Friday, August 1, 2008

World Breastfeeding Week

It's World Breastfeeding Week! World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is celebrated annually in 120 countries around the world. The official dates of WBW are August 1-7 annually, but communities can choose to acknowledge WBW on dates most convenient to them.

World Breastfeeding Week celebrates the “signing of the Innocenti Declaration, produced and adopted in 1990 by participants at the WHO/UNICEF meeting on ‘Breastfeeding in the 1990s: A Global Initiative on the Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding.’ The document lists the benefits of breastfeeding, plus global and governmental goals” (LLLUSA).

Each year WBW has a theme and “[in] conjunction with the Olympics in August, the theme for LLL in the USA 2008 WBWC is Mother Support: Going for the Gold. These celebrations recognize the importance of supporting mothers so they can achieve the gold standard of infant feeding: breastfeeding exclusively for six months, and providing appropriate complementary foods with continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond. Even as young athletes can only emerge from a healthy start on life, there is no question that optimal infant and young child feeding is essential for optimal growth and development.”

World Breastfeeding Week is a great opportunity to draw attention to the relationship between birth and breastfeeding and to emphasize that breastfeeding is the “gold standard” for infant feeding and that lack of breastfeeding affects the child, mother, community, and healthcare system.

Here are some ideas for celebrating WBW in your own community:
  • Create a poster or handout about “why your baby’s birth matters” and distribute it in classes or display it in the setting in which you teach (Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC has a number of wonderful handouts and articles exploring this subject on her website).
  • Hospital based childbirth educators can make a poster display to set up in the hospital lobby or hallway during WBW. Either choose to focus on the birth-breastfeeding continuum, or focus on this year’s WBW theme in general.
  • Attend your local WBW picnic or other event to show to your support. If there isn’t an event, plan one!
  • Make a display for use in the public library or fitness center (many libraries maintain a rotating, informative window display).
  • Be a “day sponsor” on your local public radio station honoring WBW (instead of the more usual birthday or anniversary day sponsorships).
  • Organize a “march” in a local park of health care professionals in support of breastfeeding. Gather advocates together and take a symbolic walk together in honor of breastfeeding.

Portions of this post originally appeared in my article "Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week & The Birth-Breastfeeding Continuum" in ICEA's International Journal of Childbirth Education in June, 2008.

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