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  • Writer's pictureLAWGIC STRATUM

World Breastfeeding Week 2021

Author: S. Bargavi


In January 2021 the Journal called Allergy the official journal of EAACI published a research article that found the formation of specific types of immune cells in the breastfed human babies which helps the baby to reduce inflammation. In the year 1990 at Florence in Italy the participants of WHO/UNICEF policymaker’s meeting on “Breastfeeding in the 1990s: a global initiative” adopted the Innocenti declaration which aims to promote, protect and support breastfeeding. In 1991 a global network of individuals and organizations called “World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action(WABA)” was created. Later in 1992, the WABA in commemoration of the ‘Innocenti declaration’ introduced a global campaign called “World Breastfeeding Week(WBW)” with annual themes related to breastfeeding.


This World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from 1st August to 7th August. Each year WABA comes up with a theme. They create a separate logo,posters, and media kit which have detailed explanations about the theme. This year the theme of the World breastfeeding week is “Protect Breastfeeding - A Shared Responsibility” which aims to inform, anchor, engage and galvanize action on breastfeeding and related issues. If breastfeeding a baby is a duty of a mother then protecting the breastfeeding is the duty of the community as a whole.In the emergence of the COVID-19 people started to make changes in their food habits to promote immunity inorder to avoid the infection. Breast Milk or Mother’s Milk is the first-ever food that a baby will be given immediately after birth. The colostrum-rich mother’s milk contains innumerable antibodies that help the baby to fight against various infections. So it is very important for a baby to be breastfed till 2 years of age. WABA in its action folder for WBW 2021 mentions that “Breastfeeding is also a human right that needs to be respected, protected and fulfilled.


Following are the objectives of World Breastfeeding Week 2021 as mentioned in the action folder of the WABA.

  1. To inform people about the importance of protecting breastfeeding.

  2. To Anchor breastfeeding support as a vital public health responsibility.

  3. To Engage with individuals and organizations to have a greater impact.

  4. To Galvanize action on protecting breastfeeding to improve public health.


The folder contains the challenges related to breastfeeding at different levels and suggested solutions and specific actions that need to be taken for protecting and supporting breastfeeding.

1. National Level

● WABA mentioned that lack of political will and long-term investment in breastfeeding protection and support, Lack of legislation for publicly-funded maternity and paternal social protection,Lack of inter-sectoral coordination, and poor implementation of BFHI are some of the national-level challenges for breastfeeding.

● It suggested that improved political will, legislation, and supportive work policies like publicly-funded paid leave will help to overcome the nationa-level challenges. It also emphasizedregulation and monitor of the Breast Milk Substitutes(BMS) marketing.

● To overcome these National Level challenges it listed 8 actions that need to be taken by the government and national actors in its action folder which includes assessing and identifying policies and programs, providing timely support for breastfeeding in accordance with the guidance of WHO during this COVID-19.

2. Health System Level

● Due to the pandemic situation where social distancing being the primary hindrance and including other hindrances like lack of adequate training of health workers, poor resource allocations, etc. Health systems were not able to provide effective information and support for breastfeeding. Further, by taking advantage of these situations BMS companies are trying to introduce their products to new mothers (who are not able to get sufficient support from the health systems) and to their babies.

● It mentioned that to overcome these challenges the health systems should implement BFHI Ten Steps both in public and private health care sectors, impart training to the health system workers and community-based breastfeeding counseling will have positive impacts on breastfeeding outcomes.

● And it has also listed the actions that need to be taken by the decision-makers at the health systems level and by the health care workers.

3. Workplace Level

● Under the working level, the major barrier to breastfeeding is inadequate supportive working policies for breastfeeding, absence of paid maternity leave for breastfeeding,inflexible working hours, absence or poor space for breastfeeding in the working place. This creates an advantageous environment for the BMS companies to enable these busy moms to purchase their products and also results in an economic burden.

● In order to overcome these challenges, WABA suggested the implementation of the ILO Maternity Protection Convention. It will protect the women from economic and other health-related problems during maternity, and it also covers provisions for paid maternity leave for both parents,flexible working hours,Creating breast milk expressing place in working place, etc.

● In the end, it has listed down the actions that need to be taken by the employers and trade unions to create a breastfeeding-friendly workplace and to include the informal workers in the maternity-related policies.

4. Community Level

● Community level challenges include social norms and traditional practices related to breastfeeding, influence of partners and extended families in breastfeeding decisions and lack of support for breastfeeding makes a gateway to the BMS companies to promote their products.

● To overcome these hurdles the physical community group like family and peers and virtual community group like media, community leaders need to spread appropriate and consistent information about the importance of protecting breastfeeding and need to be aware of the unscrupulous BMS Marketing. Civil Society Advocates must identify and rectify the irregular BMS prevailing in the society.

● And at the end it listed the actions need to be taken by the community members,Organisations and families which include consulting a local breastfeeding counsellors, involving men’s group to create awareness among the patterns to help the breastfeeding moms, etc.

Throughout the WBW 2021 action folder WABA makes great emphasis on the following :

  1. Implementation of the International Code of Marketing of BMS.

  2. Implementation of Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiatives(BFHI)

  3. Educating the health system workers and masses about the importance of breastfeeding.

  4. Creating a Better Workplace for breastfeeding mothers.


India is a country where people of different communities were living and working in widely spread different sectors. The country has various legislations related to breastfeeding. Some of the worthwhile legislations are the Maternity Benefit(Amendment) Act 2017, The Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods (Regulation of Production, Supply, and Distribution) Act 1992, and The National Guidelines on Infant and Young Child Feeding.

  • The Maternity benefit Amendment Act 2017 provides for 26 weeks of paid leave to the mothers under S.5(3) of the Act. Further S.11 of the Act provides that every mother of a newborn childcan have two nursing breaks during her return to working after the maternity leave. This will continue till the baby reaches 15 months. And also it mentions the creche facility and the mother should be allowed 4 visits a day including the nursing breaks.

  • The Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Food (Regulation of productions, supply, and Distribution) Act 1992 aims at regulating the production advertisement of BMS and aims at promoting the importance of Breastfeeding. It provides provisions for controlling the marketing of BMS and feeding bottles in order to increase the rate of breastfeeding involving skin-to-skin contact of infants and mothers. It strictly prohibits the use of any health care system or personnel in the health care system for promoting BMS. It has also mentioned the penalty provision for the violations of the provisions of the Act.

  • The National Guidelines on Infant and Young Child Feeding state that malnutrition is a national problem that needs to be eradicated expeditiously. It further states that newborns should be breastfed compulsorily for six months then introducing other solid foods and continuing the breastfeeding till 2 years of age. It mentions the value of colostrum in mother’s milk and guidelines regarding initiation of breastfeeding and complementary feeding. Further, it classifies the foods that need to be given to the newborns after six months of age. It listed the duties and responsibilities of various institutions in promoting and protecting breastfeeding which includes ensuring proper training and education about lactation psychology,continued breastfeeding, and promoting a ‘Baby-Friendly’ environment in hospitals and clinics by the Health system professionals, contributing to the creation of mother and baby-friendly workplaces and working for full implementation of IMS Act by the Non-Governmental Organisations, commercial enterprises having control over their marketing of infant foods.

Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) was founded in 1991 in Maharashtra. BPNI is a registered, independent,nonprofit,national organization;working towards protecting, promoting, and supporting breastfeeding and appropriate complementary feeding of infants & young children.BPNI acts on the targets of Innocenti Declarations, Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC),International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes,and the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding (WHO 2002).

In 1993 The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW)adopted the BFHI “Ten Steps to Breastfeeding” introduced by the WHO and UNICEF but it did not last after 1998

Later Mothers Absolute Affection (MAA) was introduced by the government of India in the year 2016. It includes provisions for rewarding the hospitals for successful implementation of BFHI Ten Steps to Breastfeeding to promote, protect and support breastfeeding. Now MOHFW in partnership with WHO and BPNI developed the National Technical Support Unit (NTSU) for assessing and monitoring the facilities of BFHI which is seen as a step to provide an enabling environment all over the country to increase the rate of Breastfeeding.


Promoting Successful breastfeeding is not only the sole responsibility of the Mother. It is a collective Social Responsibility. Top companies contributing a great part to CSR activities should include the ‘Protection and Promotion of Breastfeeding’ in their CSR list. Grievances portal should be made accessible to register complaints against the workplaces which do not adhere to the breastfeeding guidelines. The theme “Breastfeeding a shared responsibility” is not just the theme of WBW2021 it is considered as the eye-opener to society and people who think breastfeeding has no role for the male partner and others. Let us unite and work to inform,anchor,engage and galvanize to protect and promote the breastfeeding rate across the world to create a better environment for newborns.

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