Author Archive | lactationmatters

Four Lessons in Optimizing Lactation and Birth Care During COVID-19 and Beyond


Interview with Catherine Sullivan

Providers worldwide are working to understand and implement changes to the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) while managing the many challenges presented by the COVID-19.

At the #ILCA2020 Virtual Conference, Catherine Sullivan, Director of the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute (GGBI) and an assistant professor in the Department of Maternal Child Health at the Gillings School of Public Health in the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill in the United States, will share strategies and lessons learned from her extensive experience with the BFHI designation process. CGBI was a participant in the CDC EMPower Breastfeeding and EMPower Training Initiatives, and is now leading ENRICH Carolinas, coaching hospitals in the US states of North and South Carolina towards Baby-Friendly designation. Through their work, they have coached over 200 hospitals through the BFHI process and Step 2 implementation. 

Sullivan shared with Lactation Matters some of the lessons she and CGBI have learned, and how you can use them in transforming your hospital’s lactation support – whether towards eventual Baby-Friendly designation, or simply to “baby-friendlier” practices.

Lesson #1: An equity lens ensures that all families benefit.

We really try to use an equity lens in rolling out any programmatic activity. 

The old model was an “equality” mentality. “If we apply these ten steps across the board to everyone, everybody will achieve designation and then we will achieve breastfeeding outcomes.” But that is actually not what you see. If you haven’t addressed the equity piece, the result is a “raise all boats” mentality, rather than understanding what is needed on an individual basis. We have to be careful that we are addressing those issues that really get to the disparity. And the way to do that is to collect data and see if what you are doing is working. 

For example, if you’re looking at overall percentage of babies going skin-to-skin in the first hour, but not breaking it down by race/ethnicity, that may obscure disparities. So if 90% of all your patients are meeting that skin-to-skin goal, it could mean that 98% of a more privileged group of families were getting it – and the rest were not. I’m going to talk about how to incorporate data collection in a way that will allow you to really track those outcomes for equity.

I’m also going to talk about applying an equity lens to your training. If providers are withholding some of those best practices because of their beliefs and assumptions it can create a bigger disparity in who’s receiving that care. Along with prioritizing diversity within our team, all of our coaches are all trained in an understanding of racial equity and how racism impacts structures. They are providing technical assistance in all of those areas to make sure that the providers on the receiving end are understanding their own bias and how it has impacted the care that they’re providing.

Lesson #2: A holistic model that looks outside hospital walls is important.

We know that continuity is crucial for long-term breastfeeding success. One of the things we learned in EMPower is that we want to focus not just on getting the initiation in the hospital, but on duration and exclusivity. 

In ENRICH Carolinas, we cover other arms that help with those goals in Steps 3 and 10. We are working in the affiliated prenatal clinics and in childcare settings. That includes providing training to individuals in those settings, rather than just focusing on the hospital staff. Connecting hospitals to their community resources is essential. Hospitals are stewards of the community, and this is part of that role.

Lesson #3: The COVID-19 pandemic is an opportunity to keep the momentum going.

It’s a question people are asking right now: how do you keep the momentum going when priorities have shifted. It’s important to remember that even if the facility isn’t consciously focusing on Baby-Friendly designation right now, they are thinking a lot about best practices. We’re finding the facilities we’re coaching are asking for more visits right now, not fewer. They’re coming up for air right now and refocusing.

Safety is a key part of those competencies, and it’s a question that comes up regularly with facilities. How are we continuously monitoring families that are rooming in and doing skin to skin and that kind of thing? COVID-19 is a good opportunity to discuss safety guidelines and tie them into the conflicting information facilities have received from different agencies and organizations. 

To tie into that focus on best practices and on safety, as part of our EMPower project for CDC, we created 5-hour competency-based training for staff, including an electronic version of our competency-based training tools. We have those up on our website, and anyone can see them and play around with them. I’ll be sharing the results of our outcomes in EMPower, and how we’re rolling those lessons into ENRICH.

There are many opportunities to tie our work into current priorities.Throughout ENRICH, in every area, we’re also applying lessons learned around COVID that also are applicable for any emergency situation – Dr. Aunchalee Palmquist at CGBI has done a lot of work around infant feeding in emergencies. We also took our prenatal education live online for participating hospitals. So I’ll be talking about a number of the pivots you have to make at a time like this, and how they can become opportunities.

Lesson #4: A quality improvement mindset will help facilities worldwide as they adjust to Baby-Friendly’s revised guidelines.

Globally, BFHI is everywhere. Anyone could flip our lessons learned and replicate our model. We’ll be discussing how to roll out the interim guidance and using examples from domestic work that can be applied at the global level. When a hospital is thinking about how to achieve this, they particularly need to think about measurement and sustainability. In terms of measurement, how will they measure that they’re successful? How will they audit records? In their area, if there’s a group that’s less advantaged, how is that playing out and how do they monitor for disparities?

In terms of sustainability, quality improvement (QI) will now be incorporated into Step 1. Continuous QI for the Ten Steps is not something every country has introduced, but that is how you maintain your designation and practices once you’ve achieved them. The difference is a change toward not just focusing on designation. Any facility can focus on improvement, whether you achieve designation or not. We created a number of data markers for facilities to collect and follow that will help your progress in that QI journey.


To learn more about EMPower Training, visit: https://sph.unc.edu/cgbi/empower/

Catherine Sullivan is the Director of the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute and an assistant professor in the Department of Maternal Child Health at the Gillings School of Public Health in the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill in the United States. In 2017, the Centers For Disease Control (CDC) in the United States engaged Sullivan and her colleagues to create a competency-based training tool for BFHI. At the conference, Sullivan will share her experience creating the tool, discuss racial equity issues, and share how her work can be applied internationally. 

Learn more about the #ILCA2020 virtual conference.

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World Breastfeeding Week 2020 – Take Action: Societal Support for Breastfeeding and Chestfeeding


How can YOU support action steps to support breastfeeding for a healthier planet?

As a part of World Breastfeeding Week, World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has identified six action areas for creating change. We are sharing the last action area – societal support – today. 

Just learning about this year’s World Breastfeeding Week celebrations? Get an overview here. Read the other posts in this series here, here, here, here, and here.


Day six action area: Societal support

Breastfeeding women and chestfeeding parents have the right to be supported by society to achieve their lactation goals. They can benefit from many different kinds of support depending on their sociocultural context. Support can come from their families, communities, health systems and workplaces. Skilled breastfeeding counselling is a type of support delivered directly to women and other lactating parents and their infants by health workers and counsellors trained specifically to help them, including International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs). When breastfeeding counselling is available and accessible to women/parents, the duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding is increased.

What you can do*

  • Advocate for increased financing, monitoring and implementation of better policies and interventions to provide families the support for breastfeeding that they need, especially breastfeeding counselling.
  • Inform communities about the impact of formula feeding on the environment using a variety of communication techniques and influencers.
  • Sensitise journalists and the media to stimulate public debate on the links between breastfeeding and the environment/ climate change.
  • Allocate resources for additional research on the climate/ environmental impact of BMS.
  • Collect systematic data on the impact of different IYCF policies and programmes in emergency situations.

* How you can support these efforts depends on your role in the breastfeeding and chestfeeding community. If you are a policy maker, please consider these priorities. If you are not, please call on your local, regional, and national leaders to take action. Or consider becoming a policy leader yourself, by getting involved with your breastfeeding coalition, public health agency, or an elected office – we need your leadership at the highest possible level!


The 2020 World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) theme is Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet. This year’s theme celebrates the impact of infant feeding on the environment/climate change and the imperative to protect, promote and support breastfeeding for the health of the planet and its people. Join International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) and WABA in observing WBW 1-7 August 2020. 

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World Breastfeeding Week 2020 – Take Action: Building Knowledge and Skills at All Levels


Breastfeeding mothers and chestfeeding parents encounter a wide variety of providers from pregnancy through weaning. The importance of ensuring that those providers – from peer educators to IBCLCs to nurses and physicians – have adequate training was a key point raised in yesterday’s webinar. (To learn more about the Global Breastfeeding Collective’s webinar Achieving Health Equity: Providing Skilled Breastfeeding Support Universally or watch a recording, click here.)

Today’s blog post shares practical next steps on how to support breastfeeding and chestfeeding families by supporting the next action area – building knowledge and skills at all levels.

As a part of World Breastfeeding Week, World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has identified six action areas for creating change. We will share one with you for the next six days. 

Just learning about this year’s World Breastfeeding Week celebrations? Get an overview here. Read the other posts in this series here, here, here, and here.


Day five action area: Building knowledge and skills at all levels

Breastfeeding and chestfeeding people deserve consistent and accurate information throughout the course of their pregnancy, lactation, and weaning. 

To help families reach their lactation goals, lay and peer supporters need basic training in breastfeeding counselling and practical skills. Health and allied professionals need breastfeeding counselling skills and additional clinical skills to manage and overcome problems. It is also essential to have expert resource people to act as academic teachers, trainers, program managers and supervisors. Their role is to ensure effective capacity building and skills development at all levels, and to maintain and update healthcare standards. The development of consistent competencies throughout different levels requires investment that has corresponding benefits and economic returns.

What you can do*

  • Invest in consistent training programmes for different levels of health professionals, lactation consultants, community health workers and lay/peer supporters.
  • Advocate for placement of appropriately-trained and skilled staff at various levels: peer supporters, health professionals, lactation consultants and resource persons.
  • Promote scaling up of existing breastfeeding training tools and programmes including online, digital and e-learning methods, as well as face-to-face clinical and other practical teaching.
  • Engage school children, students, youth and social media influencers to spread awareness of the importance of breastfeeding for planetary health.

* How you can support these efforts depends on your role in the breastfeeding and chestfeeding community. If you are a policy maker, please consider these priorities. If you are not, please call on your local, regional, and national leaders to take action. Or consider becoming a policy leader yourself, by getting involved with your breastfeeding coalition, public health agency, or an elected office – we need your leadership at the highest possible level!


The 2020 World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) theme is Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet. This year’s theme celebrates the impact of infant feeding on the environment/climate change and the imperative to protect, promote and support breastfeeding for the health of the planet and its people. Join International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) and WABA in observing WBW 1-7 August 2020. 

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World Breastfeeding Week 2020 – Take Action: Skilled Breastfeeding Support Is Essential


Following today’s Global Breastfeeding Collective webinar on Achieving Health Equity: Providing Skilled Breastfeeding Support Universally, we are focusing today’s World Breastfeeding Week action on the importance of access to skilled lactation care.

As a part of World Breastfeeding Week, World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has identified six action areas for creating change. We will share one with you for the next six days. 

Just learning about this year’s World Breastfeeding Week celebrations? Get an overview here. Read the other posts in this series here, here, and here.


Day four action area: Breastfeeding counselling is essential

Breastfeeding counselling is essential for increasing breastfeeding rates. According to the World Health Organization, all counselling can be considered support but not all support interventions involve counselling. Counselling is a process and interaction between counsellors and women/parents and is therefore not intended to be a ‘top-down’ intervention of ‘telling them what to do’. The aim of breastfeeding counselling is to empower women and other lactating parents to breastfeed or chestfeed, while respecting their personal situations and wishes. It may be offered by credentialed professionals, including International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs), lay/peer counsellors, or a combination of both. Breastfeeding counselling includes listening, empathising, building confidence, giving information and suggestions and letting women/parents decide what is best for them. It also includes giving practical help and demonstrating how to position and attach a baby at the breast and manage common problems. When breastfeeding challenges are more complex, such as sick or small newborns, a provider with clinical experience, such as an IBCLC, can provide much needed support.

What you can do*

  • Advocate for all women/parents with young children to have access to skilled breastfeeding counselling from health facilities and communities.
  • Implement the revised BFHI 2018 guidelines in all health facilities including private hospitals.
  • Allocate resources for community groups to be able to provide basic breastfeeding counselling and other forms of support close to women/parents.

* How you can support these efforts depends on your role in the breastfeeding and chestfeeding community. If you are a policy maker, please consider these priorities. If you are not, please call on your local, regional, and national leaders to take action. Or consider becoming a policy leader yourself, by getting involved with your breastfeeding coalition, public health agency, or an elected office – we need your leadership at the highest possible level!


The 2020 World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) theme is Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet. This year’s theme celebrates the impact of infant feeding on the environment/climate change and the imperative to protect, promote and support breastfeeding for the health of the planet and its people. Join International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) and WABA in observing WBW 1-7 August 2020. 

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World Breastfeeding Week 2020 – Take Action: Leaving No One Behind

How can YOU support action steps to support breastfeeding for a healthier planet?

As a part of World Breastfeeding Week, World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has identified six action areas for creating change. We will share one with you for the next six days. 

Just learning about this year’s World Breastfeeding Week celebrations? Get an overview here. Read the other posts in this series here and here.

Day three action area: Leaving no one behind

Some families may be more vulnerable and require additional breastfeeding support. Vulnerable situations include emergencies, special needs or other medical conditions affecting the breastfeeding dyad. The increase in climate and environment-related disasters are a growing concern as the risks of undernutrition and child mortality are much higher than during normal times. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is another emergency that leaves families with children in an extremely vulnerable position. In every emergency, it is necessary to assess and act to protect and support the nutritional needs and care of both breastfed and nonbreastfed infants and young children. It is vital that national and international evidence-based guidelines are aligned to ensure that consistent messages reach the public.

Donations and non-targeted distributions of BMS can interfere and undermine breastfeeding. Unreliable supply chains of BMS and the unhygienic conditions that commonly prevail in emergency situations make breastfeeding the safest option. In the case of COVID-19, WHO and UNICEF recommend breastfeeding with necessary hygienic precautions. This may be revised as further evidence becomes available. The Operational Guidance on Infant Feeding in Emergencies (OG-IFE) explains the key actions to protect and support optimal IYCF in emergencies.

What you can do*

  • Invest in consistent training programmes for different levels of health professionals, lactation consultants, community health workers and lay/peer supporters.
  • Advocate for placement of appropriately-trained and skilled staff at various levels: peer supporters, health professionals, lactation consultants and resource persons.
  • Promote scaling up of existing breastfeeding training tools and programmes including online, digital and e-learning methods, as well as face-to-face clinical and other practical teaching.
  • Engage school children, students, youth and social media influencers to spread awareness of the importance of breastfeeding for planetary health.

* How you can support these efforts depends on your role in the breastfeeding and chestfeeding community. If you are a policy maker, please consider these priorities. If you are not, please call on your local, regional, and national leaders to take action. Or consider becoming a policy leader yourself, by getting involved with your breastfeeding coalition, public health agency, or an elected office – we need your leadership at the highest possible level!

The 2020 World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) theme is Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet. This year’s theme celebrates the impact of infant feeding on the environment/climate change and the imperative to protect, promote and support breastfeeding for the health of the planet and its people. Join International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) and WABA in observing WBW 1-7 August 2020.

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New Webinar – Achieving health equity: Providing skilled breastfeeding support universally


As part of your World Breastfeeding Week celebrations, please join us for Achieving health equity: Providing skilled breastfeeding support universally.

In this webinar sponsored by the Global Breastfeeding Collective, WHO and UNICEF, key global leaders will discuss why investment in skilled breastfeeding support is essential to achieving equitable health outcomes. The audience will hear from funders, implementing organizations and national government level leaders.

As a part of ILCA’s efforts as members of the Global Breastfeeding Collective, Mudiwah Kadeshe, immediate past president, will be speaking and Lisa Mandell, global advocacy adviser, is serving as the chair of the task group organizing this event. We hope that you can join us.

In addition, please share this information with those who can take action to invest in skilled breastfeeding support, including government leaders, health policy makers, and funders.

The webinar will be conducted in English with simultaneous interpretation in French, Spanish, Arabic, and Russian.

Speakers include:

Moderators:

Dr. Victor Aguayo, Associate Director, Programme Division, Chief, Nutrition Programme, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

Dr. Francesco Branca, Director, Department of Nutrition and Food Safety, World Health Organization (WHO)

Speakers:

Dr. France Begin, Senior Advisor, Early Childhood Nutrition, UNICEF

Ms. Mudiwah Kadeshe, Immediate Past President, International Lactation Consultant Association

Mrs. Juliana Abdul Razak, breastfeeding mother, Malaysia

Her Excellency Mrs. Samina Alvi, First Lady of Pakistan

Dr. Laurence Grummer-Strawn, Unit Head, Department of Nutrition and Food Safety, World Health Organization

Dr. Amy E. Pollack, Director, Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Ms. Helga Fogstad, Executive Director, Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health

Dr. Steve Wall, Senior Director, Newborn Health, Save the Children

Dr. Alma Golden, Assistant Administrator for the Bureau for Global Health, United States Agency for International Development

Her Excellency Mrs. Rebecca Akufo-Addo, First Lady of Ghana

Date: 5 August 2020
Time: 13:00 – 14:30 UTC (9:00 New York, 15:00 Geneva, 16:00 Nairobi, 18:00 Islamabad, 22:00 Tokyo) (Click here to see the time in your location)

Free, pre-registration is required: https://bit.ly/SBSequity

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World Breastfeeding Week 2020 – Take Action: Ongoing Support for the First 1000 Days


How can YOU support action steps to support breastfeeding for a healthier planet?

As a part of World Breastfeeding Week, World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has identified six action areas for creating change. We will share one with you for the next six days. 

Just learning about this year’s World Breastfeeding Week celebrations? Get an overview here. Read the other posts in this series here.


Day two action area: Ongoing support across the first 1000 days

Skilled lactation support should be organised, predictable, scheduled and ongoing to be most effective. All women/parents should be offered planned contact sessions during the antenatal and postnatal periods. Contact should be frequent in the early months, with a total of at least six contacts and support continued until the child is two years old.

What you can do*

  • Advocate for ongoing antenatal and postnatal skilled lactation support to sustain optimal breastfeeding and chestfeeding.
  • Create a warm chain of support for breastfeeding by identifying key actors and their roles in the first 1000 days and linking them to each other.
  • Engage fathers/partners and family support to share domestic responsibilities and care for the breastfeeding dyad.
  • Join a mother/parent support group and share experiences with others in the community to normalise breastfeeding.
  • Develop creative ideas for virtual and online activities to engage target audiences in #WBW2020.

* How you can support these efforts depends on your role in the breastfeeding and chestfeeding community. If you are a policy maker, please consider these priorities. If you are not, please call on your local, regional, and national leaders to take action. Or consider becoming a policy leader yourself, by getting involved with your breastfeeding coalition, public health agency, or an elected office – we need your leadership at the highest possible level!


The 2020 World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) theme is Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet. This year’s theme celebrates the impact of infant feeding on the environment/climate change and the imperative to protect, promote and support breastfeeding for the health of the planet and its people. Join International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) and WABA in observing WBW 1-7 August 2020. 

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World Breastfeeding Week 2020 – Take Action: SDGs as a Framework for Planetary Health

How can YOU support action steps to support breastfeeding for a healthier planet?

As a part of World Breastfeeding Week, World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) has identified six action areas for creating change. We will share one with you for the next six days. 

Just learning about this year’s World Breastfeeding Week celebrations? Get an overview here.  


Day one action area:
SDGs as a framework for planetary health

What is an SDG?

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are about people, the planet, prosperity and peace. Breastfeeding is one of many sustainable solutions to planetary health. The SDGs provide a framework for addressing several of the current challenges to planetary health. Ensuring wellbeing includes ending poverty, hunger and malnutrition, promoting good health as well as ensuring the right to decent work, gender equality, inclusiveness and peace.

How do breastfeeding interventions fit in?

An enabling environment for breastfeeding requires an essential package of interventions: maternity/parental protection, training of health professionals and community workers, the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), access to breastfeeding counselling as well as implementation and monitoring of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and relevant World Health Assembly (WHA) resolutions.

What you can do*

  • Align national and international policies and guidance on breastfeeding and IYCF with the SDG agenda and other environment/climate initiatives.
  • Ensure that a public health perspective is taken to strengthen BFHI and breastfeeding counselling among the general population including during emergencies.
  • Raise awareness among decision-makers to recognise the contribution of breastfeeding to food security and environmental sustainability.
  • Advocate for policies aimed at reducing carbon emissions from the BMS industry.
  • Ensure that the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and relevant World Health Assembly (WHA) resolutions are fully implemented and monitored.
  • Enact paid family leave and workplace breastfeeding policies based on the International Labour Organization (ILO) Maternity Protection Convention C183 as the minimum standard.

* How you can support these efforts depends on your role in the breastfeeding and chestfeeding community. If you are a policy maker, please consider these priorities. If you are not, please call on your local, regional, and national leaders to take action. Or consider becoming a policy leader yourself, by getting involved with your breastfeeding coalition, public health agency, or an elected office – we need your leadership at the highest possible level!


The 2020 World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) theme is Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet. This year’s theme celebrates the impact of infant feeding on the environment/climate change and the imperative to protect, promote and support breastfeeding for the health of the planet and its people. Join International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) and WABA in observing WBW 1-7 August 2020. 

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World Breastfeeding Week 2020: How Are You Taking Action?


Happy World Breastfeeding Week! #WBW2020

Happy World Breastfeeding Week! International Lactation Consultant Association® (ILCA®) is excited to join World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and other organizations and individuals the world over in celebrating #WBW2020. The theme of World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) 2020 is Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet! Lactation Matters will feature blog posts and resources throughout the week of 1-7 August to help you make the most of this important week.

Are you ready to celebrate #WBW2020? Check out this must-do list to be sure:

Visit the #WBW2020 website for general information and downloadable promotional materials, including Objectives, Logo, Poster, Action Folder, Relevant Resources, and other forms of multimedia. These materials are available in many languages and contain information on the theme, relevant facts and figures, case studies, and suggested ways to take action.

Share your commitment to breastfeeding advocacy and education. The links between breastfeeding and good nutrition, food security, and poverty reduction may be obvious to breastfeeding advocates, but there is still work to be done to make these connections clear to others. Thinking of organizing your own WBW event? Then Pledge and report your event to be placed on the Pledge Map and receive an e-certificate for each event you organize. Join the online social media movement by participating in WABA interaction, polls, and activities through their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

Look for information and action steps throughout WBW at Lactation Matters, where you’ll find articles, images, action steps, and more to help with your successful WBW 2020 observance.

For the most up-to-date information about WBW 2020 and to download promotional materials, please visit the World Breastfeeding Week website by clicking here.

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World Breastfeeding Week 2020: Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet


Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet. Although this theme was created before the first news reports of COVID, equitable access to human milk is now more important than ever. 

1 August marks the first day of World Breastfeeding Week, sponsored by ILCA partner World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). Celebrated for seven days through 7 August, check back at Lactation Matters for action steps you can take around key strategies, including universal access to lactation support and building knowledge at all levels.

Share your celebration, learn more, and find the action kit all here on the World Breastfeeding Week website.

Breastfeeding and planetary health

The concept of planetary health has been defined as ‘the health of human civilisation and the state of the natural systems on which it depends’. The interconnected nature of people and the planet requires that we find sustainable solutions that benefit both.

Sustainable development meets the needs of the current generation without compromising future generations. Breastfeeding is key to all of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Food and feeding matter

Climate change and environmental degradation are some of the most urgent challenges facing our world today. Emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) – carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, methane and others due to human activity – have increased global temperatures by over 1℃ since pre-industrial times. Interestingly, GHG emissions appear to have dropped due to the impact of our responses to another urgent challenge, the more immediate COVID-19 pandemic. Several lessons can be learned from that and applied to the challenge of climate change. Environmental degradation resulting from pollutants in the air, water or food supply, the over-utilisation of scarce resources, excessive waste and the destruction of habitats is often caused by human activity. Our food production systems and consumption patterns are significant contributors to climate change and environmental degradation. The COVID-19 pandemic has taught us that we are all affected and an immediate coordinated societal response is required. We can all do something to reduce our carbon footprint (CFP) and ecological footprint starting with how we feed our babies. Ongoing health emergencies such as COVID-19 also pose challenges that affect infant feeding.

Investing in support for breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is one of the best investments for saving infant lives and improving the health, social and economic development of individuals and nations. Creating an enabling environment for optimal infant and young child feeding patterns is a societal imperative.

So, what is needed to create an enabling environment and improve breastfeeding practices? Protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding are all important strategies at structural, settings and individual levels (see diagram below). Coordinated actions for optimal infant feeding during normal times and in emergencies are essential to ensure that the nutritional needs of all babies are met.

Supporting breastfeeding has short- and long-term impact on planetary health. It is an urgent imperative and we must intensify the conversations, call for more robust research and engage all relevant sectors to take action. There is an ongoing need to advocate for breastfeeding as a public health intervention that saves lives and prevents infections and illnesses in the population at large. It is our duty as global citizens to act.

#WBW2020 matters now more than ever!

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