August is World Breastfeeding Awareness Month – Here is why it matters

Every year, the first week of August marks the World Breastfeeding Awareness Week. This is an annual celebration that is marked from the 1st to the 7th of August in more than 100 countries globally. The awareness week is organized by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), WHO and UNICEF with the goal of protecting and promoting breastfeeding across the world.

World Breastfeeding Awareness Week 2019

The World Breastfeeding Week was first marked in 1992, and commemorates the Innocenti Declaration of August 1990. It has since grown to advocate for exclusive breastfeeding for a baby’s first six months of life, after which the baby gets supplementary breast milk for at least one more year. WHO places great emphasis on the health benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and child (WHO, 2016).

Facts about breastfeeding

  • Breastfeeding is the best way to provide babies with the nutrients they need for proper growth and development.
  • Breast milk builds the baby’s immunity by passing on antibodies to help protect them from infections.
  • WHO and WABA recommend breastfeeding to start within an hour after birth. This continues until the baby is six months old.
  • After six months, it is recommended that nutrient-dense complementary foods are given to the baby, a process called weaning. This is done alongside supplementary breastfeeding that may go on for a year or so.
  • Breastfeeding provides a wonderful opportunity for the mother and the baby to bond.

World Breastfeeding Awareness Week 2019

The theme for this year’s World Breastfeeding Awareness Week is ‘Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding’. This year’s theme was selected to include all kinds of parents in today’s modern world. Making both parents the focal point of the theme, rather than the breastfeeding parent alone, is key to attaining breastfeeding goals.

Empowerment plays a vital role in the promotion and protection of breastfeeding. According to the World Breastfeeding Week website, empowerment needs parents and families to get unbiased information that is evidence-based (World Breastfeeding Week, 2019). This in turn provides a conducive environment where a lactating mother is supported to breastfeed well. This is achievable when partners, families, the surrounding communities and the workplace create such an enabling environment for breastfeeding.

Additionally, WHO is working alongside UNICEF and other global partners to assert the need for family-friendly policies that will help promote breastfeeding. This not only ensures that parents have a chance to bond with their children in their formative years, it also promotes the health and well-being of the child and the whole family. This can be achieved by taking a multi-pronged approach that includes:

  • The implementation of paid maternity leave for at least 18 weeks
  • The enactment of paid paternity leave
  • Access to a parent-friendly facility to support breastfeeding after resuming work
  • A safe and clean space for expressing and storing breast milk
  • Affordable and accessible childcare services

Read More: Pregnancy Timeline and the EDD

Paid maternity leave

Women make up approximately 38.977% of the labour force globally, according to statistics provided by the World Bank and International Labour Organization. Many of these women resume work a short while after delivery. To allow continual breastfeeding, these women would need supportive policies, key among them paid maternity leave. Shorter maternity leave is often associated with shorter durations of breastfeeding. This in turn increases the risk of childhood illnesses, diminished maternal health and increased child mortality.

Additionally, there are many more women working in the informal sector, for which maternity leave may not be an option. WHO encourages family and community support to allow these women meet the demands of juggling work and breastfeeding their babies (WHO, 2016). It is clear that women who receive maternity benefits and support are more likely to breastfeed their babies for longer.

NOTE: In Kenya, a woman shall be entitled to three months maternity leave with full pay. Some local companies however, offer additional benefits beyond this statutory provision, in full support of breastfeeding for a healthy nation.

World Breastfeeding Week 2019 - paid maternity leave

Access to a parent-friendly facility to support breastfeeding after resuming work

Breastfeeding is a baby’s healthiest way to get the nutrients they need. It is a global solution as it lays the foundation for a country’s future. In Kenya, the move to set up lactation stations in accordance with the Health Act of 2017 is yet to be enacted in many companies across the country.

According to the Act, employers are required to give nursing employees break intervals to facilitate breastfeeding, for not more than an hour each 8-hour working period. Additionally, it is also a requirement for employers to provide lactation stations that MUST not be located in the restrooms. These lactation stations are to be fitted with necessary facilities that include hand washing facilities, refrigerator/ cooling facilities, electrical outlets for breast pumps, a table and comfortable seats (Section 71 of the Health Act 2017).

Very few companies offer these facilities, and it is not uncommon for female employees to quit work and continue breastfeeding, or stop breastfeeding altogether.

Affordable and accessible childcare services

Companies that provide affordable and accessible childcare services tend to have increased productivity, low turnout rates and better staff retention rates. These services cater to both male and female employees with children. They however, are a big boost for female employees who are breastfeeding as this allows them to continue within the workforce while taking care of their nursing babies. It is also important to include that for such companies, enabling parents and empowering breastfeeding, in line with this year’s World Breastfeeding Awareness Week, results in better motivation and healthier families.

All of this month, Tunza Mama will be sharing relevant articles on breastfeeding to mark Breastfeeding Awareness Month 2019. Note too, that Tunza Mama offers different services for those planning to have a baby, pregnant women and new mothers to ease their transition. Tunza Mama caregivers are trained to help ensure that these women have safe and successful deliveries. Contact us for more information on the different packages available on 0709 256 200.

Resources

WHO. (2016). World Breastfeeding Week. World Health Organization.

World Breastfeeding Week. (2019). World Breastfeeding Week. Retrieved 07 30, 2019, from World Breastfeeding Week: http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org