Every August, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) promotes, protects, and supports breastfeeding through World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) – August 1-7. As a response to the 1990 Innocenti Declaration, WABA formed in 1991 by government policymakers, the World Health Organization (WHO), and UNICEF and now involves over 170 countries (WHO, 2015).
Over the years, WBW has highlighted themes like: Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, Mother-Friendly Workplace Initiative, Breastfeeding: Empowering Women, Breastfeeding: A Community Responsibility, Breastfeeding: It’s Your Right, and Exclusive Breastfeeding: the Gold Standard (WABA, 2012).
This year, WBW’s theme is “Breastfeeding and Work: Let’s Make it Work!” With half of all mothers with children younger than 12 months working, this is an important issue (USBC, 2015). Many challenges exist for working mothers who breastfeed resulting in lower initiation rates and shorter duration of breastfeeding (USBC, 2015). The Affordable Care Act included a stipulation for employers to accommodate breastfeeding employees by providing reasonable break time (unpaid) to express their milk and a private, clean place (other than a restroom) to do so (USBC, 2015).
Since breastfeeding is considered the best way to provide babies with the nutrients they need, a rigorous global action to support breastfeeding among working mothers is imperative. WHO recommends “exclusive breastfeeding within one hour after birth until a baby is six months old,” and continued breastfeeding for up to two years or longer (WHO, 2015).
WABA suggests three necessary factors to make it work for working mothers: time, space/proximity, and support (WABA, 2015). Increasing paid maternity leave, providing breastfeeding/pumping breaks, and allowing for flexible hours all help mothers to breastfeed their babies longer (WABA, 2015). Offering private areas to nurse/pump, keeping their infant nearby, and maintaining a clean work environment also help to sustain breastfeeding (WABA, 2015). Finally, informing employees about maternity laws and benefits, receiving support from employers and coworkers, and ensuring job security assist mothers to succeed at breastfeeding their babies for as long possible (WABA, 2015).
What’s being done this month to support working mothers and breastfeeding?
- August 1 – The Global Big Latch On: groups of breastfeeding mothers come together at registered locations to all latch on their child at a set time to raise awareness and support breastfeeding.
- Texas Breastfeeding Coalition sponsors The Global Big Latch On and supports World Breastfeeding Week.
- Texas WIC supports National Breastfeeding Month through a variety of activities: Breastfeeding and Work – Let’s Make it Work! Health Fair, Mother-Friendly Worksite seminars for employers, providing materials and toolkits to support and promote breastfeeding among working mothers (Texas DSHS, 2015).
- Texas WIC additionally celebrates African American Breastfeeding Week from August 23-27 to support and promote breastfeeding among African American mothers who typically have the lowest breastfeeding rates (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014 and Texas DSHS, 2015).
- Most states sponsor a breastfeeding coalition or task force that provides local information on WBW events and activities. Hospitals and community centers are frequent sponsors of breastfeeding fairs. Common WBW activities include: The Big Latch On, a breastfeeding health fair, free breastfeeding classes/instruction, WBW theme display contests at hospitals, and local walks to support breastfeeding, to name a few.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Breastfeeding report card United States 2014. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 1-8. Retrieved April 23, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/pdf/2014breastfeedingreportcard.pdf
Texas Department State Health Services. (2015, April 22). Texas WIC: National breastfeeding month 2015. Retrieved July 10, 2015, from https://www.dshs.state.tx.us/wichd/bf/2015WBM.aspx
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2015). Global health topics: World breastfeeding week (August 1-7). Retrieved July 10, 2015, from http://www.globalhealth.gov/global-health-topics/maternal-and-child-health/wbw.html
U.S. Breastfeeding Committee. (2015). Employment. Retrieved July 10, 2015, from http://www.usbreastfeeding.org/p/cm/ld/fid=11
World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. (2012). Nurturing the future through world breastfeeding week. Retrieved July 10, 2015, from http://worldbreastfeedingweek.net/
World Alliance for Breastfeeding Actio. (2015). World breastfeeding week. Retrieved July 10, 2015, from http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/
World Health Organization. (2015). World breastfeeding week. Retrieved July 10, 2015, from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/events/meetings/2015/world-breastfeeding-week/en/
By: Angela Haist, BS
Ms. Haist received a Bachelor of Science in Health Education and Promotion from Oklahoma State University. Currently, Ms. Haist is pursuing a Master of Science in Health Studies at TWU. She is a breastfeeding advocate, certified personal trainer, and marathon coach who loves helping others reach their goals for healthy living.
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