From Uche Uche, Damaturu
This week, as countries around the world celebrate World Breastfeeding Week, UNICEF and WHO are calling on governments and all employers to adopt family-friendly policies that support breastfeeding because becoming the parent of a new baby is both a life-altering gift and an immense responsibility.
This is contained in WHO press released online, which tagged the theme of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week as “Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding.”
The release listed the family friendly policies as paid maternity leave for a minimum of 18 weeks, and paid paternity leave, plus access to a parent-friendly workplace to protect and support mothers’ ability to continue breastfeeding upon return to work by having access to breastfeeding breaks, a safe, private, and hygienic space for expressing and storing breast milk, and affordable childcare.
The release pointed out that family-friendly policies such as paid parental leave, enable breastfeeding and help parents nurture and bond with their children in early life, when it matters most and evidence is clear that during early childhood, the optimal nutrition provided by breastfeeding, along with nurturing care and stimulation, can
strengthen children’s brain development with impacts that endure over a lifetime.
Family-friendly policies, it noted, are particularly important for working parents. Mothers need time off from work to recover from birth and get breastfeeding off to a successful start.
“When a breastfeeding mother returns to work, her ability to continue breastfeeding depends on having access to breastfeeding breaks, a safe, private, and hygienic space for expressing and storing breast milk, and affordable childcare at or near her workplace,“ it said.
In separate statements from WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore governments and private bodies were advised to invest more on programmes that support women and new born children.
“In line with the policy actions advocated by the WHO-UNICEF-led Global Breastfeeding Collective, we also call for greater investments in comprehensive breastfeeding programmes, improved breastfeeding counselling and support for women in health facilities and the community, and an end to the promotion of breast-milk substitutes to enable parents to make informed decisions on the best way to feed their infants,”.
“Together, with the support of governments, employers and communities, we have the power to enable breastfeeding and support families in fostering a nurturing environment where all children thrive.”