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“Celebrate & Plan” For 2012 World Breastfeeding Week

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by Heidi Hauser Green
June 21, 2012

It’s been 20 years since the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) organized the first annual World Breastfeeding Week to draw attention to the needs of mothers and children worldwide, but the group’s efforts are far from over. This year’s theme “Understanding the Past—Planning the Future” focuses on “Celebrating 10 Years of WHO–UNICEF’s Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding.” The event will be recognized—as it always has been—on August 1-8.

In the Global Strategy, the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) lay out a set of optimal practices to reduce malnutrition and poverty, including: access to skilled support to initiate and sustain exclusive breastfeeding for six months and the timely introduction of adequate and safe complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to two years or beyond, and empowerment of health workers (including trained lay or peer educators) to provide effective counseling. The Strategy also calls for government-level action, including: development and implementation of a comprehensive policy on infant and young child feeding; review of progress in national implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes with possible new legislation; and enactment of legislation to protect the rights of working women, with enforcement measures.

In anticipation of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, WABA wants organizations and individuals who work to promote, protect, and support breastfeeding to reflect upon this set of goals in light of what’s happened and what has yet to happen. Specifically, WABA identifies five objectives:

  1. Recall what has happened in the past 20 years on infant and young child feeding (IYCF).
  2. Celebrate successes and achievements nationally, regionally, and globally, and showcase national work at a global level.
  3. Assess the status of implementation of the Global Strategy.
  4. Call for action to bridge the remaining gaps in policy and programs on breastfeeding and IYCF.
  5. Draw public attention to the state of policy and programs on breastfeeding and IYCF.

Since its launch in 2002, breastfeeding supporters in over 170 countries have taken part in World Breastfeeding Week events. Those who wish to host an event for this year’s celebration are encouraged to notify WABA through the official pledge form so that they can be noted on the official World Breastfeeding Week events map. To date, nearly two dozen countries are represented by 35 registered events, ranging from nurse-ins to baby-friendly hospital promotion, photo contests to rallies, and carnivals to one-on-one education. There’s even a call for a Google doodle to recognize World Breastfeeding Week’s milestone.

As the summer months pass, it’s a sure bet that many more events will be added. There’s no less need for breastfeeding promotion now than there was 20 years ago: according to UNICEF’s most recent State of the World’s Children report, only 37 percent of babies 0–6 months of age are exclusively breastfed worldwide.

To adapt an oft-cited old line, this year’s World Breastfeeding Week celebration could be summarized: “We’ve come a long way, baby—but we still have a long way yet to go.”