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World Breastfeeding Week: Let's make it work

A women in Zanzibar, Tanzania, breastfeeding her child (Photo: Brocken Inaglory CC-BY-SA-3.0)
A women in Zanzibar, Tanzania, breastfeeding her child (Photo: Brocken Inaglory CC-BY-SA-3.0)

This week, more than 170 countries are celebrating World Breastfeeding Week to promote breastfeeding and improve the health of babies. SOS Children works directly with new and expecting mothers to ensure their children have the best possible start to life.

This year’s theme – Let’s make it work! – calls for concrete global action to support new working mothers by having stronger workplace policies that promote breastfeeding. 

Breastfeeding is the only natural food for babies that they need for healthy growth and development. Breastfeeding helps infants withstand infections and strengthens the bond between mothers and their babies.

The World Health Organisation recommends that breastfeeding should start within one hour after birth until the baby is six months old. However, only approximately 38% of babies are exclusively breastfeed as you can see in the infographic below (click to see full size). Breastfeeding is a right of a child and it is critical in all countries – both developed and developing.

Supporting working mothers

World Health Organisation infographic breastfeeding 2015
WHO Infographic: What law makers can do. Click to see full size

According to the International Labour Organisation, there are approximately 830 million working women in the world who do not have adequate maternity protection. Many mothers return to work shortly after childbirth and they require concrete policies to ensure their babies will have a healthy growth and development.

What can be done in the workplace to support new mothers? 

  • Ensure a minimum of four months paid maternity leave
  • Make it easier for mothers to return to work by providing breaks and a place to breastfeed or express and store milk
  • Ensure a supportive work environment for new mothers

Almost 80% of the 830 million working women who do not have adequate maternal protection, live in Africa and Asia. Providing the appropriate support to new mothers is critical both for the mother and the new born baby. 

Benefits of breastfeeding 

Healthier children – Babies who are breastfed are at a lower risk of respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), obesity, Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, allergies (such as asthma, lactose intolerance) and gastroenteritis. In addition, breastfeeding lowers a child’s chance of diarrhoea and vomiting.

Healthy mothers – Research shows that breastfeeding lowers your chances of breast and ovarian cancer. With the proper education and support, virtually all women can breastfeed. It is free and the perfect temperature for infants. 

Dr. Maneno performs an ultrasound on Khadija at SOS Medical Centre in Zanzibar, Tanzania
Khadija listens to her baby's heartbeat as Dr. Maneno performs an ultrasound

SOS Children supporting new mothers 

Healthy, happy children are at the centre of our work. We support vulnerable communities to ensure that children have the best possible start to life. SOS Medical Centres provide health education and medical support to parents and their children.

Maternal health has a direct impact on pregnancy outcomes and infant health. The SOS Medical Centre in Zanzibar, Tanzania, provides pregnancy scans, maternal health check-up and health education including information on breastfeeding, to new and expecting mothers.

“It is important to be educated during pregnancy,” says Khadija, one of the new mothers who visited the SOS Medical Centre in Zanzibar. “We still have mothers and infants dying during childbirth in this country, deaths that could have been avoided if only mothers receive adequate prenatal care.” 

SOS Children provides vital services to vulnerable children and their families, and works to empower struggling communities. There are 79 SOS Medical Centres around the world, find out more about our work.