‘Vital to feed children the natural way’
THE theme of World Breast-feeding Week 2020 is “Support breast-feeding for a healthier planet”.
In line with this theme, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) are calling on governments to protect and promote women’s access to skilled breast-feeding counselling.
Breast-feeding delivers health, nutritional and emotional benefits to both children and mothers. And it forms part of a sustainable food system. But breast-feeding is not always easy, and mothers need support.
Counselling can empower women to overcome challenges and prevent feeding and care practices that may interfere with optimal breast-feeding, such as the provision of unnecessary liquids, foods, and breast milk substitutes to infants and young children. Analysis indicates that increasing rates of exclusive breast-feeding could save the lives of 820 000 children annually.
Skilled breast-feeding counselling can be provided by different actors including health-care professionals, lactation counsellors and peer support providers in health facilities or clinics, through home visits or community programmes, in person or remotely.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, it is even more important to find innovative solutions to ensure that access to these essential services is not disrupted.
This is why Unicef and the WHO, in line with the policy actions advocated by the Unicef-WHO-led Global Breast-feeding Collective, are calling on governments to:
● Invest to make skilled breast-feeding counselling available to every woman. Ensuring this will require increased financing for breast-feeding programmes and improved monitoring and implementation of policies, programmes and services.
● Train health-care workers, including midwives and nurses, to deliver skilled breast-feeding counselling.
● Ensure counselling is made available as part of routine health and nutrition services.
● Partner and collaborate with civil society and health professional associations, building strong collaborative systems for provision of appropriate counselling.
● Protect health workers from the influence of the baby food industry.
Together, through commitment, concerted action and collaboration, we can ensure that every mother has access to skilled breast-feeding counselling, empowering her to give her baby the best possible start in life.