Breastfeeding for emergency preparedness focus of WHO

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

This week is world breastfeeding week. According to the WHO, breastfeeding could save millions of lives, especially in the event of a public emergency. Breastfeeding is not a lifestyle – it is a way to reduce healthcare spending, promote women’s health, and ensure a lifetime of better health for breastfed infants and children. This year, breastfeeding as a part of emergency preparedness is a focus of the World Health Organization.

World breastfeeding is an annual campaign that takes place August 1 to August 7, designed to educate, promote, and encourage breastfeeding throughout the world. This year’s focus is on emergency preparedness and the importance of breastfeeding. Mother’s milk is more plentiful than bottled formula and water and could sustain vulnerable infants and children in the event of a local or national emergency.

Mothers who breastfeed provide a lifetime of health benefits that continues to adulthood through enhanced immunity, less risk of allergy, love, and early bonding. Optimal nutrition comes from mother’s milk.

Women benefit from breastfeeding through reduced risk of ovarian cancer, osteoporosis later in life, and decreased risk of post-menopausal breast cancer. Risk of post-partum bleeding is diminished from breastfeeding.

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This year’s focus is "Breastfeeding - a vital emergency response. Are you ready?” Local healthcare agencies are encouraged to consider the importance of breastfeeding when planning for natural disasters and other public emergencies. The focus is on recognizing the importance of breastfeeding for emergency preparedness.

Breastfeeding within one hour of birth is encouraged. According to the World Health Organization, the best way to sustain nutrition for infants and children in extreme circumstances is to exclusively breast feed up to six months. Complementary foods can be added, with continued breast feeding up to age two.

Hospitals are encouraged to adequately staff their facilities to provide support to mothers. Personnel should be trained to ensure infant and child nutrition through breastfeeding during emergencies and disasters.

Each year the World Health Organization places a different focus on the importance of breastfeeding. This year’s impetus focuses on ensuring infant and child nutrition as a part of emergency preparedness through breastfeeding education and promotion, and includes developing a team of trained personnel to assist mothers with breastfeeding in case of disaster.

Resource: World Breastfeeding Week