority being children under 6 months. Breastfeeding decreases the risk of mothers developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. It is estimated that increased breastfeeding could avert 20 000 maternal deaths each year due to breast cancer.

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.

For many mothers, work is a barrier to breastfeed their babies and provide the best possible nutrition. We’re calling for family-friendly policies, including paid maternity leave for at least 18 weeks and preferably for six months or more.

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.

We can all support this process, as breastfeeding is a team effort. To enable breastfeeding we all need to protect, promote and support it.

Breastfeeding is a universal solution that levels the playing field, giving everyone a fair start in life. It improves the health, wellbeing and survival of women and children around the world.

Evidence shows that breastfeeding has many health, human capital and future economic benefits for young children, their mothers and countries.

Anna Whitehouse, a parenting blogger on Mother Pukka, said she was not uncomfortable breastfeeding in public but could understand others who were.

“That’s not their fault,” she said. “We’re not educated that it’s a normal thing – it’s not in biology classes.

“Suddenly it’s just a thing that you do, and people are expected to just go, ‘Oh, that’s normal.'”

In a separate survey of 1,030 mothers of children under five, the most common reasons why mothers stopped breastfeeding were found to be:

  • The baby wasn’t latching on to the breast properly (56%)
  • Worry that not enough milk was being produced (42%)
  • Pain (39%)
  • Being overwhelmed and exhausted, and something having to give (34%)
  • Difficulty with expressing breast milk (32%)
  • Worry the baby was not gaining enough weight (24%)

Nearly three-quarters agreed with the statement that there was too much emphasis on telling women why they should breastfeed, and not enough on supporting them to do it.

For those still breastfeeding at six weeks, face-to-face help from a healthcare professional or a breastfeeding counselor was considered the most effective intervention.

Support mother’s breastfeed anytime, anywhere! The stigma of breastfeeding in the public is still often and concurrent. Why does it feel strange to see a baby being fed from ‘same source’ you were fed with?

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