Since 1992, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) coordinates the World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) – a global campaign that aims to inform, anchor, engage and galvanise action on breastfeeding and related issues.
Breastfeeding is one of the best investments in children’s and women’s health and survival. Breastfeeding could prevent 823,000 annual deaths in children younger than 5 years and 20,000 annual maternal deaths from breast cancer. However, workplace limitations remain the most common reason for women to never breastfeed or to stop breastfeeding earlier than recommended by World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF, or than they want themselves.
Only 10% of countries globally meet the International Labour Organisation (ILO) standards on length, level of payment, and source of beneﬁts of maternity leave. Even with adequate maternity and parental leave, lack of support for breastfeeding at the workplace can undermine breastfeeding. Only about 20% of countries meet ILO standards on provision of nursing breaks and facilities.
There is a need to improve access to paid maternity leave, and other breastfeeding services for women both inside and outside the workplace. Workers in the informal economy are particularly vulnerable and need attention because maternity entitlements remain inaccessible for many of them, especially in low- and middle- income countries.
Taking care of a newborn is a shared responsibility of all parents, thus the importance of the right to paternity leave to promote greater involvement of fathers in care responsibilities. Fathers need speciﬁed paternal leave, and parental leave should be granted, meaning the allocation of a period of leave to be shared between the two parents or partners. The purpose is to ensure that fathers or partners share childcare and domestic responsibilities equitably and reduce the gender gap.
#WBW2023 focuses on breastfeeding and employment/work. It aims to show the eect of paid leave, workplace support and emerging parenting breastfeeding norms, as parents themselves see them. Target audiences, including governments, policymakers, health sectors, employers, communities and parents, will all see that they have critical roles in empowering families and sustaining breastfeeding-friendly environments in the post- pandemic work life balance.
Use the resources available on our website, Action Folder, Poster, and Social Media Kit to spread awareness of #WBW2023. Pledge to participate in the #WBW2023 celebrations by sending us details of your virtual/physical activities. View events and activities planned for #WBW2023 on our Pledge Map. Together, we can make a diﬀerence for working parents and enable breastfeeding.
All working mothers need adequate maternity leave if they are to practise optimal breastfeeding. They should receive appropriate breaks, work-site facilities and support to breastfeed and express and store breastmilk.
Breastfeeding is teamwork and both parents need information and support for their different roles. Access to adequate paternity and parental leave can allow the non-breastfeeding parent to have time to share household responsibilities and provide other support to enable the mother to breastfeed.
When maternity and parental leave policies are implemented, they can improve breastfeeding. There is a need to mobilise resources to advocate, monitor, evaluate, and enforce policies that promote, protect, and support breastfeeding and the rights of parents and children.
A supportive workplace includes providing maternity/paternity entitlements to parents will enable continued breastfeeding and thus improve child health. This results in less absenteeism and enhanced productivity at work which is benecial for employers as well.
Parents need support from the whole society to enable breastfeeding. A Warm Chain of Support for breastfeeding needs to be established including the health sector, workplace and community.
Banner Image: Mother Breastfeeding. Image Credit – Dave Clubb