World Breastfeeding Week – History and Significance
The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) organises the annual event of World Breastfeeding Week from August 1st to August 7th. The idea behind organising such an event is solely to promote, support, and encourage breastfeeding amongst new mothers throughout the world.
Why Is World Breastfeeding Week Celebrated?
The World Breastfeeding Week is organised and celebrated every year to protect, promote, support and encourage breastfeeding mothers everywhere across the globe. World Breastfeeding Week was celebrated for the first time in the year 1992, and since that time, it has been recognised by organisations and institutions worldwide. The WABA had decided to dedicate an entire week to increase awareness and spread more information about breastfeeding to communities worldwide, which gave birth to the World Breastfeeding Week (WBW). The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action designs a new theme and slogan for the World Breastfeeding Week every year. The World Breastfeeding Week 2023 theme is ‘“Enabling breastfeeding: making a difference for working parents”.
History of World Breastfeeding Week
The importance of breastfeeding was globally recognised back in 1990, when the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) created a memorandum known as the Innocenti Declaration to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. The Innocenti Declaration is a formal document that was created to achieve goals including:
- Creating a national breastfeeding committee and appointing a national breastfeeding coordinator across countries.
- Facilitating the provision of maternity care practice and taking measures to ensure that women are adequately nourished to feed their children and remain healthy themselves.
- Formulating and enforcing laws to protect the breastfeeding rights of women.
- Formulating an act to implement all the articles of the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes and WHO resolutions.
- Enabling women to exclusively breastfeed their babies up until 4-6 months of age.
The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) was formed in the year 1991 to execute all the goals outlined in the Innocenti Declaration. WABA is responsible for spreading the awareness and importance of breastfeeding at a global level. Some of the important initiatives of WABA include:
- Supporting and encouraging mothers to continue to breastfeed
- Baby-friendly hospital initiatives
- Guiding and educating the fathers to support the mothers, health care workers, and the community
- Framing of laws and policies to protect and support breastfeeding mothers
How to Celebrate World Breastfeeding Week?
The World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) celebrations are meant to unite the breastfeeding community all around the world, enhance public support towards breastfeeding, and achieving the goals of the Innocenti Declaration. In the first year of its celebration, around 70 countries were involved in the celebration of WBW, but today this number has grown to 170 countries. There are many ways to celebrate the WBW; you can do any one or more of the following things.
1. Breastfeed Your Little One
The best way to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week is, of course, by starting to feed and nourish your little one! While we all know a mother is always there to feed her baby irrelevant of any dates or celebrations, if you are in that phase of your life where you’re nursing your baby, then you must definitely do so with gusto during this week!
2. Attend Events, Lectures, or Walks Sponsored by Various Agencies
Many institutions sponsor walks, seminars, etc. to create awareness during WBW. They provide tees with logos, bracelets, etc., to show their support towards the cause.
3. Go for a Breastfeeding Vacation
Take some time off from your routine life and go on a vacation with your family. Enjoy the bliss of nursing your baby during this time, without being bogged down by the tasks and worries you deal with daily. Take some time to unwind and relax, indulge in yoga, meditation or any activity that rejuvenates your mind, body and soul. And while planning for the vacation, make sure to include ‘shop for the perfect bra’ in your to-do list, as the right bra can definitely help maintain the health of your breasts, especially during this crucial time. If certain conditions don’t permit you to travel, you can plan a small vacation at home. After all, home is the perfect place to unwind and spend quality time with your little one and your spouse!
4. Post Your ‘Brelfie’
A trend started by the World Health Organisation (WHO) encourages moms to share their breastfeeding selfies or ‘brelfies’ on social media. It was a move to break the stigma regarding breastfeeding in public and also to spread the importance of breastfeeding for the physical and mental development of the child. So when World Breastfeeding Week rolls around, you too can post your brelfie on social media platforms.
5. Share Your Breastfeeding Experience
Breastfeeding is a natural phenomenon, and your experience with your baby is something that you must share with nursing mothers or expecting mothers. In spite of so many efforts to spread awareness regarding the importance of mother’s milk, only 50% of the population of babies are nursed beyond six months of age, and only half of them make it to one year of age. In many underdeveloped countries, mothers are not given any support when it comes to them nursing their babies; there may be issues and problems they’re facing that they don’t have information about. The more you talk about your experiences, the more you can reach out to such people and help them throughout their journey of motherhood.
6. Say Thanks to a Nursing Mom
Take this as an opportunity to say thanks to a nursing mother or a nursing caretaker whom you know. A small word of appreciation and a smile can create a big difference in the lives of many people. If you are one of them, then just take a moment to appreciate yourself for the wonderful gift you’re giving your baby!
7. Breastfeeding Book Club
Start a breastfeeding-themed book club where participants can read and discuss books related to breastfeeding, motherhood, and child development. This initiative can foster a sense of community among book club members and promote awareness about the importance of breastfeeding.
8. Breastfeeding Picnic in the Park
Organize a family-friendly breastfeeding picnic in a local park or public space. This casual gathering allows breastfeeding mothers to connect, share experiences, and enjoy a relaxed time with their babies. Participants can also invite friends and family to support and participate in the event.
9. Breastfeeding Themed Crafts
Host a crafting session for kids and parents to create breastfeeding-themed crafts, such as painting pictures of breastfeeding mothers and babies or making breastfeeding awareness bracelets. This activity can help children understand the natural process of breastfeeding and promote acceptance from a young age.
10. Breastfeeding Storytime
Organize a special breastfeeding-themed storytime event at local libraries or community centers. Invite storytellers to read books that celebrate breastfeeding, motherhood, and the bond between mothers and babies. This event can be engaging for children and informative for parents.
Themes of World Breastfeeding Week
The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action designs a new theme and slogan to represent World Breastfeeding Week every year. They are specially designed to focus on a particular aspect of breastfeeding. After finalising the theme, the marketing materials such as brochures, posters, banners, advertisements, and websites are designed by the WABA to spread the topic of the year.
These themes, slogans, and materials can be used by government organisations, breastfeeding communities, hospitals, healthcare institutes, pharmaceuticals and other organisations to host seminars, events, lectures, and spread awareness about breastfeeding locally and internationally. The theme for World Breastfeeding Week in the year 2023 is “Enabling breastfeeding: making a difference for working parents.” Some of the past themes of WBW include:
- Protecting Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility
- Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet
- Breastfeeding – It’s Your Right
- Breastfeeding in the Information Age
- Breastfeeding – Education for Life
- Breastfeeding – Nature’s Way
- Breastfeeding – a Vital Emergency Response
- Breastfeeding: Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies
- Mother-Friendly Workplace Initiative (MFWI)
- It’s Right of all: Breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding: Empowering Women
- Breastfeeding and work. Let’s make it work.
- Talk to Me! Breastfeeding – a 3D experience
- Breastfeeding, a winning goal for life!
Discussing breastfeeding in public, and spreading awareness about it is still considered a taboo subject in many places in India. However, as educated individuals, we must come forward and work towards removing the social stigma surrounding this topic. As an enlightened and responsible citizen, your participation in local celebrations and events will make a significant difference.