Monday 1 August 2016

Breastfeeding: A key to Sustainable development

For the past 25 years, August 1 to 7 each year is celebrated as World Breastfeeding Week in many countries the world over. This year's theme is "Breastfeeding: a key to sustainable development". The activities mapped out for this year's celebrations hopes to highlight the links between breastfeeding and nutrition, food security, health, development, survival, achieving full educational potential and economic productivity.

The objectives this year are:

  1. To inform people about the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and how they relate to breastfeeding and Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF). 
  2. To firmly anchor breastfeeding as a key component of sustainable development.
  3. To galvanize a variety of actions at all levels on breastfeeding and IYCF in the new era of the SDGs.
  4. To engage and collaborate with a wider range of actors around the promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding.  
Each of the 17 SDGs has an individual link with breastfeeding. The links are outlined below as culled from

  1.   No poverty: Breastfeeding is a natural and low-cost way of feeding babies and children. It is affordable for everyone and does not burden household budgets compared to artificial feeding. Breastfeeding contributes to poverty reduction.
  2.  Zero hunger: Exclusive breastfeeding and continued breastfeeding for two years and beyond provide high quality nutrients and adequate energy and can help prevent hunger, under-nutrition and obesity. Breastfeeding also means food security for infants.
  3.   Good health and well being: Breastfeeding significantly improves the health, development and survival of infants and children. It also contributes to improved health and well-being of mothers, both in the short and long term.
  4. Quality education: Breastfeeding and adequate complimentary feeding are fundamentals for readiness to learn. Breastfeeding and good quality complementary foods significantly contribute to mental and cognitive development and thus promote learning.
  5. Gender equality: Breastfeeding is a great equalizer, giving every child a fair and best start in life. Breastfeeding is uniquely a right of women and they should be supported by women to breastfeed optimally. The breastfeeding experience can be satisfying and empowering for the mother as she would be in control of how she feeds her baby.
  6. Clean water and sanitation: Breastfeeding on demand provides all the water a baby needs even in hot weather. On the other hand, formula feeding requires access to clean water, hygiene and sanitation.
  7. Affordable and clean energy: Breastfeeding entails less energy when compared to formula production industries. It also reduces the need for water, firewood and fossil fuels in the home.
  8.  Decent work and economic growth: Breastfeeding women who are supported by their employers are more productive and loyal. Maternity protection and other workplace policies can enable women to combine breastfeeding and their work. Decent jobs should cater to the needs of breastfeeding women especially those in precarious situations.
  9. Industry, innovation and infrastructure:  With industrialization and urbanization, the time and space challenges become more prominent. Breastfeeding mothers who work outside the home need to manage these challenges and be supported by employers, their own families and communities. Crèches near their workplace, lactation rooms and breastfeeding breaks can make a big difference.
  10. Reduced inequalities: Breastfeeding practices differ across the globe. Breastfeeding needs to be protected, promoted and supported among all, but in particular among poor and vulnerable groups. This will help to reduce inequalities.
  11. Sustainable cities and communities: In the bustle of big cities, breastfeeding mothers and their babies need to feel safe and welcome in all public spaces. When disaster and humanitarian crises strike, women and their children are affected disproportionately. Pregnant and lactating mothers need particular support during such times.
  12.  Responsible consumption and production: Breastfeeding provides a healthy, viable, non-polluting, non-resource intensive, sustainable and natural source of nutrition and sustenance.
  13.  Climate action: Breastfeeding safeguards infant health and nutrition in times of adversity and weather-related disasters due to global warming.
  14.   Life below water: Breastfeeding entails less waste compared to formula feeding. Industrial formula production and distribution lead to waste that pollutes the seas and affects marine life.
  15.  Life on land: Breastfeeding is ecological compared to formula feeding. Formula production implies dairy farming that often puts pressure on natural resources and contributes to carbon emissions and climate change.
  16.  Peace and justice strong institutions: Breastfeeding is enshrined in many human rights frameworks and conventions. National legislations and policies to protect and support breastfeeding mothers and babies are needed to ensure that their rights are upheld.
  17. Partnerships for the goals: The global strategy for infant and young child feeding (GSIYCF) fosters multi-sectoral collaboration, and can  build upon various partnerships for support of development through breastfeeding programs and initiatives.   

As we mark the week-long celebration, let us make conscious efforts to encourage breastfeeding mothers to keep up the good work of contributing towards achieving the SDGs come 2030.