This year, during August 1st-7th the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) and breastfeeding advocates in over 175 countries are celebrating World Breastfeeding Week by promoting and supporting breastfeeding across the globe. As we approach the deadline for reaching the Millennium Development Goals set for 2015, it’s a perfect time to take stalk of progress and set goals to take us through next year. As our key area of focus is the health and wellbeing of women and children, we’re taking this opportunity to highlight the health benefits that breastfeeding has for both mother and child.
Breastfeeding is the healthiest way for a mother to feed and nourish her infant. The cells, hormones, and antibodies in breast milk can protect babies from illness. Breastfed babies are at a lower risk for ear infections, diarrhea, lower respiratory infections, asthma, eczema, obesity, type 2 diabetes, urinary tract infections, childhood leukemia, and other illnesses when compared with babies who are given formula. Breastfeeding has also been shown to lower the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), and breastfed babies may have better neurological development. According to UNICEF, breastfeeding does more than help children survive; it helps them to thrive, with benefits that last a lifetime.
Mothers benefit from breastfeeding too
Not only does breastfeeding benefit the infant, but it also provides positive health benefits for the mother. Research has told us that women who have breastfed are at a lower risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, hip fractures and bone density. We know that physical contact is important to newborns, however mothers too can benefit from the closeness that comes with breastfeeding. The skin-to-skin contact can boost the mother’s oxytocin levels, which helps her release milk and promotes bonding between mother and child.
Breastfeeding supports societal development
Breastfeeding has positive implications for society in general and has direct impact on reaching the UN’s Millennium Development goals of: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieving universal primary education; promoting gender equality and empowering women; reducing child mortality; improving maternal health; combating HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensuring environmental sustainability; and developing a global partnership for development.
More information and materials can be found on the World Breastfeeding Week website.