World Breastfeeding Week 2017 (WBW) celebrates working together for the common good, which produces sustainable results, greater than the sum of our individual efforts.
Evidence on the benefits of breastfeeding is already available to us. We know that breastfeeding aids the survival of infants and helps them thrive, has long-term health benefits for women, yields economic benefits and enhances the wellbeing of all. The challenge for champions of breastfeeding is to translate globally agreed policies to positive action in our communities.
Nutrition, food security and poverty reduction
Breastfeeding is a vital part of sustainable development and a non-negotiable component of global action to end malnutrition. Increased rates of exclusive and continued breastfeeding can only be achieved by cooperating and collaborating across sectors and generations.
Breastfeeding is not just a woman’s issue or the sole responsibility of a woman - the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding is a collective societal responsibility shared by us all.
- Nutrition: Breastfed infants are provided with optimal nutrition and protection against infections.
- Food security: Breast milk is a safe and secure source of food even in times of humanitarian crises.
- Poverty reduction: Breastfeeding is a low cost way of feeding babies without burdening household budgets.
Survival, health and wellbeing
Breastfeeding is a key contributor to the survival, health and wellbeing of infants and mothers. Put simply, it provides babies with the best possible start in life.
Improved breastfeeding practices have the potential to save the lives of 823,000 children and 20,000 women a year and contribute significantly to long-term health. Urgent steps are needed to coordinate global action to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.
- Survival: Breastfeeding significantly improves the survival of infants, children and mothers.
- Health and wellbeing: Breastfeeding significantly improves the health, development and wellbeing of infants and children as well as mothers, both in the short- and long-term.
Environment and climate change
The health of our planet is affected by the way babies are fed. Breast milk is a natural, renewable food that is produced and delivered without pollution, packaging or waste. The breast milk substitute industry, on the other hand, carries a negative environmental impact that is not commonly recognised.
- Environment: Breast milk is a natural, renewable food that is environmentally safe: produced and delivered without pollution, packaging or waste.
- Climate change: Formula production and consumption generates greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions which accelerate global warming.
Women’s productivity and employment
When breastfeeding has to be combined with paid work, especially under precarious circumstances, the challenges may be overwhelming. We must first see a change in attitudes. Breastfeeding and work must be understood as a matter of rights and gender equality. One example is Empowering Parents Campaign (EPC), which seeks to champion the active involvement of both men and women by promoting gender equity in both paid and caregiving work.
- Women’s productivity: Employers benefit from having a more contented and productive workforce due to less employee absenteeism, increased loyalty and less staff turnover.
- Employment: Parental protection and other workplace policies can enable women to combine breastfeeding with paid work.