PROTECTING BREASTFEEDING; A SHARED RESPONSIBILITY

World Breastfeeding Week 2021

World breastfeeding week has been monumentalized every 1st week of August since 1990.  This year’s theme was; Protect breastfeeding; a shared responsibility. This advocacy is an initiative by WHO and UNICEF to create a consensus that supports, promotes, and protects breastfeeding because it is the best nutrition tool for the growing baby. The World Alliance Breastfeeding Action (WABA) stated that this year’s objective was geared towards informing people about the importance of protecting breastfeeding, anchoring breastfeeding support, engaging with individuals and organizations for greater impact, and galvanizing action on protecting breastfeeding to improve public health.

Benefits.

Breastfeeding is beneficial for both the infant and the mother. Breast milk protects newborns from infections, improves immunity, facilitates optimal growth and development, and cushions babies against chronic diseases like diabetes later in life. On the other hand, breastfeeding mothers are less likely to develop ovarian and breast cancer, easily lose their postpartum weight, and regain their normal shape. After birth, it is recommended to exclusively breastfeed a baby during the first six months and then continue with complementary feeding, until 24 months or longer, if it suits both mother and baby.

Support.

Partners can help mothers with the domestic workload as well as with the caring of the baby. Doing hands-on with activities such as baby bathing, changing diapers, burping, shopping, and meal preparations, and helping out on house chores is a great form of support. At the workplace, it’s important to create an enabling environment such as implementing the maternity and paternity leave policy, providing lactating and/or milk expression rooms, and being breastfeeding cheerleaders etcetera. International Labour Organization (ILO) has passed three maternity conventions including paid maternity leave (which recommends 18 weeks) which undoubtedly allows mothers to exclusively breastfeed. Fewer countries have ratified it so far and it remains a challenge for women working in the informal sector because of the high risk of losing their jobs.

Protection.

To protect breastfeeding, the regulatory measures regarding maternal leave policies, workplace support, ban of formula milk marketing, and implementation of baby Friendly hospital initiatives (BFHIs) must be fully adopted and implemented. The implementation of leave policies by Sweden, the ban of formula milk marketing by Bangladesh, and the implementation of BFHIs by some countries are a few milestones to realizing this agenda. In Kenya, the milk breast milk bank in Pumwani hospital is a way to protecting and enabling breastfeeding to some degree. 

Argwings Chagwira Muliro

The writer is a nutrition and wellness professional who is focused on conducting detailed nutrition consultations and creating personalized meal plans to meet the needs of his clients | am.chagwira@gmail.com

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