Observations from World Breastfeeding Week

observations from world breastfeeding weekWorld Breastfeeding Week may be over but National Breastfeeding Month continues throughout August with many opportunities to raise awareness for breastfeeding, support mothers in their breastfeeding efforts and celebrate breastfeeding as the very best nutritional choice for babies.  In fact, we will be celebrating Black Breastfeeding Week August 25-31 as a culmination of our National Breastfeeding Month festivities.

As we look back at World Breastfeeding Week, we can’t help but cheer for the victories for breastfeeding in the U.S. and take note of the work that still needs to be done.  Many other countries are still fighting for some of the issues the U.S. has worked hard to overcome. Plus nations around the world had significant triumphs this World Breastfeeding Week that we want to share. Today we’re giving an overview of observations from World Breastfeeding Week:

U.S. Breastfeeding Victories

Because of the progress made in the U.S., evidence-based information has changed many mothers’ perspective on the best way to nourish their babies. Study after study proves the benefits of breastfeeding for babies and mothers. From science to celebrities, more and more education and role models are making headlines in support of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding in public was once taboo but is now more accepted than ever and protected by law. While some social stigma still exists, moms are prioritizing their babies’ health over a few awkward glances or snarky comments.

Mothers who cannot breastfeed are also seeking help from other moms in the form of donor milk.

Employers are making more effort to accommodate breastfeeding moms in the workplace, especially because statistics show breastfeeding makes families healthier leading to less missed workdays and morale is higher when moms have the opportunity to meet their breastfeeding goals and maintain their careers.

All of these are incredible victories for the U.S.

U.S. Breastfeeding Opportunities

Despite the aforementioned accomplishments, there are still barriers to success in the U.S. There is a socio-economic, cultural and racial divide when it comes to breastfeeding as many lower-income and minority communities lack the support they need to successfully breastfeed.  And they may be the very ones who would benefit from breastfeeding the most.

Many moms are misinformed about breastfeeding from the start when hospital staff do not promote breastfeeding but rather offer simpler alternatives as a quick fix.

Plus, until breastfeeding rates are close to 100%, there will always be work to do for this important health cause.

These are all opportunities for improvement in the U.S.

A Global Breastfeeding Perspective

observations from world breastfeeding weekIn other countries the focus of World Breastfeeding Week is overcoming some of the same challenges as the U.S., but the majority are still working to rise to the level of societal acceptance that most Americans have. Breastfeeding in public is one of the biggest issues at the global level. Case in point: according to The Times of India, breastfeeding in public “is a worry and a fear in India.” In Colombia, mothers joined together for a public breastfeeding event to stand up for the cause.

In China, breastfeeding rates are rising but still lower than many countries. A recent controversial photo of mothers breastfeeding on the subway sparked a heated online discussion of public breastfeeding intolerance and demonstrated the sentiments of many Chinese citizens. However, perhaps it was all for a good cause because during World Breastfeeding Week the Chinese government “pledged to set up more nursing rooms in public spaces and encouraged companies to follow suit,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Another experience in Poland provoked governmental involvement too. A woman who was asked to nurse her baby in a bathroom at a restaurant was outraged and went public with her story. The health minster then made this statement: “Breastfeeding is not only a natural act, but an act which actually deserves the widest support possible. Stigmatizing women for breastfeeding in public is not acceptable.”  The instigating incident was unfortunate but as a result it brought national attention to the issue in Poland.

At the local level, similar to the U.S., certain areas have lower breastfeeding rates, perhaps based on lack of support. Communities are getting creative to try to improve conditions. For example, per the website BelfastLive, Belfast has the lowest breastfeeding-from-birth rate among England, Scotland and Wales and their numbers significantly drop by six weeks and six months. As a solution, 400 businesses, facilities and attractions signed on to an initiative to support breastfeeding at their locations, complete with signage and staff training.

Another stride in support of breastfeeding was made in Thailand this World Breastfeeding Week.  The Ministry of Health will take a bill to the National Legislative Assembly that forbids advertising or marketing formula or other food products to infants and young children including offering coupons and free samples. It also binds healthcare professionals to promote breastfeeding as the healthiest option for babies. This is a major step forward for breastfeeding in Thailand.

Although breastfeeding is a 24/7, 365 days of the year issue, World Breastfeeding Week magnifies the cause on the global stage. Each country faces challenges and World Breastfeeding Week is a great opportunity to focus on these issues in order to make improvements. The U.S. has come so far, yet there is still much work to do to ensure every baby is given the gift of health through breastfeeding.