World Breastfeeding Week is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2022. This annual celebration takes place from 1st – 7th August, marking the month when the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF made the Innocenti Declaration to protect and support breastfeeding.
The event is organised by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) alongside the WHO and UNICEF. Since 2016, World Breastfeeding Week has also been aligned with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
What are the aims of World Breastfeeding Week?
Initially, World Breastfeeding Week aimed to promote exclusive breastfeeding of children for the first six months of their lives. Various studies have proven this approach can bring many health benefits to newborns. These benefits include providing critical nutrients, protection from disease, and ensuring children get the best possible kickstart in their growth and development.
Today, World Breastfeeding Week and the organisations involved continue to promote this initiative, which is official child healthcare guidance in many countries.
Like other health awareness events, World Breastfeeding Week also adopts a specific theme each year.
In addition to its foundational objectives, World Breastfeeding Week aims to:
- Inform people about the specific theme of the year
- Anchor the theme with relevant stakeholders within the global breastfeeding agenda
- Engage with individuals and organisations to maximise the impact of World Breastfeeding Week and its theme
- Galavanise action around the year’s selected theme and related issues
Let’s learn more about this year’s event.
What is the theme of World Breastfeeding Week 2022?
This year’s World Breastfeeding Week carries a theme of “Step up for Breastfeeding: Educate and Support.”
In a similar vein to other health awareness events in the last couple of years, a significant element of World Breastfeeding Week’s 2022 message is the impact the Covid-19 pandemic had on exacerbating inequalities. Specifically, this year’s event aims to highlight the impact pandemic had on the deterioration of breastfeeding support, which include:
- Healthcare professionals trained in breastfeeding support being deployed elsewhere to support Covid-19 units
- A lack of workers due to illness
- Physical distancing reducing the frequency and quality of the advice given to new mothers about breastfeeding
- Some instances of countries implementing policies that saw newborns separated from their mothers or breastfeeding prevented when Covid-19 was suspected
- Breastfeeding peer support groups not running or moving fully online due to social distancing rules
In aiming to reduce these issues, the WABA is calling for a renewed focus on all areas of breastfeeding support. Key to this year’s message is an emphasis on the attention that breastfeeding needs to receive at various stages of pregnancy and the early months of a child’s life, including:
- Antenatal support during pregnancy and before birth, helping mothers decide whether they wish to breastfeed, the benefits of doing so, and how to prepare to do it
- Support during labour and birth
- Postnatal care and for the first six weeks after birth, when both mother and baby might be experiencing issues and complications relating to breastfeeding
- Longer-term ongoing care, covering the first six-month period when exclusive breastfeeding is recommended and then beyond, depending on how the mother wishes to transition to other feeding methods
- Support when exceptional circumstances apply or in emergencies
What actions are being encouraged for World Breastfeeding Week 2022?
Most of the actions being promoted by the WABA for this year’s World Breastfeeding Week are around the central theme of “Educate and Support.”
Rather than highlighting a handful of actions, as many health awareness events do, the WABA has done things a little differently for World Breastfeeding Week 2022.
As well as addressing the challenges typically associated with breastfeeding, the WABA has created a list of stakeholders both in healthcare and within the broader community, with specific action points around what they can do to support breastfeeding new mothers.
Most of these actions allude to the education that the various stakeholders would benefit from.
For example, within healthcare stakeholders, the WABA calls for breastfeeding support groups to have a more comprehensive understanding of how to identify and overcome difficulties and challenges associated with breastfeeding, including having the ability to deliver basic counselling both online and in-person.
In contrast, within community stakeholders, employers are encouraged to create breastfeeding-friendly environments, which may include providing breastfeeding support or paid breastfeeding breaks for new mothers working remotely or who need to express milk into a bottle.
You can find these actions in this year's World Breastfeeding Week Action Folder.
What materials are available to help promote World Breastfeeding Week 2022?
In addition to the Action Folder, the World Breastfeeding Week website has a wealth of resources you can use, whether you’re an individual interested in breastfeeding support, an employer, or another healthcare or community stakeholder.
How can you get involved with World Breastfeeding Week 2022?
Whatever your role, it’s easy to get involved with World Breastfeeding Week 2022.
Head to the World Breastfeeding Week website and check out the options in the “Be Empowered” menu, and download the relevant information packs or social media updates best suited to your needs and own objectives.
Happy Breastfeeding Week!