Breastfeeding: Foundation of healthy body and mind

Nikhil Gomez

Every year the international community celebrates “World Breastfeeding Week” from the 1st of August to the 7th to promote the positive effects of breastfeeding. 

The observance marks the 1990 Innocenti Declaration that states that all women should be enabled to practice exclusive breastfeeding and all infants should be fed exclusively on breastmilk up to 4-6 months of age “as a global goal for optimal maternal and child health and nutrition.”

The “World Breastfeeding Week” started in 1992, with annual themes including healthcare systems, women and work, the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, community support, ecology, economy, science, education and human rights.

Since 2016, the observance is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. In 2018, a World Health Assembly resolution endorsed World Breastfeeding Week as an important breastfeeding promotion strategy.

This year, #WBW2020 will focus on the impact of infant feeding on the environment or climate change and the imperative to protect, promote and support breastfeeding for the health of the planet and its people. 

The theme — “Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet” —  is aligned with thematic area 3 in the WBW-SDG 2030 campaign that highlights the links between breastfeeding and the environment or climate change.

Governments around the world have been promoting breastfeeding for years already, explaining to the people it benefits.

But what do people say about breastfeeding?

Shilpi, a mother in Bangladesh, said she knows that mother’s milk protects a child from various illnesses like pneumonia, cholera, and neonatal jaundice, among others.

Mother's milk provides important nutrients to help children develop their health and give them immunity from various illnesses. 

Shilpi said it also benefits mothers who want to lose weight and it can lower the risks of breast and ovarian cancer. She said it also helps heal the uterus after pregnancy.

“All mothers need to give their breast milk to their baby because it can save lives,” said Lily Anthania Gomez, senior manager for health at Caritas Bangladesh.

She said breastfeeding is the responsibility of a mother to her child. 

Mothers, however, need access to a parent-friendly workplace to protect and support their ability to continue breastfeeding when they return to work. 

Gomez said there is a need to raise awareness in all levels in Bangladesh for the promotion of breastfeeding, including proper breastfeeding and storage of breast milk.

SK Roy, executive director of the Bangladesh Breastfeeding Foundation, said about Tk. 2000 crore is being spent every year to import canned food for children, and hundreds of crore more is being spent for treatment of sickness. 

Roy, warned of the risks of obesity among children who take tinned food.

“Aggressive marketing of breast milk substitutes … has become a major obstacle to neonatal and child health around the world,” said Dr. Francesco Branca, director of WHO's Department of Nutrition and Food Security.

The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics have emphasized the value of breastfeeding for mothers as well as children. 

Both recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life and then supplemented breastfeeding for at least one year and up to two years or more.

Breast milk is the true foundation of a baby's life. 

Let us help mothers have children who grow up healthy and beautiful, and motivate everyone in the family to help mothers breastfeed their babies.