World Breastfeeding Week 2021: Significance, benefits and all you need to know

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World Breastfeeding Week is an annual celebration held every year from August 1 to 7 in over 120 countries. World Health Organisation states breastfeeding as one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival. This year, the theme for breastfeeding week is ‘Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility.’

World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. The history of this week-long commemoration dates back to the 1990s when the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) created the Innocenti Declaration to promote and support breastfeeding. Later in 1991, to execute UNICEF and WHO’s goals, an association was formed called the World Association of Breastfeeding Action. In 1992, a whole week was dedicated to promote this campaign.

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Benefits Of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is also known as nursing. It is the best way to provide young infants with the essential nutrients required for growth and development. World Health Organisation says that breastmilk is the ideal food for infants. It is safe, clean, and acts as the babies’ first vaccine, protecting them against many common childhood illnesses.

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, the benefits of breastfeeding in babies are many. They even took to Twitter on August 1 to list down these benefits. They are – “it helps boost the immune system of the infant, lowers the infant mortality rate, lowers the risk of developing infections such as respiratory tract infections, diabetes, allergic diseases, and childhood leukaemia. It also helps enhance the cognitive function of the baby. Additionally, breastmilk is extremely nutritious and healthy for the baby and can help the baby develop a healthy weight.”

Covid-19 and Breastfeeding

Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a lot of misinformation around breastfeeding. The World Health Organisation states that “transmission of active Covid-19 through breast milk and breastfeeding has not been detected to date. There is no reason to avoid or stop breastfeeding.”

Additionally, a woman with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 can breastfeed if they wish to do so by following few precautions. According to WHO, before breastfeeding, a mother should wash their hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. In case of unavailability of water, one can use a hand sanitiser with at least 60 per cent alcohol content. Additionally, one should always wear a mask during any contact with the baby, including while feeding.

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