#WBW2015 Every year 1st-7th August is observed as the World Breastfeeding Week, to celebrate, protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. This year we observe 25 years since the Innocenti declaration (1990), which recognised that breastfeeding provides ideal nutrition for infants and contributes to their healthy growth and development. Now, why do we need to dedicate one whole week to something as natural as breastfeeding? Here are just seven of the many reasons:
- It fulfils all nutrition and fluid needs of the baby for the 1st six months (no need for additional water) and thereafter alongside complementary feeds it helps meet growing demands of the child
- It supports physical growth and cognitive and emotional development of the child
- It provides antibodies which protect the baby from common childhood illnesses such as diarrhoea and pneumonia
- It reduces the risk of infection caused by external agents
- It is an affordable (free) and natural mode of feeding
- It reduces risks of post-partum depression, type-2 diabetes, and breast and ovarian cancer in mother, and of non-communicable diseases later in the life of the child.
- It strengthens the attachment and bond between mother and child
Despite these benefits, only 38% infants 0-6 months of age are exclusively breastfed for the first six months. Improper breastfeeding practices contribute to 11.6% of mortality in children under five years of age, i.e., over 800,000 child deaths. The International Code of marketing of Breast-milk substitutes was adopted by the World Health Assembly 30 years back. However, by 2011 only 37 countries had passed laws reflecting all the recommendations of the Code, and 69-83 countries implemented one or more recommendations. Only 45 countries had a functioning monitoring system to track adherence to the legislation. Encouraging optimal breastfeeding and increasing rates of timely, exclusive, and extended breastfeeding for at least 24 months, needs enabling environments at place of delivery, home, and at work. It also requires strong policy support and stringent action against marketing and promotion of breastfeeding substitutes, education and counselling, and improved nutrition, health, and social status for women. In 2012, the World Health Assembly set a target to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months to at least 50%. One concrete step towards achieving this would be its inclusion within the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals (we’re hoping it will be included in Goal 3; to ensure healthy lives and promote wellbeing for all at all ages). Without this, we can neither guarantee global or national commitment, nor policies and funding for this simple, affordable, yet neglected life-saving food source to thousands of children.
This year’s theme is “Breastfeeding and Work. Let’s make it work!” For more updates and information, visit the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) page. Also, have a look at the infographic on the WHA target on Exclusive Breastfeeding here, and follow all the action on #WBW2015!  UNICEF, WHO, 1000 Days. Global Nutrition Targets 2025. Breastfeeding policy brief.  World Health Organisation, 2013.Country implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes: Status Report 2011