Breastfeeding Week 2016 - Sustainable Development - Poster 2.jpg

Breastfeed for a more sustainable future

This year’s World Breastfeeding Week focuses on how mothers, by breastfeeding, can play a part in achieving the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are a blueprint for global commitment and action towards equitable development that governments around the world have agreed to accomplish by 2030.The annual celebration which takes place on 1-7 August 2016, will serve as the foundation year to raise awareness of the global goals through the theme - “Breastfeeding: A key to Sustainable Development”.According to World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), “The World Breastfeeding Week 2016 theme is about how breastfeeding is a key element in getting us to think about how to value our wellbeing from the start of life, how to respect each other and care for the world we share.”The UK medical journal, Lancet, presented new evidence that confirms optimal breastfeeding could save 823,000 children lives and add $302 billion to the global economy annually.“The current recommendations are to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of your baby’s life, followed by breastfeeding with healthy complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond,” said Rebekah Brooks Lactation Consultant of the Breast Feeding Support Group and International Representative for Baptist Health International.Despite the positive health benefits breastfeeding offers both baby and mother, global breastfeeding rates have remained stagnant for the past two decades. Less than 40 per cent of infants under six months of age are exclusively breastfed.This year WABA identified ways in which breastfeeding can contribute to each SDG.The organisation outlined that breastfeeding can help to reduce poverty; is a means of food security for infants; provides high quality nutrients and adequate energy; helps prevent hunger, undernutrition and obesity.Ms. Brooks noted, “There are no costs incurred by breastfeeding as opposed to purchasing artificial baby milks and the medical expenses are often less as generally, breastfed babies are less likely to need medical attention.“Breast milk is perfectly designed for babies and is available whenever a baby needs it! The benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition. For the babies, breastfeeding reduces the risk of infections, diarrhea and vomiting, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), childhood leukemia, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular disease in adulthood. For the mothers, breastfeeding lowers your risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, osteoporosis (weak bones), cardiovascular disease and obesity,” she added.Simone Sheehan, HSA Dietitian, stated that breastfeeding not only significantly improves the health of infants and young children, but improves mental and cognitive development thus promoting learning as well.“Breastfeeding is a great equalizer giving every child a fair and best start to life. The experience can also be satisfying and empowering for the mother,” she said.Ms. Brooks mentioned, “Breastfeeding also has economic benefits and is very environmentally friendly.”WABA indicated that breastfeeding requires less energy when compared to formula production industries; reduces the need for water and fossil fuels in the home; provides all the water a baby needs while formula feeding requires access to clean water; safeguards infant health and nutrition in times of adversity and weather-related natural disasters due to global warming; is more ecological than formula feeding production which puts pressure on natural resources and contributes to carbon emissions and climate change.Furthermore, breastfeeding involves less waste compared to formula feeding production and distribution which negatively affects marine life by leading to the pollution of the seas. “Breast milk is delivered without excessive packaging or processing and therefore is very kind to our planet,” Ms. Brooks commented.Since breastfeeding is enshrined in many human rights frameworks and conventions WABA highlighted the need for promotion of national legislation and policies to defend and support the rights of breastfeeding mothers.To highlight the importance of this week and its theme the Cayman Islands will be engaging in several breastfeeding week activities. There will be poster displays throughout various locations in the Cayman Islands Hospital, Women’s Health, all district health centres, Cayman Brac as well as private antenatal and postnatal clinics, Family Resource Centre and private pediatric clinics. Information will be disseminated across the various media outlets and sippy cups with a breast feeding message will be provided for all mothers delivering babies on the Maternity Ward at the Cayman Islands Hospital.The Cayman Islands Breastfeeding Support Group, in conjunction with Beside Manor, will be hosting an event to promote and discuss breastfeeding in public and other breastfeeding related topics at Bedside Manor, Camana Bay on Friday, 5 August at 3:00pm.“I advise every new mother to consider trying to breastfeed it is a fantastic experience and gives your baby a great start to life,” said Annette O Brien, Midwife of the HSA Maternity Unit.