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World Breastfeeding Week 2022: UNICEF Guidelines For Breastfeeding

The World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is an annual global campaign promoting breastfeeding awareness. In honour of the Innocenti Declaration of 1990, WBW is celebrated every year from 1-7 August.

In 1992, World Breastfeeding Week was established with themes including healthcare systems, women and work, breastfeeding substitutions, community support, ecology, economy, science, education, and human rights. WBW has been aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) since 2016. In addition, the World Health Assembly endorsed WBW as an essential strategy for promoting breastfeeding in 2018.

World Breastfeeding Week 2022 theme is Step Up For Breastfeeding: Educate and Support to raise public awareness of the importance of breastfeeding and elevate it to a public health obligation by encouraging organisations and countries to implement measures to preserve breastfeeding.

UNICEF Guidelines For Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding has health benefits for both mothers and babies. As well as providing a baby with ideal nutrition, breast milk also supports growth and development. In addition, the benefits of breastfeeding include the prevention of certain illnesses and diseases for both the mother and the baby [1].

In the event of World Breastfeeding Week, UNICEF has published a list of recommendations for breastfeeding.

  • Start breastfeeding within one hour of birth [2].
  • Breastfeed exclusively without food or water for the first six months.
  • Breastfeeding has been shown to protect against postpartum haemorrhage, postpartum depression, ovarian and breast cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • Breastfeeding can save the lives of more than 820,000 children under the age of five every year, most of whom are under six months of age (87 per cent) [3].
  • Hospitals should facilitate immediate and uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact and support mothers to initiate breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth.
  • Do not provide breastfed newborns with food or fluids other than breast milk unless medically indicated.
  • Healthcare providers should support mothers to recognise and respond to their infant's cues for feeding.

Ten Steps To Successful Breastfeeding By UNICEF And WHO

As part of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), WHO and UNICEF are encouraging hospitals worldwide to implement the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. A series of policies and procedures that facilities providing maternity and newborn services should implement in order to support breastfeeding are summarised in the Ten Steps [4][5].

In the implementation guidance for BFHI, strategies are stressed for scaling up to universal coverage and ensuring long-term sustainability.

1 (a, b, c). Comply with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes to the fullest extent possible. Establish a written infant feeding policy and ongoing monitoring and data-management procedures.

2. Assure that staff have the necessary knowledge, competence, and skills to support breastfeeding.

3. Pregnant women and their families should be informed of the importance of breastfeeding and how to manage it.

4. Provide immediate and uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact and assist mothers in initiating breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth.

5. Assist mothers in initiating and maintaining breastfeeding and managing common breastfeeding challenges.

6. Unless medically indicated, breastfed newborns should not receive food or fluids other than breast milk.

7. Allow mothers and their infants to stay together 24 hours daily and practice rooming-in.

8. Encourage mothers to recognise and respond to their infant's feeding cues.

9. Provide mothers with information regarding the use and risks of feeding bottles, teats, and pacifiers.

10. Assist parents and their infants with timely access to ongoing support and care following discharge.

On A Final Note...

When women are informed, empowered, and supported to breastfeed, the benefits extend to their children, themselves, and society. The practice of breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways of protecting maternal and child health and promoting healthy growth and optimal development in early childhood. Therefore, breastfeeding should be at the centre of countries' efforts to keep every child alive and to build healthy, intelligent, and productive societies.

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