Thursday, August 2, 2012
World Breastfeeding Week and The Big Latch On
It's World Breastfeeding Week! In fact, this is the 20th WBW ever! Did you know that only 32.6% of the world's babies were breastfed exclusively in the first 6 months? That's according to a study done in 2011 by UNICEF. It's kind of sad if you think about it. Obviously there are good reasons why some women are not able to breastfeed for that long, or exclusively, but I can't imagine that number takes up 70% of the world's mothers.
Last spring I wrote a paper on breastfeeding around the world and learned some interesting things about formula companies and the way they market to new mothers. Formula companies use "milk nurses", nurses who give new mothers and infants free formula and tell them how formula is better for their babies. This practice has had disastrous results in some areas where formula can labels are in English and the vast majority of adults do not read English. Babies have died from malnutrition due to mothers giving less than the required amount of formula to their babies, as well as exposing them to contaminated water and bottles.
Breastfeeding has benefits for both mothers and babies. In babies, breastfeeding can reduce medical issues such as eczema, asthma and diarrhea. In mothers, breastfeeding can reduce the rate of heart disease and ovarian cancer.
Breastfeeding initiatives are spreading in the United States. Recently, Mayor Bloomberg of New York announced that beginning September 3rd 27 of the 40 hospitals in New York City will no longer offer free formula to new mothers. All formula given must be documented and have a medical reason for doing so. I have to say I don't see anything wrong with this. Formula feeding is a choice, as is breastfeeding, but it doesn't need to be encouraged in hospitals. The hospital is where women should receive education and counseling on the healthiest practices for themselves and their babies. If three days later mom and dad want to pick up a can of formula on their way home from the hospital, then that's their choice.
In honor of World Breastfeeding Week an event called The Big Latch On is happening August 3rd and 4th, that's Friday and Saturday. Women around the world will breastfeed their babies at locations in 23 countries at 10:30AM. I just found out about this and I have to say I'm really excited and I'm definitely going to take part!
Last year only 5 countries participated, so 23 is a huge increase! So far there are 590 locations registered, you can find one near you, or register to host a location at The Big Latch On website.
Let me know if you're participating! I'd love to hear from you!