Breastfeeding Week 2023: A time to bring the community’s attention to the challenges of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding Week 2023: A time to bring the community’s attention to the challenges of breastfeeding

August will mark the return of breastfeeding week. World Breastfeeding Week’s (WBW) 2023 goals include educating people about their part in bolstering the warm chain of breastfeeding support, establishing breastfeeding as a component of good nutrition, enlisting individuals, and organizations to support breastfeeding, and igniting systems for radical change.

In addition to ending preventable deaths, breastfeeding has economic and social benefits. Boosting breastfeeding rates can eliminate 20,000 maternal deaths, 823,000 infant deaths, and 302 billion dollars in economic losses per year. The World Health Organization and UNICEF advise early breastfeeding to begin within an hour of birth, exclusive nursing during the first six months of the infant’s life, and sustained breastfeeding up to two years of age. The warm chain campaign prioritizes the mother and child and seeks to unite all stakeholders by coordinating efforts at all scales to offer continuity of care over the first 1000 days.

In order to support working breastfeeding mothers, there needs to be a change in the global mindset. Nearly 60% of women are in the workforce; of these, 63% are of childbearing age. Breastfeeding is significantly impacted by employment. The time spent on breastfeeding by a new mother is reduced by full-time employment. 80 percent of mothers wean their babies before the end of the first month of returning to work, and only a small percentage resort to giving their children expressed breast milk (EBM). 10% of full-time employees are less likely to start nursing. Less than 19% of full-time employees are likely to continue breastfeeding past the 6-month mark. We must keep in mind that direct breastfeeding is effective. Exclusively breastfeeding for at least six months can protect against infections, for up to 2-5 years of life.

Breastfeeding mothers frequently experience challenges at work, including the inability to pump privately in the workplace, unpredictable work schedules, leaking wet clothing, breast engorgement, and a lack of job security. Given the difficulty of breastfeeding while working, the fact that so few women exclusively breastfeed for six months should come as no surprise. However, working mothers can overcome these difficulties by breastfeeding more often at home, exclusively breastfeeding on off days, and increasing pumping sessions at work. Awareness and education about expressing and storing breastmilk should be the top priority for mothers.

Knowledge of preservation is essential to deal with the shortage of breast milk for working women. Breast milk can be used for 4 to 9 hours if it is stored at room temperature. Milk will remain usable for 1 to 8 days in a refrigerator, up to 6 months in a freezer, and 12 months in a deep freezer (-20 degrees Celsius).

All mothers could benefit from knowing a few guidelines for properly handling breast milk that has been stored.

  • It is necessary to chill the fresh milk before adding it to frozen milk when layering it with milk from a previous pump.
  • It is best to store milk in small amounts.
  • The milk is slightly altered by freezing, so refrigerated breast milk is preferred to frozen milk.
  • Try to only pump enough for the baby’s needs the following day; any extra can be frozen.
  • Rotate the supply and feed the oldest milk first.
  • Thaw frozen breast milk in lukewarm water, never hot. Breast milk should never be microwaved, and it should only be used after 24 hours of thawing.

Let us all get together and support breastfeeding mothers at home and in our workspace to ensure a better future for today’s babies.

Dr. Nicola Judith Flynn

MD, Head of Department – Paediatrics, and Neonatology, Lactational consultant, Medica Superspecialty Hospital, Kolkata

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