World Breastfeeding Week this year focuses on breastfeeding as a key to sustainable development; an important tool towards the achievement of the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
One of the ways that breastfeeding contributes to the SDGs is through the fact that it addresses a range of issues relating to poverty; and thus significantly contributes towards a more equitable world and fairer society.
My word, breastmilk is simply put … amazing. According to #10 of The Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding and many other bodies worldwide, “breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants.”
“Breast milk has the perfect combination of proteins, fats, vitamins, and carbohydrates. There is nothing better for the health of your baby. Leukocytes are living cells that are only found in breast milk. They help fight infection. It is the antibodies, living cells, enzymes, and hormones that make breast milk ideal. These cannot be added to formula.”
In terms of biology, cost, environmental sustainability, quality nutrition composition and needs, production cost and efficiency, and so much more, breastfeeding really does save the day for so many around the world; in a way nothing else can. It is designed for both the best and the roughest … toughest conditions a mother and child could find themselves in, in majority of instances worldwide.
I mean … look at poverty for example – the reality of most people in the world – in the face of or because of natural or man-made disasters … breastfeeding is the normal, safest, and best way to feed infants. This is because it is pretty much self-sustaining for most mums, especially with the right support. It doesn’t rely on the ability to read instructions, and it doesn’t need to be purchased in most cases. For the majority, it also doesn’t need any man-made equipment that must be cleaned in certain ways.
Being the biological norm, and indeed produced from the blood, breastmilk is not formed from the mother’s diet, though there are few instances when some items need to be restricted or eliminated. This is not to say that mum’s diet doesn’t matter; it of course matters for the mother and her family, breastfeeding or not.
Breastmilk is specially made, at the right temperature, and with the right amount of nutrients that babies need at different points during the day. Its ability to satisfy the nutritional needs (and more) of children is time-tested and proven through the ages. In the absence of certain infectious diseases like HIV, where there is a small risk of transmission from mother to child, the risk of contamination is minimal to none. Even then, there
Its production is pretty much free and it has zero environmental cost, except if breastfeeding aids like breast pumps, which are at their core not essential of most breastfeeding journeys, are used.
So, the more optimal breastfeeding is – initiated within the first hour of birth, exclusively done for the first 6 months, and done in addition to solid food for 2 years and beyond – the more optimum its outcomes are.
All these of course is great for poor people, who probably can’t afford a balanced diet, don’t have access to regular clean water and electricity, and might not live in hygienic surroundings. Breastfeeding in itself, isn’t affected by these. At least for 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding, the cost of an extra mouth to feed is not an additional worry, and breastfeeding’s nutritional value persists for as long as it happens.
In breastfeeding, the poor have access to excellent nutrition and food security for their infant from birth, and without added expense.
It’s also great for those who are not poor, even if they live in a country with stable electricity and good water supply, as well as specific child based governmental financial support. Breastfeeding’s nutritional value and its outcomes still applies, its safety remains unparalleled, and its monetary cost is competitive – none to however much you want to spend on breastfeeding related products.
What does this theme mean to me?
Well, it reflects my experience, albeit within the context of living in a high-income country.
Unfortunately, our breastfeeding start wasn’t the best, thanks to insufficient information and lack of enough helpful support from the medical professionals that worked with us. Even then, we breastfed within the first hour of (a difficult) birth
I watched my son grow on my milk, despite all the weight gain dramas we had, as I worked my socks off to overcome the top up trap – first with formula, then breastmilk (more on these in future posts) – we fell into. I tell you, words can’t capture how much our breastfeeding journey did for my mothering and person.
With breastfeeding, my baby’s hunger was satisfied whenever we were out and about, though my confidence about feeding in public took a while to grow. When he started solids, breastfeeding saved my days, whenever I forgot his food at home or didn’t manage to get food ready on time. And lastly, breastfeeding saved us lots of money, and significantly reduced our increased expense due to the expansion of our family.
Breastfeeding, no doubt is one of the keys to nutrition, food security and poverty reduction.
What do you think?
Answer this question as one of your entries into one of my Breastfeeding Awareness Month’s giveaway – Win a box of 14 Mothers Love Cookies (Wed 10 Aug 16 – Tue 23 Aug 16)
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