World Breastfeeding Week: Supporting Breastfeeding for Nutrition, Food Security, and Poverty Reduction

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The 2016 World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) theme is Breastfeeding: A Key to Sustainable Development. Join International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) and World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) in observing WBW 1-7 August 2016. To find out more about the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and available #WBW2016 resources, read this Lactation Matters post.

At the World Breastfeeding Week website, WABA explains how breastfeeding is linked to each of the SDGs along four thematic areas. Throughout the week, ILCA will highlight each of these themes to help you better understand the SDGs and learn how to connect your critical local efforts to these larger international goals.

WBW Theme #1: Nutrition, Food Security, and Poverty Reduction

Breastfeeding plays an important role in reducing poverty (SDG 1); addressing food safety, nutrition, and insecurity (SDG 2); promoting the general health and well-being of families (SDG 3); and creating sustainable consumption patterns (SDG 12).

Envision an isolated land where famine is common, where mothers are known to breastfeed their children until they become toddlers. These mothers know that breastfeeding is sustenance and food security for their young children. In low-income areas particularly, mothers commonly stop breastfeeding only when they feel that their child is big and strong enough to no longer need that  protection.

Undernutrition, including sub-optimal breastfeeding, underlies 45% of all deaths of children under 5 annually. The  most prevalent form of malnutrition, nutritional stunting (low height for age), is already prevalent at birth and continues to increase sharply until 24 months of age. The window of opportunity for reducing stunting is 1000 days from conception until two years of age. Early investments in prevention of low birth weight and stunting, and early initiation of and exclusive breastfeeding, contribute to reducing the risk of later obesity and chronic diseases.

In addition to the benefits to overall health and sustainability, breastfeeding can contribute to financial independence and sustainability. Not breastfeeding is associated with economic losses of about $302 billion annually or .49% of world gross national income. Families worldwide spend an estimated $54 billion annually purchasing milk formula. Also, adults who were breastfed as children were found to have higher incomes than those who were not breastfed.

What role can breastfeeding have in promoting good nutrition and food security in YOUR community?

  • Talk to mothers and local health services. Plan actions based on what you learn about the situation in your community.
  • Engage entire families to discuss the importance of infant feeding and how they can support breastfeeding women in their homes and their communities.
  • Help people in your community to see breastfeeding, timely complementary feeding, and continued breastfeeding up to two years or beyond as normal.
  • Ensure that local health facilities, pharmacies, and grocery stores adhere to the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.
  • Work with agricultural extension programs to extend breastfeeding support to rural communities.

For the most up-to-date information about WBW 2016 and to download and purchase promotional materials, please visit the World Breastfeeding Week website by clicking here.

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