While malnutrition plagues numerous developing countries, rates of obesity are at an all-time high in many developed countries, with the highest prevalence in the United States and Mexico.
Health and nutritional status of mothers and infants are directly linked, making appropriate infant feeding a critical first step in preventing a variety of medical conditions. “Poor feeding practices can lead to malnutrition and obesity, and contribute to an overall decline in the health and welfare of the population,” said Cathy Carothers, President of the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA).
Research shows that infants who are not exclusively breastfed for their first six months of life are also more likely to develop a wide range of chronic and acute diseases and conditions including ear infections, diarrheal diseases, asthma, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and respiratory illnesses. In addition, mothers who do not breastfeed are at an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Keeping breastfeeding high on the public health agenda is critical to improving global health. Early and exclusive breastfeeding with the introduction of appropriate complementary feeding around six months of age ensures that both mothers and infants receive maximum health benefits.
The Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, jointly developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), serves as a road map toward a renewed commitment to exclusive breastfeeding beginning in the first hour of birth to achieve optimal health outcomes.
The Global Strategy is celebrating 10 years of guiding infant feeding in 2012. In honor of that anniversary, the topic of World Breastfeeding Week 2012 (August 1-7) is “Understanding the Past—Planning the Future: Celebrating 10 years of WHO/UNICEF’s Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding.”
Building on the concept that the Global Strategy serves as a road map for actions to protect, promote and support breastfeeding to achieve maximum health benefits, World Breastfeeding Week is being celebrated with the ILCA theme, “The Road to Lifelong Health Begins with Breastfeeding.”
This road to lifelong health is not one for mothers and babies to travel alone. “While breastfeeding is a learned behavior, it is important to remember that the journey to successful breastfeeding begins with support of families, health care providers, governments, employers and communities,” said Carothers.
The WIC Program of Yadkin County strives to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding by educating participants prenatally about the benefits of breastfeeding and helping them to find ways to fit breastfeeding into their lifestyles. Breastfeeding encouragement and support continues post-partum with additional food benefits available to breastfeeding women and the availability of breast pumps and other supplies that can be given or loaned on an as-need basis. WIC participants are also given the opportunity to enroll in a Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program to receive one-on-one breastfeeding assistance and encouragement free of charge from a Mom who was once a WIC participant herself and successfully breastfed her children.
During World Breastfeeding Week, WIC staff will be out in the community providing information to families about how they can support breastfeeding mothers within their families and communities.
Look for us at Lowe’s Foods and Food Lion in Yadkinville during the first week of August. WIC participants can enter a drawing for prizes to be given out that week as well. For more information about World Breastfeeding Week activities, breastfeeding or the WIC Program in general, contact the Yadkin County Health Department at 336-679-4203.