“Protect breastfeeding: a shared responsibility.”
Written by Paula Robles
Edited by Alexandra Bravo Schroth
World Breastfeeding Week is a yearly campaign celebrated the first week of August, from the 1st to the 7th of August, by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding (WABA), a global network that promotes, protects, and supports breastfeeding worldwide.
World Breastfeeding Week started in 1991, commemorating the 1990 Innocenti Declaration on the Protection, Promotion, and Support of Breastfeeding, and it is one of the largest international campaigns (European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants-EFCNI, 2020; WABA, 2021).
Its goal is to inform the world about breastfeeding benefits and difficulties; it also aims to relate breastfeeding to healthcare, women and work, breastmilk substitutes, community support, and the economy (EFCNI, 2020). This week serves as an opportunity to enlighten people about the global breastfeeding agenda and partner with individuals, companies, and organizations to significantly impact and spur action about related issues (WABA, n.d.).
The theme selected for 2021 is “Protect breastfeeding: a shared responsibility”; it highlights how breastfeeding contributes to all people’s well-being and health and the importance of protecting breastfeeding worldwide (WABA, n.d.).
Science and research prove that breastfeeding has incredible benefits for mothers and children alike (Krol and Grossmann, 2018). For mothers, the breastfeeding experience reduces the negative moods of the mothers as they can feel fulfillment, joy, and connection both physical and emotional with their children. Furthermore, they experience a healthier quality of sleep, recover from childbirth quicker, and have less risk of developing breast or ovarian cancer, postpartum depression, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes (American Academy of Pediatrics – AAP, 2016; Krol and Grossmann, 2018; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC, 2020).
Furthermore, while breastfeeding is not essential to establish a bond with their babies, the hormones triggered by the experience can evoke maternal behavior and facilitate bonding and caregiving (Hahn-Holbrook, 2018). The hormones can increase the mother’s confidence in her ability to provide for their babies and meet mothering demands, positively impacting their conviction to make adequate child-care decisions and enjoy motherhood (Couple to Couple League Interactional – CCLI, 2017).
For babies, breastfeeding provides unmatched health benefits. It is known as the “golden standard” for feeding and nutrition because it significantly affects cognition, behavior, and physical and mental health. Breastfeeding babies acquire antibodies that can fight infections and reduce the risk of developing obesity, asthma, and type 1 diabetes. Breastfeeding also has a soothing effect for babies as the hormones released by suckling and absorbing milk can produce relaxation, offer pain relief, reduce stress and blood pressure, and help stabilize breathing rates (CCLI, 2017).
Breastfeed babies also have improved memory retention, language and motor skills, and problem-solving abilities that continue into childhood and adolescence (AAP, 2016; Krol and Grossmann, 2018; CDC, 2020). In addition, breastfeeding promotes children’s social and emotional development, providing the baby a sense of security early and late in life that helps them make an appropriate attachment with others, and increases their coping mechanisms to deal with different stressors (AAP, 2011; CCLI, 2017; Krol and Grossmann, 2018).
Investing in breastfeeding can affect the world significantly. Scaling up breastfeeding can prevent at least 20,000 maternal deaths, 823,000 child deaths, and $302 billion in economic losses annually. Additionally, it aligns with several sustainable development goals like ending poverty in all its forms, ensuring healthy lives for all ages, achieving gender equality, and empowering all women and girls (WABA, n.d.).
That is why people must advocate for breastfeeding. One way to support it is by informing ourselves about World Breastfeeding Week and its various campaigns, like Warm Chain of Support for Breastfeeding. This campaign strives to coordinate efforts to provide continuum care for newborn babies and mothers.
Another way to contribute is by sharing information on social media to promote and support breastfeeding or by collaborating with foundations worldwide. The European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants, for instance, ensures the best possible care to preterm and ill newborns. The Australian Breastfeeding Association works with volunteers that can inform about the positive impact of breastfeeding and has a mother-to-mother helpline for mothers looking for information and support.
American Academy of Pediatrics (2011, February, 01). Psychological Benefits of Breastfeeding. HealthyChildren. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Psychological-Benefits-of-Breastfeeding.aspx
American Academy of Pediatrics (2016, July 25). Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom. HealthyChildren. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Benefits-of-Breastfeeding-for-Mom.aspx
American Academy of Pediatrics (2016, November 24). Breastfeeding Benefits Your Baby’s Immune System. HealthyChildren. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Breastfeeding-Benefits-Your-Babys-Immune-System.aspx
Australian Breastfeeding Association (2020, February 28). World Breastfeeding Week. https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/world-breastfeeding-week
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, May 28). About Breastfeeding. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/about-breastfeeding/index.html
Couple to Couple League International (2017). Psychological benefits of breastfeeding. https://ccli.org/2017/10/psychological-benefits-of-breastfeeding/?lang=es
European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (2020, April 12). World Breastfeeding Week. https://www.efcni.org/activities/campaigns/world-breastfeeding-week/
Hahn-Holbrook, J. (2018). The Psychological Effects of Breastfeeding. In Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation (Ed.) Breastfeeding and Breast Milk – from Biochemistry to Impact. Georg Thieme Verlag. http://dx.doi.org/10.21428/3d48c34a.4eb43e95.
Krol, K. M. & Grossmann, T (2018). Psychological effects of breastfeeding on children and mothers. Bundesgesundheitsbl 61(8), 977-985. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00103-018-2769-0
World Alliance for Breastfeeding (2019, February 18). WARM CHAIN of Support for Breastfeeding. http://waba.org.my/archive/warm-chain/
World Alliance for Breastfeeding (n.d.). https://waba.org.my/ Retrieved on 22 of July of 2021.
World Alliance for Breastfeeding (n.d.). World Breastfeeding Week (WBW). https://waba.org.my/wbw/ Retrieved on 22 of July of 2021.