2021 World Breastfeeding Week

World Breastfeeding Week, which aims to promote breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world, is celebrated in more than 170 countries from 1 to 7 August.

World Breastfeeding Week was officially proclaimed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF in 1992 to coincide with the anniversary of the Innocenti Declaration, formulated by senior officials of these two organizations in August 1990 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

However, in Europe, including Spain, because August is a holiday period, Breastfeeding Week is celebrated in October.

Breast milk is the first vaccine for the newborn, colostrum, the first milk, thick and yellowish, produced in the first hours and days after birth, is the best food for the newborn, there is no supplement that can replace it. This milk is very nutritious and gives the baby great protection against infections and other diseases.

Delayed breastfeeding increases the risk of neonatal mortality by up to 80%.

According to UNICEF, about 77 million newborns – or 1 in 2 – are not breastfed in the first hour after birth, depriving them of the nutrients, antibodies and contact with their mother’s skin that are essential to protect them from illness and death.

Benefits of breastfeeding for infants and mothers

Exclusive breastfeeding is the best nutrition a newborn can receive until 6 months of age, when complementary feeding begins. The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life. After that, it is recommended to continue breastfeeding until at least 2 years of age, with appropriate supplementation with other foods.

It protects the baby against infections such as gastroenteritis, respiratory tract infections, otitis, urinary tract infections and others, especially immune infections. It has also been shown to protect against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

But it also has beneficial effects on the mother’s body. It speeds recovery after childbirth and has even been shown to reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

Every mother is capable of breastfeeding her baby, and although it may seem difficult at first, with good advice and a lot of patience and practice, this stage can be overcome. That is why it is important that the mother’s environment supports her in achieving good breastfeeding. And that the hospitals and professionals who attend labor and delivery provide the right environment to succeed in establishing breastfeeding, which is key in the first hours and days.

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Tips for successful breastfeeding

It is important to facilitate breastfeeding for mothers from the moment of birth, and this directly involves health professionals, midwives, doctors, and nurses. Hospitals are also involved.

Breastfeeding support groups often recommend the following practices:

  • If the baby and mother are healthy, regardless of the mode of delivery, the newborn should be placed at the mother’s breast until the first feeding. The first 2 hours are crucial because the newborn has a very strong sucking reflex.
  • Offer the breast on demand. A newborn can have between 8 and 12 feedings a day, but it can be more.
  • The composition of the milk varies during feeding, with more fat at the end, so it is recommended that the baby empties one breast completely before offering the other, otherwise he/she may not feed well and may become gassy.
  • Check that latching and sucking are correct to avoid cracked nipples.
  • Avoid using a pacifier until breastfeeding is well established. Pacifiers and nipples should not be offered for at least the first 4 to 6 weeks.
  • Continuous use of nipple shields is not recommended.
  • If help is needed, seek advice from a breastfeeding support group.
  • There is no need to worry about whether the baby is feeding properly as long as he/she is gaining weight, has at least 5 wet diapers in 24 hours and is having a bowel movement (bowel movements are highly variable and 1 every 48 hours or 6 or 7 per day may be normal).

The theme for World Breastfeeding Week 2021 is “Protecting Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility” and will focus on the importance of preventing discrimination against breastfeeding mothers in all settings, providing family and community support, and implementing equitable policies and evidence-based health and social programmes.