Wednesday, August 1, 2012

World Breastfeeding Week: Celebrating 20 Years of Breastfeeding Promotion

It has been 20 years since the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) launched the first World Breastfeeding Week campaign. The theme that first year was "Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative." So much has happened in these last 20 years! Let's look at how far we've come.

  • The Innocenti Declaration from 1990 has continued to be a guiding force in breastfeeding promotion.
  • In 1992 the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition received a grant to move forward with the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) in the US. Wellstart International in San Diego, CA, developed the assessment tools.
  • In 1997 the Healthy Children Project, Inc. accepted responsibility for the initiative and formed Baby-Friendly USA to implement the BFHI in the US.
  • In 2002, The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF reaffirmed the Innocenti targets and added additional targets in the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding.
  • In December of 2011, Regional Medical Center in Anniston became the first Alabama facility to receive the Baby Friendly designation.
  • As of May, 2012, 143 hospitals and birth centers in the United States have received this designation.
However, we still have a very long way to go! One of the goals of this year's World Breastfeeding Week is to call attention to the state of policy and programs related to the feeding of infants and young children.

The New York Initiative
Just yesterday there was a lengthy discussion on the WHNT facebook page about the Latch-On NY initiative which encouraging participating hospitals not to give free formula to women and to only distribute formula when medically necessary. A mother who chooses to formula feed will first learn about the benefits of breastfeeding her baby, at least while she's in the hospital. No mother will be denied formula, nor will any baby ever go hungry. The program is voluntary and simply helps hospitals take steps toward becoming Baby Friendly.  What the critics don't understand is that many hospitals are already doing this - there's been no fanfare or political upheaval about it; rather, they have simply implemented evidence-based medicine in their facilities.

Help for Working Moms
An argument that I have seen repeatedly in this discussion is the hardship that returning to work while breastfeeding imposes on women. The US Department of Health and Human Services office on Women's Health put together a promotion called The Business Case for Breastfeeding. It is very true that many women do indeed struggle. That is why it is so important for employers to recognize the important role they play in supporting their breastfeeding employees. Programs like ANM Workplace Solutions help employers provide the level of support necessary, and actually have a positive Return on Investment!

Truth in Advertising for Formula Companies
This week let's celebrate how far we've come, but let's recognize how far we still have to go! Let's help women and doctors alike understand that breastfeeding isn't just a matter of maternal choice. It is a decision that can affect their baby's health. It's time for our government to sign onto the International Code for the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and stop allowing formula companies to mislead the public. 

No Guilt! Lots of Support!
Should mothers who don't breastfeed be made to feel guilty? No, I don't think this is about guilt. But every mother should have the opportunity to know just why breastmilk is so important for her baby. Furthermore, every mother should have the support necessary to breastfeed successfully.

No comments:

Post a Comment