Every year, various organizations come together to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week. The event can be traced back to 1990, when a group of policymakers at a WHO and UNICEF conference in Florence, Italy agreed on a declaration to encourage breastfeeding across the globe. Referred to as the Innocenti Declaration, it was the first attempt at an international level to promote, safeguard, and support breastfeeding.
Today, we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week to commemorate the Innocenti Declaration. The current version of the celebration focuses on combined efforts by the celebrants, decision makers, activists, and advocates to help promote policies that support breastfeeding.
Theme for 2017 WBW
The theme for this year’s World Breastfeeding Week is “sustaining breastfeeding together”. It is sponsored by a number of organizations, including the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), the Global Goals, Wellstart International, The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM), La Leche League International (LLLI), International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), World Health Organization (WHO), and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The idea is to emphasize the importance of breastfeeding in our well-being.
About the campaign
The importance of breastfeeding for infants cannot be overstated. WHO (World Health Organization) recognizes breast milk as the best source of nutritional food for infants. According to UNICEF and WHO, breastfeeding should begin within one hour after the child’s birth and then administered during the first 6 months of his/her life. Ideally, it should be continued until about the age of two to reduce the risk of child mortality, as well as to ensure proper growth and development. Breast milk is packed with antibodies that help fight off bacteria and viruses while reducing the chances of developing allergies or asthma.
In fact, babies who are breastfed consistently during the first six months have relatively fewer respiratory illnesses, ear infections, and bouts of diarrhea. Exclusive breastfeeding should be done without any formula and the longer the breastfeeding period, the longer-lasting the benefits.
Why Breastfeeding is better than Using Formula
Formula-fed infants have relatively more infections and hospitalizations than breastfed babies. During breastfeeding, germ-fighting factors such as antibodies pass from the mother to the baby, strengthening the immune system. As a result, the chances of getting infections reduce significantly. According to the 2009 World Health Organization recommendations, HIV positive mothers in low and middle-income countries can breastfeed as long as they take their antiretroviral therapy (ARV) treatment from the fourteenth week of pregnancy. This is aimed to prevent the transmission of HIV from the mother to the child, and should be continued until the end of the breastfeeding period.
As such, if you are a HIV positive mother, you should exclusively breastfeed your infant until 6 months of age before introducing appropriate complementary foods. The bottom line is that breastfeeding is beneficial for every baby, even in HIV-related cases (provided the mother has access to ART).
In 2016, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action initiated the fifteen-year journey to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals by linking breastfeeding to each of these goals. Achieving sustainable development successfully requires multi-level partnerships at all levels, and the World Breastfeeding Week provides a great platform for this.