The first week in August each year, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) declares World Breastfeeding Week (WBW). This event is largely to spread the word about the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding and the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative to maternity wards and hospitals worldwide. These initiatives have been successful in increasing breastfeeding rates around the world, but still have much farther to go. WBW provides an opportunity to celebrate our progress and make a dedicated push to continue spread this information and to make hospitals and women aware of its purpose.
Many mothers recognize breastfeeding as an incredibly meaningful time in their relationship with their children. So what can the everyday busy mother do celebrate World Breastfeeding Week? Here
-- Celebrate Breastfeeding with Your Children – Take a few minutes to show your children pictures of their time breastfeeding and/or talk to them about how much it meant to you. If you are still nursing, take some photos! Your child will love looking at them later. If they are a toddler, this will help them understand when they are older what that really looked like and that it is perfectly "normal." If you really want to have fun with it, make a nursing book of breastfeeding pictures for your child. (An inexpensive album or scrapbook – try the dollar store – is great for this, or online photo services can produce little photo books within hours.)
-- Accept Breastfeeding "Failures" – If you didn't or couldn't breastfeed, or breastfed for less time, or in other ways differently than you would have wished, take this week to release any feelings of regret or anger. Accept that you did the best you could with the information and support that you had available. Understand that any breast milk you provided to your children at all was wonderful.
Pledge to try to find resources to help you to achieve the nursing results you want with future children. If you are done having children, commit to helping a sister, cousin or friend understand the value of breastfeeding and the importance of support and information in the early days. Move away from spreading the notion that "formula is just as good," but instead that while formula is sometimes necessary, that perhaps with better support or information for women it could be possible to have more breast milk and less formula for many babies.
-- Learn about Baby Friendly Hospitals – If you don't already know, find out which local hospitals or maternity wards support the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. Call a local hospital that is not, let them know that you support this movement and ask what steps they are taking to support breastfeeding. If you are pregnant and can not deliver at a BFHI-certified hospital, learn about the goals of the program and discuss with your health provider and hospital how you can create a breastfeeding-friendly environment for yourself and your baby.
-- Congratulate a Nursing Mother – Make a point of recognizing a nursing friend for the amazing thing she is doing for her baby this week, or even a mother you don't know (maybe you'll make a friend!). If you can, find your local La Leche League group or other breastfeeding support group and stop by – even if you are no longer nursing or don't need any help, these sorts of groups love when veterans stop by and share how easy and rewarding it really does become after the first sometimes tricky weeks or months.
-- Nurse in Public – The most people, and especially children, see breastfeeding on a daily basis, the more normalized and accepted it will become. Leave the nursing cover at home this week and learn how easy it is to nurse discreetly with less "gear." Give a smile or word of support to mothers nursing when out and about.
Take this week to celebrate breastfeeding with one or all of the ideas above, and share one or more with a friend to spread the word and help World Breastfeeding Week to grow.
Looking for great breastfeeding support books for you, or to share? Here are two of my favorites: