The first week of August is World Breastfeeding Week.
Breastfeeding is one of the most natural maternal acts in the world. Surprisingly, in 2021, there is still some stigma surrounding mothers who breastfeed in public.
According to the World Health Organisation, breastfeeding is one of the most efficient ways to ensure child health and survival.
And this is where WBW steps in.
World Breastfeeding Week is an annual celebration from August 1 to 7. It is recognized in over 120 countries. Its history goes back as far as the 1990s when WHO and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) created the Innocenti Declaration to promote and support breastfeeding.
Then in 1991, the organizations formed the World Association of Breastfeeding Action before dedication a whole week to promote the initiative the following year.
Breastfeeding rates among Black women are reported to be much lower than their white counterparts. Approximately 66% of Black infants are breastfed compared to more than 82% of white and Latinx moms.
“Although breastfeeding can help reduce risks for several maternal and infant health conditions, infants from some racial/ethnic minorities who are already at the highest risk for these conditions are often among the least likely to be breastfed,” authors of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report wrote in May. “These data might be useful to state and territorial public health practitioners in identifying specific racial/ethnic disparities on which to focus efforts to improve breastfeeding support.”
The odds are significantly stacked against Black women.
According to the ACLU, Black people are “less likely than their white counterparts to occupy jobs that offer greater flexibility, economic stability, and better benefits, such as paid family leave, which is associated with a longer continuation of breastfeeding.”
WHO hopes the weekly campaign will help efforts to remove some of the barriers nursing mothers face.
This year, the theme for breastfeeding week is ‘Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility.
- Ensuring the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes – established to protect mothers from aggressive marketing practices by the baby food industry – is fully implemented by governments, health workers and industry.
- Ensuring health care workers have the resources and information they need to effectively support mothers to breastfeed, including through global efforts such as the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative, and guidelines on breastfeeding counseling.
- Ensuring employers allow women the time and space they need to breastfeed; including paid parental leave with longer maternity leave; safe places for breastfeeding in the workplace; access to affordable and good-quality childcare; and universal child benefits and adequate wages.