WBW2019: Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding

By Karin Lapping

First celebrated in 1992 by World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, World Breastfeeding Week is now observed in over 120 countries by UNICEF, WHO and partners too numerous to list including individuals, organizations, and governments. Alive & Thrive is proud to be a part of this important week of action.

As this year’s theme makes plain, we need to empower parents to enable breastfeeding. The Cost of Not Breastfeeding tool makes clear why that is so important. We supported the research underlying the tool and then developed an interactive online version that makes it easy for anyone to see just what’s at stake: 700,000 preventable deaths and $1 billion dollars a day. Those statistics powerfully illustrate why we need to do more to support breastfeeding. This great video brings the data to life:

As World Breastfeeding Week kicks off today, I’m happy to announce that we have added French translations of the online tool for francophone countries in West Africa, further increasing access to the information. In coming weeks, we are also adding advocacy briefs for many countries, providing summaries of the data and concrete advocacy actions to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding.

Much needs to be done to ensure mothers and infants – and their families and communities, indeed all of us – gain from the benefits of breastfeeding. Training of health workers remains an important means to achieve the global goal of 50% exclusive breastfeeding by 2025 – and 70% by 2040 .

Alive & Thrive Photo Credit : Shafiqul Alam Kiron

In June we launched an e-learning course, Investing in Child Nutrition, in French and English specifically targeting health workers. Already more than a dozen people have completed the course and more than 500 people worldwide have registered to take it. You can too – it’s free and easy to use on just about any device connected to the Internet!

Across the Alive & Thrive world, we are supporting activities and events to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week:

  • In Nigeria, we are collaborating with many partners – the Government of Nigeria, Save the Children, Nutrition International, USAID, and Civil Society-Scaling Up Nutrition and others – on a major national campaign, “Start Strong/Zero Water,” which will launch Aug. 6. We are also launching a major report on maternity entitlements, an assessment of the implementation of parental leave entitlements and workplace breastfeeding support policies and the variety of maternity entitlements offered by the public and private sectors. We are going to broadcast on Facebook Live from the launch event on Aug. 6 at noon in Abuja (WAT; 7 a.m. EST) – go to our Facebook page at that time to tune in!
  • In Bangladesh, we are supporting a national-level symposium on the economic cost of not breastfeeding and to raise awareness of the country’s Breast-milk Substitute act’s key provisions. With WHO and Plan International, we are also supporting “breastfeeding camps” to raise awareness of the importance of breastfeeding and provide breastfeeding education and support to mothers who attend the camps.
  • In India, A&T is organizing “Breastfeeding in India: Commitment to collective actions under the Infant Milk Substitute Act to protect, promote and support breastfeeding,” in New Delhi on Aug. 5, collaboratively supporting activities with UNICEF and the National Health Mission in Uttar Pradesh, and supporting a plenary session during a national level conference, “Lactacon,” which is being organised by the state chapter of Federation of Obstetric and Gynaecological Societies of India – more than 400 practitioners and experts from the field of obstetrics and gynaecology are expected to attend from across the country.

We are promoting these and many other events with posts on our Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube accounts. Follow us on these pages to find out more about the activities and gain access to various resources we will be promoting throughout the week.

World Breastfeeding Week allows us to emphasize the importance of breastfeeding. We can – and must – do more to address the costs, 700,000 lives and $1 billion a day. Join the global effort to support breastfeeding and convince policy makers to act to do so as well.

Karin Lapping is the Director of Alive & Thrive.