Slogans that promote breastfeeding range from serious ‘Breastfeeding: Foundation of Life’ and ‘Sustaining Breastfeeding Together’, to catchy ‘Breast is Best’, to fun ‘I make milk. What is your superpower?’ to snappy ‘Baby on Boob’. This year’s World Breastfeeding Week slogan is “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding”. It focuses on supporting both parents to be empowered to breastfeed. Although only a mother can breastfeed, fathers, partners, families, workplaces and communities should support her.
The fact that it is key to see breastfeeding as a team effort has been recognised by the recent Scottish Government report ‘Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly Scotland’. The report reinforces Scottish Government’s aim of reducing the drop off in breastfeeding rates at 6-8 weeks by 10% by 2025.
It may be difficult to breastfeed, especially at the beginning, and support from families and communities can determine whether a woman decides to do it. In Scotland, there is a range of local activities that support mothers and a dedicated Scottish Government website provides a range of useful resources.
The importance of professional support was highlighted by Sarah, a mum of two boys from Oban, who struggled to breastfeed her first baby but professional advice helped her breastfeed her second baby:
“The success of breastfeeding my second son was down to having more support and self-determination. I breastfed my first son for 2 weeks and stopped due to lots of unfortunate reasons, I desperately wanted to continue but was having a difficult time and wasn’t supported at all by my midwife. I wasn’t aware of what other support was available in my local area either.
I successfully breastfed my second son for 14 months - we battled severe nipple trauma, undiagnosed tongue tie, tongue tie division performed twice, and low supply issues but I was determined to continue, had an amazing supportive midwife and accessed local support groups/infant feeding support person and we succeeded.
If I were going to give any advice to a mum to be planning on breastfeeding it would be ensure you know where/who you could contact before baby arrives if you need help and don’t give up on a bad day - try to ride it out and see how you feel the next day!”
What others can do
Sharing the responsibility for breastfeeding between mothers, their families and communities seems to be growing in popularity. The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) shared the following message for this year’s Father’s Day: ‘Dads Are Key Team Players for Successful Breastfeeding!’
Creation of breastfeeding-friendly environments is another great way to promote breastfeeding, and anyone can contribute. In Scotland, Ayrshire and Arran health board, together with the Breastfeeding Network, developed the ‘Breastfeed Happily Here Ayrshire’ scheme. The scheme supports mums breastfeeding in public by sharing physical places that are signed up to it, such as public transport, schools, libraries, council public offices or police stations. The scheme was created because although by Scottish law it an offence to stop a child being fed milk in a public space, many women do not feel comfortable breastfeeding in public.
Why is it important?
The health benefits of breastfeeding are numerous. It protects children from diarrhoea and pneumonia and helps to prevent childhood obesity. Breastfeeding mothers have lower risk of ovarian and breast cancers as well as type 2 diabetes. These comprehensive health benefits translate to long-term savings for health care systems that do not need to deal with the prevented health problems. Additionally, as breastfeeding reduces health risks, it prevents deaths, and therefore contributes to future economic benefits because those whose lives are saved can work.
While breastfeeding has significant advantages compared to formula milks, not all mothers can breastfeed and those that cannot need to be supported as well.
World Breastfeeding Week is a great opportunity to promote breastfeeding as individuals and communities, make our environments more breastfeeding-friendly and share unbiased evidence-based information. Why not be inspired by Malaysia's breastfeeding goal of 70% of babies exclusively breastfed for the first six months by 2025?