The motto for World Breastfeeding Week 2017 being celebrated in 170 countries this week is “Sustaining Breastfeeding Together.” In other words, says Emily Perschbacher, “it takes a village” to support the optimal health and nutrition of the maternal-infant dyad. In the United States, rates of breastfeeding are high during early infancy. American mothers, it seems, need support to keep that milk train rolling throughout the first year of life (and beyond):
The World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend exclusive breast-feeding for the first six months of a baby’s life, with continued breast-feeding alongside solid foods up to at least 12 months of age. The academy suggests the “continuation of breast-feeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.”
According to a 2016 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study, breast-feeding rates are up nationwide. “Among infants born in 2013, 4 out of 5 (81.1 percent) started to breast-feed, over half (51.8 percent) were breast-feeding at six months and almost one-third (30.7 percent) were breast-feeding at 12 months,” the Breastfeeding Report Card found.
The falloff in breast-feeding after six months may suggest, in part, that mothers are not getting the support they need to continue, the report says.
The organizers of World Breastfeeding Week 2017 want to make one thing perfectly clear:
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.
This year’s event focuses on four main themes:
1. Nutrition, Food Security, and Poverty Reduction:
Nutrition: Breastfed infants are provided with optimal nutrition and protection against infections.
Food security: Breastmilk 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.
2. Survival, Health and Wellbeing:
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.
3. Environment and Climate Change:
Environment: Breastmilk 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.
4. Women’s Productivity and Employment:
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.
(Back pat: Jennifer Yoon, Pediatric Alliance — St. Clair)