Sustaining Breastfeeding Together: World Breastfeeding Week 2017
Twenty-five years ago the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) started World Breastfeeding Week. This celebration of breastfeeding is held worldwide each year from August 1 through August 7.
The theme for 2017 is “Sustaining Breastfeeding Together.”
Last year, WABA embarked on a 15 year journey with the goal of achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by linking each of those goals to breastfeeding. As stated on the World Breastfeeding Week website:
#WBW2017 will call on advocates and activists, decision-makers and celebrants to forge new and purposeful partnerships. Together, let’s attract political support, media attention, participation of young people and widen our pool of celebrants and supporters.
Only then can we campaign for a generation and commit to achieving the SDGs by 2030.
The SDGs and their possible links to breastfeeding are as follows:
Breastfeeding is a natural, efficient, and low-cost method of feeding babies and young children. Unlike formula, which costs hundreds of dollars over time, breastfeeding is affordable and does not burden household budgets. Accordingly, breastfeeding can be linked to poverty reduction.
Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infant’s life and continued breastfeeding for two years or more provides high quality nutrients to babies and children. Not only does it help prevent hunger and malnutrition, it also is associated with reductions in childhood obesity. Breastfeeding also means food security for infants.
Good Health and Well-Being
The health benefits of breastfeeding are numerous. Breastfeeding is linked to significant improvements in the health, development, and survival rates of infants and children. It also contributes to improved health and wellbeing for breastfeeding mothers.
Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months followed by continued breastfeeding and quality complementary foods significantly contribute to mental and cognitive development. As a result, breastfeeding promotes learning.
Breastfeeding helps to make sure every child gets the best start in life. It is uniquely a right of women, and society should support and encourage breastfeeding goals. The breastfeeding experience can also empower women, as they are the ones ultimately in control of the decision of how to feed her baby.
Clean Water and Sanitation
Breastfeeding on demand generally provides all the hydration an infant needs. This can even be true in hot weather. Alternatively, formula feeding requires access to clean water and improved sanitation.
Affordable and Clean Energy
Breastfeeding requires less energy consumption when compared to formula production industries. Breast milk is nature’s perfect food for infants, and it is produced naturally by mothers. The manufacturing industry that prepares formula, on the other hand, utilizes significant costs and energy resources. Breastfeeding also reduces the amount of water, firewood, and fossil fuels that are otherwise necessary for formula manufacturing and production.
Decent Work and Economic Growth
Breastfeeding mothers who are supported by their employers have opportunities for longer and more successful careers. Maternity protections and other workplace policies designed to promote breastfeeding enable mothers to achieve their breastfeeding goals and their employment goals.
Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
Breastfeeding mothers who work outside the home need sufficient space and time for breastfeeding and/or pumping. Employers can help breastfeeding mothers manage these challenges by offering sufficient lactation rooms and breastfeeding breaks.
Breastfeeding rights should be protected, and breastfeeding in general should be promoted and supported among people from all walks of life. This can help reduce inequalities across the globe.
Sustainable Cities and Communities
Breastfeeding mothers and their babies should feel safe, comfortable, and welcome in all public places where they are otherwise authorized to be. Pregnant and lactating women need particular support during times of natural disaster or humanitarian crises–where women and children are often disproportionately affected.
Responsible Consumption and Production
Breast milk is a nutritious, viable, non-polluting, non-resource intensive, sustainable, and natural source of nutrition and sustenance.
Breastfeeding helps to safeguard infant health and nutrition in times of adversity and weather-related disasters.
Life Below Water
As noted above, breastfeeding helps reduce industrial and manufacturing waste compared to formula feeding. The manufacturing, production, and distribution of formula leads to waste that pollutes the seas and negatively affects marine life.
Life on Land
Breastfeeding is ecological compared to formula feeding. As noted above, formula production puts pressure on natural resources. The manufacturing process also contributes to carbon emissions and climate change.
Peace and Justice/Strong Institutions
Breastfeeding is a part of many human rights frameworks. Legislation and policies to protect and support breastfeeding mothers and babies is important and necessary to help ensure that their rights are protected.
Partnership for the Goals
The Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding fosters multi-sectorial collaboration, and can build upon other partnerships for development support through breastfeeding programs and initiatives.
WABA is a global network of individuals and organizations bound together with the goal of protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding worldwide.