World Breastfeeding Week

What It Is, the Themes, and How It Is Celebrated

Baby boy being breastfeeding fed,close up
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World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is an annual event organized by The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) to promote, support and encourage breastfeeding throughout the world. It's celebrated every year between August 1st and August 7th.

The History of World Breastfeeding Week

During a meeting in 1990, The World Health Organization (WHO) and The United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) created the Innocenti Declaration. The Innocenti Declaration is a formal statement about the protection, promotion, and support of breastfeeding. This document outlines the benefits and importance of breastfeeding, establishes breastfeeding goals and provides methods for achieving those goals. The main four points of the Innocenti Declaration are:

  • to appoint a national breastfeeding coordinator and create a national breastfeeding committee
  • have every facility that provides maternity care practice the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding
  • act to implement all the Articles of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes and other WHO resolutions
  • establish and enforce laws that protect the breastfeeding rights of working women

The next year, in 1991, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action was founded to carry out the goals outlined in the Innocenti Declaration. WABA is responsible for the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative and so much more. Some of the ways WABA supports, protects, and promotes, breastfeeding is through:

  • Supporting mothers to start and continue to breastfeed
  • Educating fathers, young people, health care workers, and the community
  • Sharing and applying research
  • Participating in policymaking and the enforcement of laws and health care policies that protect and support breastfeeding mothers

As part of the campaign to achieve their goals and get more information about breastfeeding out to the world, WABA began to think about creating a day to dedicate to the celebration of all things breastfeeding. The idea of a day grew and lead to what we now know as World Breastfeeding Week.

The first WBW was celebrated in 1992 and has grown rapidly to include many countries and organizations worldwide. Due to this exposure and the promotion of breastfeeding, breastfeeding rates around the world are increasing.

The Themes of World Breastfeeding Week

Each year, WABA designs a new theme and slogan to represent World Breastfeeding Week. The theme is meant to emphasize and bring awareness to a particular aspect of breastfeeding while building upon the topics of the past. Once the year's theme is chosen, WABA utilizes marketing materials such as brochures, banners, posters and it's website to get the word out and highlight the topic of the year.

Government programs, local breastfeeding groups, healthcare organizations and a variety of other participants can then use the theme and materials to host events, spread the word, and celebrate breastfeeding all around the globe. Some of the past themes cover a range of topics from health, education, breast milk, human rights, and many more. They include:

  • The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative
  • Support for Working Mothers
  • Nutrition
  • Training Breastfeeding Support Persons
  • Breastfeeding: It's Your Right
  • Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies

To learn more about previous themes or this year's theme and objectives visit the World Breastfeeding Week website.

Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week

The celebration of World Breastfeeding Week serves to unite the breastfeeding community, increase the public support of breastfeeding, and further the goals of the Innocenti Declaration and WABA.

About 70 countries celebrated the first WBW. The second year saw involvement grow to over 120 countries, and it has continued to grow ever since.

More than 170 countries around the world observe and celebrate World Breastfeeding Week.

Celebrations of WBW happen in many ways. The media provides exposure, as organized events are held to spread the messages and educate the public about breastfeeding. Some agencies sponsor walks or host parties while other groups wear bracelets, tee-shirts, and/or buttons to show their support during this week-long celebration.

As an individual, you can join local celebrations, purchase WBW merchandise, or submit a pledge of participation to WABA. To find out more about the events in your area, check with your local breastfeeding groups, health care organizations, or government programs such as WIC. Regional newspaper and media outlets may also provide information on special events.

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