World Breastfeeding Week will be celebrated August 1-7, 2017, and this year’s theme is “working together for the common good.”
Launched 25 years ago, World Breastfeeding Week is an annual event dedicated to breastfeeding celebration, education, and advocacy. It is spearheaded by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy (WABA), in close partnership with organizations like UNICEF, the WHO, and La Leche League.
While traditional breastfeeding education has focused on the individual health benefits to the baby, research shows that the benefits are much more far-reaching. A society that is friendly to nursing mothers sets itself up for success in the forms of reduced work absence, lowered medical costs, and lowered pollution. A woman’s decision to breastfeed, though seemingly small, really is a decision that supports the common good. This is the message that World Breastfeeding Week is working to spread.
What makes breastfeeding so special?
As a perfectly-created food for babies, breast milk has the ideal blend of vitamins, proteins, and fats that a baby needs – and it even adjusts on a near-daily basis to meet the unique needs of each individual baby, something which commercial baby formula cannot mimic. The optimal nutritional balance of breast milk leads to improved health outcomes, but even the most educated breastfeeding enthusiast may find some of these effects surprising. This infographic from Mom Loves Best highlights why breast really is best.
Breastfed babies experience common childhood illnesses less frequently including respiratory infections, thrush, diarrhea, and ear infections. However, the antibody protection found in breast milk also extends to more serious illnesses and infections including pneumonia, meningitis, HIB, and enterovirus.
Further, in an age where allergies seem to be on the rise and the reactions are increasingly acute and life-threatening, breastfeeding is associated with protection from allergic reactions.
And while more and more parents are worried about developmental delays and diagnoses, a relationship has been established between breastfeeding and a lowered risk of poor communication skills, delayed motor development, and even poor temperament.
The benefits are not just for babies
But the benefits of breastfeeding extend even further – all the way into adulthood. Breastfed individuals have a reduced risk of afflictions such as Multiple Sclerosis, mental health issues, hypertension, and even appendicitis. Breastfeeding also protects against some types of cancers – both for the breastfed individual, as well as the mother who has nursed her child.
In fact, the benefits of breastfeeding are so profound that UNICEF estimates 1,300,000 lives could be saved each year if more women breastfed. But, of course, women can’t breastfeed unless they have the appropriate social supports and legislative policies in place that make it possible. So when this year for World Breastfeeding Week they’re “working together for the common good,” it makes complete sense. Breastfeeding benefits us all.
About the author
Jenny Silverstone is a writer, the mother of two, and a breastfeeding advocate. You can find her sharing guides to help other mothers overcome their struggles with breastfeeding on her blog, Mom Loves Best.