National Breastfeeding Week- Significance, Benefits, & History

To promote breastfeeding and enhance the health of new mothers and their babies, National Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from August 1 to August 7. 


About National Breastfeeding Week


Every year the entire world honors breastfeeding week from August 1 to August 7. The week is celebrated around the globe to encourage mothers to breastfeed their children for the betterment of their health. The week commemorates the Innocenti Declaration signed by WHO and UNICEF, government policymakers, and other organizations in August 1990. The declaration aimed to promote, protect, and support breastfeeding. 



National Breastfeeding Week dates back to the ’70s when WHO started a revolution against promoting baby foods emerging in the markets. Brands at the time were interfering with breastfeeding all around the world. 


Powdered milk formula posed new challenges concerning health concerns for infants and children. WHO waged war against the brands and the markets on the grounds of the same. Something needed to be done. 


In the year 1990, policymakers and organizations came together after being inspired by WHO’s breastfeeding movement and together signed the Innocenti Declaration. 


Since 2016, the National Breastfeeding Week has become a Sustainable Development Goal. in 2018, the World Health Assembly passed a resolution endorsing Breastfeeding Week as an effective promotional strategy regarding breastfeeding. 


Significance of Breastfeeding

Nursing or breastfeeding is a way to provide young infants with the nourishment essential for their development and growth. The World Health Organization states that breast milk is the ideal food for infants. The milk is clean, safe, and contains all the nutrients and antibodies that infants require to be protected against various common childhood illnesses. 


Breast milk also provides children with the energy the infants require during the initial months of their life and provides the same nourishment up to the second half of their first year and a quarter of their second year. 


According to the guidelines of WHO, breastfeeding should be initiated within the first hour of a child’s birth and should continue exclusively for up to 6 months. 


Breastfed children perform better on intellectual tests, are less likely to be overweight/obese, and are less likely to be prone to diabetes in the later stages of life, as per WHO and UNICEF. Breastfeeding is also great for women. Women who breastfeed their children have a lowered risk of developing breast cancers and ovarian cancers. 


Covid-19 and Breastfeeding 

Amid the pandemic, there has been a lot of misinformation concerning breastfeeding. As per the World Health Organization, the transmission of Covid-19 through breast milk has not been detected so far. Therefore, breastfeeding must not be stopped even if the mother has contracted the virus. 


Mothers can breastfeed their infants even if they have Covid-19, but they need to ensure they maintain distance from the baby at all other times, except when feeding.


Mothers should take certain other precautions before breastfeeding. Mothers should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. If water and soap are unavailable or out of reach, hand sanitizer must be used with at least 60% alcohol content. Moreover, whenever the mother is trying to breastfeed the child, she should wear a mask.


Breastfeeding and diets

Pregnancy and breastfeeding are when women need more nutrients to meet the body’s excessive physiological needs and protect the health of both themselves and their babies. A breastfeeding mother should take 500-600 more calories than other women. 


When a woman is lactating, whatever she eats affects her body as well as the baby. To ensure breast milk is good, women need to eat well to help replenish the essential nutrients that the body loses through breastfeeding. The proper diet ensures breast milk is nutritionally balanced. 


What should lactating women eat during Covid-19?


The ongoing pandemic has brought certain challenges for women around the globe, especially women who are breastfeeding. Even if you do not have Covid-19 and are breastfeeding, you should focus on the intake of the following dietary essentials:


- Incorporate foods rich in protein, calcium, fiber, iron, and vitamins to have a balanced diet.

- Consume a varied mix of food items across all groups - vegetables, fruits, grains, proteins, and dairy.

- Consume food from each food group based on their color. For instance, vegetables like spinach, kale, tomato, broccoli, sweet potatoes, cabbage, and lettuce. 

- Consume a protein-rich diet with foods like lean meat, eggs, peanut butter, legumes, beans at least two times every day.

- Do not consume foods and beverages high in saturated fats, sodium, and added sugars.

- Foods consumed must contain iron. Iron supplements can also be consumed for the same. Iron can also be consumed from food sources such as sprouts, dry fruits, lentils, green leafy vegetables. 

- Calcium can be consumed from food sources like cheese, yogurt, chia seeds, lentils, and beans. Vitamin D should be consumed from egg yolks, mushrooms, and salmon. Vitamin C should be consumed from food sources such as oranges, kiwis, papayas, sweet potatoes, cabbage, green and red peppers, spinach, and tomatoes. 

- The mother must consume lots of fluids to stay hydrated while breastfeeding. Drink a lot of water, coconut water, smoothies, and fruit juices. 

- Ensure that the food consumed by a lactating woman should be prepared hygienically with clean hands with clean utensils and fresh ingredients. 


Final Words

Globally, 3 out of 5 babies are not breastfed in the first hour of their life. In fact, as per WHO’s data, over 820,000 children’s lives could have been saved if they were breastfed optimally during the initial months of their lives. The National Breastfeeding Week aims to encourage people and women on breastfeeding, which is the right of every infant and child for optimal nutrition. It is essential for the overall growth and development of a child. 


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