‘Step Up for Breastfeeding: Educate and Support’
World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is an annual celebration which is held every year from 1 to 7 August in more than 120 countries. According to the 26 August data of WBW website, 540 events have been held worldwide by more than 79 countries with 488 organizations and 406,620 participants for the World Breastfeeding Week 2010.
Organized by World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), the World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF, WBW came up with the goal to promote exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life which yields many health benefits, providing critical nutrients, protection from deadly diseases such as pneumonia and fostering growth and development for the first time in 1991.
World Breastfeeding Week was first celebrated in 1992 by WABA and is now observed in over 120 countries by UNICEF, WHO and their partners including individuals, organizations, and governments. WABA itself have been formed on 14 February 1991 with the goal to re-establish a global breastfeeding culture and provide support for breastfeeding everywhere. WHO and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) emphasize 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. WBW commemorates the Innocenti Declaration made by WHO and UNICEF in August 1990 to protect and support breastfeeding.
Breast milk is the ultimate superfood for an infant. It is full of all the nutrients necessary for a baby’s health. It remains the primary and only food a baby has for the first six months of their life. It is proven that human breast milk reduces the risk of diseases and death among infants with low birth weights and premature babies.
But under some unfortunate circumstances, some babies have to stay devoid of this nutritious diet. The factors responsible for this are the death of the biological mother, mothers being unable to lactate properly, and mothers abandoning babies, amid others. In such cases, what has proven to be a simple and effective way to fill the gap are breast milk donations by new mothers and the milk banks.
Vulnerable newborns across India and around the world are able to get access to human breast milk with the help of facilities, such as milk banks. New mothers who are lactating can donate their milk at these places which can be accessed by caretakers of babies who are unable to receive it from their own biological mother.
These facilities provided by hospitals and nursing homes, proved to be of great service even during the Covid-19 pandemic where many infants were separated from their mothers due to many factors, including the latter being infected with the virus.
According to a study published in the International Breastfeeding Journal in 2020, there are over 80 milk banks currently in India. It is a very noble act on the part of the new moms who come and donate their breastmilk for the infants in need. It has been helping save so many lives all across the globe. As we celebrate World Breastfeeding Week from August 1 – August 7, we must take out some time to appreciate this initiative.
Aien Jamir, Shillong, Meghalaya