World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is celebrated from 1st - 7th August in more than 120 countries each year. Over the years, the initiatives of WBW have strived to improve the rate of breastfeeding by stepping up awareness about the importance of breast milk for the overall well-being of the child and the mother. More importantly, this is an opportune time every year to dispel overriding myths which are a deterrent to breastfeeding.
This year also marks the 20th anniversary of the 'Innocenti Declaration' in 1990 which sought to improve the rates of breastfeeding by establishing the Ten Steps in all maternity facilities. In remembrance of this initiative two decades ago, and as a follow-up of its progress, the theme for World Breastfeeding Week 2010, is aptly - "Breastfeeding in Just 10 Simple Steps".
The Innocenti Declaration endeavored to implement the "Ten Steps to Breastfeeding" in all maternities by 1995. Now, after twenty years have passed, more than 152 countries have baby-friendly hospitals which have contributed their mite to promote exclusive breastfeeding, as well as impede the promotion of commercial infant formula to the public. Further, the ten steps to breastfeeding have been fully implemented in 28% of all maternities in the world, which has the stamp of approval from the Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI).
Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding
Undoubtedly, health care facilities play a crucial part in promoting breastfeeding and it is here that the Ten Steps come in handy to train healthcare workers adequately in this area so that they are equipped to offer assistance and support to breastfeeding mothers.
It is imperative for every facility with maternity services and care for newborn infants to follow these steps:
1. It is a must to have a clearly worded breastfeeding policy which is regularly communicated to all the healthcare staff.
2. All healthcare staff must be trained in the skills required to execute the policy.
3. All pregnant women need to be informed about the importance of breastfeeding, its benefits and management.
4. Mothers should be provided adequate assistance to initiate breastfeeding within half-hour of birth.
5. Mothers should be taught how to breastfeed and maintain lactation should they have to stay away from their infants.
6. Underline the importance of giving newborns only breast milk and no other food or drink.
7. Inculcate rooming in - which is ensuring mothers and infants are always together throughout (24 hrs).
8. Educate mothers to breastfeed on demand.
9. Ensure artificial teats or pacifiers are not given to breastfeeding infants.
10. Encourage the establishment of breastfeeding support groups so that mothers can seek their guidance after discharge from the hospital.
Know Why Breast Milk is the Best
• Breast-feeding is wholesome and absolute nourishment for the baby during the initial 6 months. It is important to exclusively breast feed the child during the first six months without the requirement of other milk, food or water.
• Colostrum, the pale yellow first milk present in the initial 2-3 days following birth provides resistance against infections and diseases.
• Adequate calories are contained in breast milk with the right amount of fat, lactose, vitamins, minerals, water and enzymes, just right for baby's needs.
• It is completely free of germs and bacteria and can guard the baby from any infection. Further, it has protective ingredients which inhibit the growth of bacteria in the intestine, the leading cause of diarrhea in infants.
• Breast milk is economical and free from contamination. No preparation time is required as it is always ready when the baby needs.
• Breast milk goes beyond being just 'food' for the baby. It enhances bonding between the mother and child, providing security, warmth and comfort to the infant.
Nature's Recipe for Life Long Health - Breast Milk
There are innumerable life-long benefits of breast milk and some are listed below:
• Breast feeding offers protection against respiratory illnesses.
• Incidences of heart disease, diabetes, and allergic conditions are less in breastfed babies.
• Breastfeeding gives an impetus to the development of the brain. Babies fed on breast milk portray higher intelligence quotient than infants on other baby food.
• Breast feeding mothers regain their pre-pregnancy weight much faster than mothers who do not breast feed.
• Risk of breast and ovarian cancers is much less in women who have breast fed.
A mother's role in the development of her child is immense, much more than words can describe. Perhaps the first and most significant step in this direction is Breast feeding, a guarantee for life-long health.