Around 120 countries participate in the World Breastfeeding Week every year. We examine the need for this event and its implications for babies.
August 1 to 7, the World Breastfeeding Week (WBW), was a special week organized by World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) in conjunction with WHO and UNICEF to protect, promote and support the belief that breastfeeding is the right of all children and mothers. This week, celebrated every year, is marked by several events world over with the involvement of an estimated 488 organisations and 4,06,620 participants.
Breastfeeding plays a crucial role in the initial stages of an infant’s life as it is the breast milk that provides ideal nutrition to the baby. Extensive worldwide advertising of baby formulae and other such supplemental baby food products is changing baby feeding practices. However, one should know that baby formulae can only mimic the qualities of breast milk but not provide the complete nutrition of mother’s milk.
Therefore, it is imperative to understand that breast milk has numerous benefits over baby formulae and other such supplemental baby food products. Not only is breast milk a rich repository of essential nutrients and minerals required for a baby’s growth and development, it is also said to build an infant’s immunity, and also builds young bones and builds blood vessels. The WHO contends that breastfeeding an infant in the first six months of life has health benefits that extend to providing protection from such diseases as pneumonia. Breastfeeding is said to be beneficial to mothers as well – women who breastfed their babies were found less likely to develop breast and uterine cancers, and they also lose weight faster.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises mothers to continue breastfeeding their babies well beyond the six months of the child’s life. After six months, the breast milk can be supplemented by formula and semi-solid food.
World Breastfeeding Week this year called for offices and places of study to provide for child nursing spaces so that women could breastfeed their children as per set schedules. Employers and universities are beholden to provide a baby care and nursing space where mothers can nurse their children. Similarly, women can demand for childcare centres close to their places of work so that they may nurse their babies in between work.
Thus with this year’s theme, WABA is reinforcing a culture of exclusive breastfeeding by empowering working women to execute the right to breastfeed their babies even at their work place by generating awareness and a breastfeeding-friendly environment.
 ‘Benefits of breastfeeding’, National Resources Defence Council, 2010
 ‘Breastfeeding overview’, www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/nursing-basics
 The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), www.aap.org