Promoting Breastfeeding for Healthy Infants: World Breastfeeding Week 2023

World Breastfeeding Week is a yearly event dedicated to raising awareness about the significance of breastfeeding for babies. From August 1 to August 7, this global campaign emphasizes the essential role breastfeeding plays in the optimal growth and development of infants. Breastmilk stands as the most nutritious and beneficial food for newborns, providing vital antibodies that contribute to the prevention of prevalent pediatric diseases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) underscores breastfeeding as one of the most effective methods to ensure child health and survival. Surprisingly, less than half of infants under 6 months of age are exclusively breastfed at present. In support of this initiative, WHO, UNICEF, various Ministries of Health, and civil society partners unite to promote the World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) campaign. In 2018, the World Health Assembly recognized the significance of World Breastfeeding Week as a crucial health promotion strategy, as stated on the WHO website.

This year’s theme, “Let’s make breastfeeding and work, work!” focuses on breastfeeding in the workplace, advocating for essential maternity rights that encourage breastfeeding, including a minimum of 18 weeks of maternity leave (ideally more than 6 months) and workplace accommodations after this period.

World Breastfeeding Week annually adopts different themes, aiming to foster supportive environments for women to breastfeed. This includes community and workplace support, as well as the necessary protections through government policies and laws. The campaign also seeks to share information on the benefits of breastfeeding and strategies for successful implementation.

The current scenario is concerning, as more than half a billion working women lack essential maternity protections in national laws. Only 20% of countries mandate employers to provide paid breaks and facilities for breastfeeding or expressing milk. Furthermore, less than half of infants under 6 months of age receive exclusive breastfeeding.

The roots of World Breastfeeding Week trace back to its inception in 1992, commemorating the 1990 Innocenti Declaration. The declaration emerged from the WHO/UNICEF policymakers’ meeting on “Breastfeeding in the 1990s: A Global Initiative” held in Florence, Italy, from July 30 to August 1, 1990. The meeting, co-sponsored by the United States Agency for International Development (A.I.D.) and the Swedish International Development Authority (SIDA) at the Spedale degli Innocenti, aimed to promote and adopt strategies for breastfeeding support.