This year’s theme “Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet” is in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on Zero Hunger, Good Health and Wellbeing, Quality Education and Climate Action.
The theme also provides an opportunity for identification of different players and their roles in the first 1000 days’ continuum of care to promote breastfeeding and working together across sectors and levels working on environmental issues.
Establishing exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life — helps young children grow, preventing undernutrition, promoting brain development, and reducing the risk that children will become overweight.
Improved breastfeeding practices have the potential to save the lives of over 800,000 children under age five and 20,000 women globally annually. It contributes significantly to long-term health. Limited breastfeeding on the other hand is associated with lower intelligence and economic losses.
Breastmilk production only requires the additional food that a mother needs to consume, therefore using fewer natural resources and resulting in almost no waste. Surprisingly, breastfeeding hasn’t received the attention it should.
According to UNICEF’s Global Breastfeeding Scorecard, about 40% of all babies born annually are exclusively breastfed until six months of age, while it is 61% in Kenya. So, this means that 6 in every 10 babies globally and 4 in every 10 babies in Kenya at one point (within 0 – 6 months) may end up consuming other foods other than breastmilk.
Breastfeeding is the highest impact intervention providing benefits for children, women, and society as it reduces infant morbidity and mortality, increases Intelligent Quotient (IQ) scores, improves school achievement, and boosts adult earnings. Breastfeeding is also a new-born’s first vaccine, providing vital antibodies and an immunity boost. Improving breastfeeding is critical in child health, development and survival.
Investing in breastfeeding will facilitate full implementation of the International Code of Marketing of BMS; increased access to skilled breastfeeding counselling; additional national breastfeeding promotion campaigns; improved breastfeeding practices in our maternity facilities; improved policies aimed at promoting breastfeeding such as paid family (maternal & paternal) leaves in line with the international standards and workplace policies that support mothers to breastfeed as recommended.