THE first week of August, every year is World Breastfeeding Week. This yearâ€™s campaign theme is â€œBreastfeeding and work: Letâ€™s make it work!â€
In 1990, a group of world health leaders and technical advisers, concerned about the infant deaths lost from malnutrition and infection due to lack of optimal infant and young child feeding, gathered at the International Child Development Centre, now known as the Innocenti Research Centre, in Florence, Italy.
They spent two days in discussion and debate, at the end of which they produced the Innocenti declaration on the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding.
This declaration recognises the unique process that is breastfeeding. Breast milk is the ideal form of nutrition for infants, which contributes to their healthy growth and development.
Breastfeeding reduces the incidence of severe infections in infants and contributes to womenâ€™s health by reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancer and by increasing the spacing between pregnancies it helps familyâ€™s socioeconomic situation.
Research has found that the benefits of breastfeeding increase with exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life, the benefits continue with increased duration of breastfeeding after introduction to other foods.
It was then declared that:
? For optimal maternal and child health and nutrition, all women should be enabled to practise exclusive breastfeeding and all infants should be fed exclusively on breastmilk from birth to four to six months of age. Thereafter, children should continue to be breastfed, for up to two years of age.
? Many countries may require a reinforcement of the â€œbreastfeeding cultureâ€ and its vigorous defence against incursions of a â€œbottle-feeding cultureâ€.
? Efforts should be made to increase womenâ€™s confidence in their ability to breastfeed, and removal of obstacles to breastfeeding within the health system, the workplace and the community.
? Measures should be taken to ensure that women are adequately nourished for their optimal health and that of their families.
? All governments should develop national breastfeeding policies and set appropriate national targets.
? Breastfeeding policies should be integrated into their overall health and development policies. In so doing they should reinforce all actions that protect, promote and support breastfeeding within complementary programmes such as prenatal and perinatal care, nutrition, family planning services.
? All healthcare staff should be trained in the skills necessary to implement these breastfeeding policies.
The most important message to be disseminated by the Innocenti Declaration is that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of an infantâ€™s life could save his or her life.
The 32 countries and 11 organisations that signed the declaration have all been tasked to empower women, support breastfeeding as a norm, shed light on the risks of artificial feeding, while also ensuring the health and nutrition of women through all stages of life.
All governments were urged to adopt maternity protection legislation and other measures that facilitate six months of exclusive breastfeeding for employed women in all sectors.
They were also encouraged to ensure that appropriate guidelines and skill acquisition on infant and young child feeding are included in all healthcare training curricula. Encourage the media to provide positive images of optimal infant and young child feeding and to support breastfeeding as the norm.
In Zambia exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life is encouraged in all health facilities, as long as there is no immediate threat to the health of either mother or baby.
The benefits of exclusive breastfeeding as far reaching and should be embraced universally.
Exclusive breastfeeding means that no other drink or food is given to the infant; the infant should feed frequently and for unrestricted periods.
For questions and more information on exclusive breastfeeding email email@example.com
Breast feeding reduces risk of breast, ovarian cancer