Annually, World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated from August 1 to 7 to promote breastfeeding and better health for babies. The week was originally celebrated by around 70 countries, but now more than 170 nations participate.
On this occasion, government policymakers, WHO, UNICEF, and other organizations commemorate the Innocenti Declaration, which was signed in August 1990 to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. The WHO states that breastfed children have a higher level of intelligence and fitness. Additionally, they are at a reduced risk of being overweight, obese, and diabetic compared to those who are not. Several prevalent paediatric illnesses can be prevented with breast milk, since it contains antibodies.
Theme of World Breastfeeding Week 2022
World Breastfeeding Week’s theme for 2022 is ‘Step Up for Breastfeeding: Educate and Support’. To highlight the importance of breastfeeding for mothers, Dr Parul Sehgal, Gynaecologist, Delhi explained, “Breastfeeding not only caters to baby’s health but also reduces the mother’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.”
Some studies have found that breastfeeding helps the women to recover from postpartum depression, reduces the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and high cholesterol in mothers. The WHO estimates that increased breastfeeding could prevent 20,000 maternal deaths due to breast cancer each year. As a result, we need to promote family-friendly policies to support and protect breastfeeding. Counselling should be provided to more would-be mothers so that breastfeeding can be ingrained right from the start.
Importance of Breastfeeding and Breastmilk
Infants need breastfeeding for healthy growth and development. Mothers also experience overwhelming emotions during this time. The WHO reports that two out of three children are not breastfed. Thus, it is all the more crucial to commemorate this day. Post-delivery, mothers are recommended to breastfeed their children for six months. Educating and supporting mothers in this process is hindered by the social stigma associated with lactation in India, which precludes mothers from initiating breastfeeding soon after birth (within the first hour).
Health issues such as malnutrition, overweight, and micronutrient deficiencies result from inadequate breastfeeding in children. To increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding by 50% by 2025, the World Health Assembly has set a global target. It is estimated that only 55% of children under six months are exclusively breastfed.
Let’s Spread the Word
The celebration of World Breastfeeding Week is a good time to spread awareness about how breastfeeding can be supported and educated. It is not a social stigma, but a requirement for the physical and mental wellbeing of a child.