It’s World Breastfeeding Week and the United Nations has long been an advocate for all the benefits of breastfeeding. This week, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) issued a joint call for governments to encourage and protect women’s access to breastfeeding counseling, in an effort to create a healthier planet.
Citing the benefits of breastfeeding for health, nutritional and emotional needs of children and mothers, the UN is urging communities everywhere to support breastfeeding as a way to create a healthier planet. Breastfeeding fosters sustainable food, as well.
As part of the joint statement, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore and WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that a key to successful community breastfeeding was better support for mothers to get started and sustain their efforts.
The statement claims that though a natural process, breastfeeding is not always easy, and skilled counseling services will ensure mothers receive the valuable information, advice and reassurance they need to nourish their children in this optimal way. Saying that breastfeeding counseling can empower women to overcome the challenges that may interfere with their breastfeeding efforts. Counseling can also help educate them about unnecessary liquids, foods and breastmilk substitutes that they may believe are beneficial. Counseling can also extend the time mothers breastfeed and promote exclusive breastfeeding as a benefit for babies, families and their local economies.
.The statement also addressed the economic impact in general, saying that increasing rates of exclusive breastfeeding could not only save the lives of 820,000 children every year, but generate an additional $302 billion in additional income.
The counseling should come through a variety of providers–lactation counselors, peer supporters, in-home counseling and community programs that are both remote and in person.
Saying it was even more important than ever to address innovative answers to ensuring women have these vital counseling resources because of COVID-19, the organizations called on governments to do the following for best success:
- Invest in skilled breastfeeding counseling options for every nursing woman. Doing so will also require more financial support for breastfeeding programs and improved monitoring and policy implementation.
- Train health care workers directly related to birthing moms about how to deliver skilled breastfeeding education and information. This includes training midwives and nurses about breastfeeding education.
- Ensure that counseling is part of post-natal routine health and nutrition checkups for all mothers, and are easily accessible options.
- Partner with organizations to build strong systems of collaborative counseling options.
- Protect health care workers from the lobbying efforts of those in the baby formula/baby food industry.
The statement concluded with declaring babies can have the best possible starts in life if world governments took committed, concerted action to ensure mothers had access to skilled breastfeeding counseling. They emphasized empowering mothers was key, and we’re all in with agreement.