What World Breastfeeding Week is and isn’t about

I came across many comments last week that clearly showed a significant lack of knowledge and understanding about what World Breastfeeding Week is and isn’t about. It challenged me to review what I know, and find out more.

So, what is World Breastfeeding Week (WBW)?  

WBW is the global breastfeeding awareness week that commemorates the Innocenti Declaration (1990 and 2005), with a yearly focus to help tackle key breastfeeding issues. It is organised and managed by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), and it started in 1992. WABA is “a global network of organisations and individuals who believe breastfeeding is the right of all children and mothers and who dedicate themselves to protect, promote and support this right.”

WABA and WBW draw attention to key issues that affect breastfeeding internationally; underpinned by key infant feeding documents like:

And with reference to other key breastfeeding protection documents like:

If you want to know more about WABA’s work, these documents and others are worth checking out.

WBW significantly contributes to WABA’s vision of working towards

“a world where breastfeeding is the cultural norm, where mothers and families are enabled to feed and care optimally for their infants and young children thus contributing to a just and healthy society.”

There seems to be so much misconception about the purpose of World Breastfeeding Week. It is very important to know what this awareness week is about and isn't about, when responding to it. This post helps to clarify the core goals of World Breastfeeding Week. | @aNoviceMum

What is World Breastfeeding Week about?

It is about equality, equity, and justice for all infants and young children, no matter the financial / social status of their parents, or the economic development of their country.

It is about working towards reducing the poverty gap from the start of life, through access to optimal infant and toddler feeding.

It is about securing the rights of parents to accurate infant feeding information that is free of commercial interests.

It is about local and national advocacy for mothers and their families to receive enough support, at the right time, to optimally feed their infants and toddlers, from their first hour of birth.

It is about empowering mothers to have confidence in their ability to continue nurturing their children in the normal and best way possible, post birth.

It is about providing breastfeeding education to health professionals and families, free from undermining commercial interests.

It is about contributing to the protection of maternal and infant health in all circumstances, through minimising the exploitation of commercial interests, during a very vulnerable time.

It is about encouraging governments to stand up for women and children, through making laws to enable all children to have the best start in life, through optimal nutrition, and so much more.

It is about highlighting the risks of artificial feeding (food and utensils), and the truth about commercially produced weaning food amidst the aggressive profiteering of the unscrupulous tendencies of the infant / toddler food industry.

It is about challenging the poor marketing practices of the profit-making infant food industry and curbing their exploitative ways.

It is about holding the infant food industry accountable for the production of safe breastfeeding substitutes and delivery systems, and ensuring that parents have accurate information about their use.

It is about supporting mothers to make informed decisions about the best way to feed their children, through access to accurate infant feeding information; in order to breastfeed optimally and for as long as possible, and when needed, to bottle-feed safely and as best as possible.

It is about deconstructing anti-breastfeeding societal norms, and untangling age-old infant feeding myths, to help create a culture where breastfeeding thrives without restriction … where breastfeeding for as long as one wants, and wherever one’s baby needs feeding, is not unusual … where breastfeeding works with women’s work commitments.

It is about the well-being of infants and young children, their mothers and families, and indeed overall public health; as well as environmental sustainability, the economy, and more.

What is World Breastfeeding Week not about?

It is not about making anyone feel good or bad, arrogant or guilty.

It is not a word wrestling arena for breastfeeding and formula feeding mums … definitely not about the ego of ‘badass’ breastfeeders and ‘fearless’ or ‘defensive’ formula feeders, or gentle breastfeeders and reluctant formula feeders.

It is not a marketing opportunity to be exploited by the multi-billion dollars infant food industry to mask their underlying undermining of breastfeeding under the guise of ‘breastfeeding support’.

I mean, let’s not kid ourselves, the lower the breastfeeding rate and the more unsure parents are about weaning, the more profit for the infant food industry to make.

It is not a time for generic clichés that sweep key infant feeding issues and uncomfortable realities under the carpet.

It is not a time to wallow in negative past infant / toddler feeding experiences, or one to repeat recycled ‘comfortable’ inaccurate information, in comments and through memes.

It’s neither the time for ‘what about me’ pity parties and the misconstruing of facts for attacks, and information for judgement; nor the time for using facts to attack and information to judge.

Let’s get this straight, WBW is not personal or exclusive; all forms of infant and toddler feeding will be worse off without the efforts of WABA and others; thanks to the erosion and aggression of commercial interests.

I also don’t think it’s the time to publish and share half-baked articles with click-bait headlines that divert attention from the goals of this Week. Seriously, there are 51 other weeks available for these, if they must be.

I could go on and on about what World Breastfeeding Week is and isn’t about …

So, simply put …

World Breastfeeding Week is about the promotion, protection, and support of breastfeeding. Yes, it is about breastfeeding awareness; which not surprisingly gets breastfeeding mothers in all their variety, into a celebratory mood. It is about respecting human rights, and creating an equitable and healthy society for all.  

 It is not about breastfeeding undermining comments and tactics, or the side-lining of the users of artificial milk. It is about saving the lives of babies and toddlers around the world, and creating a supportive environment for all mums to make informed decisions about how they will feed their infants, free from subtle and obvious commercial ploys.

So, as we react to World Breastfeeding Week, let’s make sure that we know what exactly we are responding to. Otherwise, anger, annoyance, frustration, time-wasting, and other such negative feelings will rob us of getting the most out of it.

And if World Breastfeeding Week, isn’t your thing … not reflective of your experience or beliefs … fine, ignore it … scroll past it … don’t comment on it … don’t give it a second thought.

I know this topic is bigger than what I’ve written … I definitely have more to write about it.

What did you think of World Breastfeeding Week?

Answer this question as one of your entries into one of my Breastfeeding Awareness Month’s giveaway – Win an Emma-Jane Next Generation Maternity and Nursing bra (Wed 10 Aug 16 – Sun 21 Aug 16)

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40 thoughts on “What World Breastfeeding Week is and isn’t about

    • I think so. Unfortunately, breastfeeding is one of the aspects of our lives that can save a lot of children’s lives around the world. It has been way too marginalised in modern times, considering its vital role in human history.

  1. Its amazing- people need to know about the truths and myths of breastfeeding and celebrate the natural gift given to most.

  2. Apparently breast feeding isn’t the norm in my local area. The health visitors have all assumed my kids were on formula and said how unusual it was. I find it very odd. Anything that helps break down barriers is great.

    • What a shame; one hopes that breastfeeding mums have adequate support to achieve their breastfeeding goals in such an atmosphere. Breastfeeding barriers of all kinds, definitely need breaking, for the sake of mums, babes, families, societies, and the environment.

  3. I’m not that bothered about it – I think it’s more important that mums can choose how they want to feed their baby. It’s great to have awareness but it often borders on slightly zealous and obsessive in my experience.

    • We live in a world that gives us options in a range of areas of life; and it’s important that we’re empowered to make informed choices in our different contexts, especially when it comes to our children. I can see why you might consider breastfeeding awareness to border on slightly zealous and obsessive. Unfortunately, I think that the statistics about the impact of not breastfeeding for so many children and their families around the world, the disappointment of so many mums who don’t reach their breastfeeding goals due to inadequate support, and the poor ethics of the marketing strategy of the infant food industry calls for even more breastfeeding awareness. I of course appreciate that you might not agree with me.

  4. I think it’s a good idea. I think we do need to pressure for more support for breastfeeding mums as I really don’t think there is enough out there. This isn’t a negative against formula feeding mums though as all ways are fine but if there was more support the breastfeeding rates could be higher.

    • All mums and their families should have access to as objective as possible information about the feeding of their infants and this is key to breastfeeding awareness. And indeed, all mums should have adequate support to feed their infants the best way they can. Unfortunately, whilst formula comes with instructions on its container and a whole lot of marketing money, boobs don’t come with any instructions, or adequate / consistent source of funding. Breastfeeding mums need all the support they can get to achieve their goals, and this is definitely not a negative against formula feeding mums.

  5. great idea 🙂 this would give people so much ideas of how important breastfeeding is and supporting breastfeeding mums 🙂

  6. I think it’s great!
    Iv had 2 girls and struggled to breast feed with both I’m due a boy in 4 weeks and I’m definitely going to try my hardest to breastfeed!

    • I agree Laura. So sorry you struggled with your 2 girls; I had a difficult start too. Congratulations on your boy on the way, and I really hope that you reach your breastfeeding goal with him. There is a lot of support out there; and I sure do hope you get adequate support for your journey ahead.

      • Thankyou 😊
        I don’t think I got the right support with my 2 girls they wouldn’t latch on and I was young so felt too embarrassed to ask for extra help but this time I will definitely be asking for help if I struggle again 😊

        • Pleasure Laura. I’m so glad you feel more comfortable about asking for help now; we all need help with something or the other on life’s bumpy road. 🙂 I wish I knew more when I started breastfeeding, it would have saved me lots of pain, time, and tears. There are lots of support out there for breastfeeding mums, one just needs to know where to look. Feel free to PM me on Facebook, or DM me on Twitter if you ever need to, I’m always happy to share what I know. 🙂 Here is to hoping your next breastfeeding journey goes better than expected, and that you get good quality and adequate support with it whenever needed.

    • I don’t think it can ever be forgotten that there are a minority of woman who can’t breastfeed for a range of reasons; and indeed women who don’t want to breastfeed. They are part of the reason for World Breastfeeding Week, which also works to promote the safety of breast milk substitutes and reduce the inappropriate marketing strategies of the infant food industry.

  7. Awareness, yet unfortunately it is not spread as widely as it could be. Ideally each cafe, restaurant, shop etc would acknowledge, Celebrate the week every year. By use of posters, leaflets, maybe films being shown giving relevant up to date information etc. As women are given this information when pregnant. Yet everyone needs to be aware in order to develop a Supportive Culture.

    • I know what you mean; it would be quite a day when the awareness week is embraced by so many businesses. I suppose with business, most invest in what think have something in it for them. So sad more don’t yet see how good breastfeeding can be for their business. Breastfeeding definitely needs a supportive culture to really thrive and hopefully every breastfeeding awareness event helps to make this more possible.

  8. Breast feeding is such a natural part of the life cycle that the way it has become sexualised and stigmatised is absolutely ridiculous. This is a really important campaign to help raise these issues and even if a small number of people change the way they feel or think about breastfeeding, then it will have been successful!

  9. great idea! more awareness for breatfeeding, whether you actually breastfeed or not 🙂

  10. I think it good to have a week of promoting the benefits of brestfeeding and to encourage people that they don’t need to feel embrassed doing it when out and about – its all natural!

    • Definitely; I mean why should anyone feel embarrassed about feeding their hungry baby or toddler when out and about. Let’s hope this happens less and less.

  11. To be honest I didn’t even know World Breast Feeding week had happened, not to sure how I missed it! I have enjoyed it for the past 4 years though, as I’ve been breastfeeding most of that time.

    • I could have missed it too; I’ve definitely got to plan a bit more ahead for it in the coming year. And my, massive salut for your breastfeeding journey. We’re on our way to 3 years now, and time just passes, doesn’t it.

    • Thanks for your lovely comment; breastfeeding awareness is a cause close to my heart and I enjoy both national breastfeeding weeks around the world, and indeed World Breastfeeding Week. I think it’s important that people know what it is and isn’t about, to avoid getting upset over what isn’t intended; and of course to have an idea of what they can get out of the Week. Thanks for your linky and comment 🙂

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