World Breastfeeding Week, celebrated annually from August 1st to 7th, is a global campaign aimed at promoting and supporting breastfeeding to improve the health and well-being of infants and young children. This year’s theme is “Let’s make breastfeeding and work, work!” This year’s campaign focuses on promoting practices that can help support workplace-related breastfeeding in different countries.
Breastfeeding is a natural and essential way to provide infants with optimal nutrition. It offers numerous health benefits to both the baby and the mother. For the baby, breast milk contains all the necessary nutrients, antibodies, and growth factors, protecting against infections and reducing the risk of chronic diseases later in life. For mothers, breastfeeding aids in postpartum recovery. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child’s life and continuing breastfeeding for at least two years is recommended.
While breastfeeding primarily falls on the mother’s shoulders, the involvement of fathers and partners is equally crucial.
Support from partners can significantly impact a mother’s decision and ability to breastfeed. Offering emotional support, assisting with household chores, and helping with other children can ease the mother’s burden, making breastfeeding a more positive and successful experience.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life.
After six months, complementary foods should be introduced while continuing breastfeeding up to two years or beyond. This optimal feeding pattern ensures that children receive the best possible nutrition during their critical growth and development stages.
Data from WHO reveals that if all children aged 0-23 months were optimally breastfed, over 820,000 children’s lives under the age of five could be saved annually. This highlights the immense impact of breastfeeding on reducing child mortality rates and promoting overall child health.
In Kenya, breastfeeding is not only a cultural norm but also protected by law. Article 53 of the Kenyan Constitution recognizes every child’s right to essential nutrition, which includes access to breastfeeding. Additionally, significant policy milestones such as the Health Act of 2017 and the Breastfeeding Mothers Bill of 2019 have been put in place to recognize and support the importance of breastfeeding in workplaces.
During World Breastfeeding Week, various activities and awareness campaigns are organized worldwide to educate communities, health professionals and policymakers about the benefits of breastfeeding and the importance of supporting breastfeeding mothers. From workshops and seminars to social media campaigns, the focus is on creating a supportive environment for mothers and families.
By Dominic Kosgei -Communications Officer, PanAfricare Kenya