Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival.
(World Health Organization [WHO])
National Breastfeeding Month
On August 6, 2011, the U.S. Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) officially declared that August is National Breastfeeding Month. (Official Proclamation)
In recognition of National Breastfeeding Month (NBM), each August the USBC hosts a social media advocacy and/or outreach campaign inviting member organizations, breastfeeding coalitions, partner organizations, and individuals to participate in online action and conversation about the policy and practice changes needed to build a landscape of support for babies and families.
Did You Know?
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 [PDF-30.6MB] recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months with continued breastfeeding while introducing appropriate complementary foods for 1 year or longer. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization also recommend exclusive breastfeeding for about the first 6 months with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods for up to 2 years of age or older. 1,2
Exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months has many benefits for the infant and mother. Chief among these is protection against gastrointestinal infections which is observed not only in developing but also industrialized countries. Early initiation of breastfeeding, within 1 hour of birth, protects the newborn from acquiring infections and reduces newborn mortality. The risk of mortality due to diarrhoea and other infections can increase in infants who are either partially breastfed or not breastfed at all.
Breast-milk is also an important source of energy and nutrients in children aged 6–23 months. It can provide half or more of a child’s energy needs between the ages of 6 and 12 months, and one third of energy needs between 12 and 24 months. Breast milk is also a critical source of energy and nutrients during illness, and reduces mortality among children who are malnourished.
Children and adolescents who were breastfed as babies are less likely to be overweight or obese. Additionally, they perform better on intelligence tests and have higher school attendance. Breastfeeding is associated with higher income in adult life. Improving child development and reducing health costs results in economic gains for individual families as well as at the national level.(1)
Longer durations of breastfeeding also contribute to the health and well-being of mothers: it reduces the risk of ovarian and breast cancer and helps space pregnancies–exclusive breastfeeding of babies under 6 months has a hormonal effect which often induces a lack of menstruation. This is a natural (though not fail-safe) method of birth control known as the Lactation Amenorrhoea Method.
Mothers and families need to be supported for their children to be optimally breastfed. Actions that help protect, promote and support breastfeeding include:
adoption of policies such as the International Labour Organization’s "Maternity Protection Convention 183" and "Recommendation No. 191", which complements "Convention No. 183" by suggesting a longer duration of leave and higher benefits;
adoption of the "International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes" and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly resolutions;
implementation of the "Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding" specified in the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, including:
skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby immediately after birth and initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of life;
breastfeeding on demand (that is, as often as the child wants, day and night);
rooming-in (allowing mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day);
not giving babies additional food or drink, even water, unless medically necessary;
provision of supportive health services with infant and young child feeding counselling during all contacts with caregivers and young children, such as during antenatal and postnatal care, well-child and sick child visits, and immunization; and
community support, including mother support groups and community-based health promotion and education activities.
Breastfeeding practices are highly responsive to supportive interventions, and the prevalence of exclusive and continued breastfeeding can be improved over the course of a few years.
(World Health Organization [WHO])
Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding has many health benefits for both moms and babies. For mothers, breastfeeding reduces their risk of ovarian cancer, breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.1 For babies, the American Association of Pediatrics recommends that all babies be exclusively breastfed for the first six months, and that breastfeeding continue after other foods are introduced for at least the first year.2 This can help prevent infections in babies (like respiratory infections, diarrhea, and ear infections), and can even improve a baby’s survival.
Facts about Breastfeeding and Human Milk Feeding during Emergencies
Research shows that infants and children are the most vulnerable during emergencies.
Nearly 95% of infant and child deaths in emergencies result from diarrhea due to contaminated water and an unsanitary environment.
Infant formula has been linked to an increase in infant disease and death: it can also be contaminated and requires clean water and fuel to sterilize formula, bottles, and nipples. Lack of electricity also can make it difficult to preserve formula.
Breastfeeding saves lives! Human milk is always clean, requires no fuel, water, or electricity, and is available, even in the direst circumstances.
Human milk contains antibodies that fight infection, including diarrhea and respiratory infections common among infants in emergency situations.
Human milk provides infants with perfect nutrition, including the proper amount of vitamins and minerals required for normal growth.
Mothers who breastfeed are able to keep their babies warm to prevent hypothermia.
CDC: Breastfeeding Data & Statistics
Breastfeeding in the Workplace
National Breastfeeding Month Information
Infant and Young Child Feeding