World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated each year from August 1 to August 7 in more than 120 countries. This year, the theme is “Protect Breastfeeding: a shared responsibility.”
Obviously, breastfeeding is a responsibility that should be shared within a family. While fathers may not be able to produce breastmilk, they can certainly help mothers by providing support, taking on other responsibilities that usually fall on the mother, and even feeding baby with a bottle at night so mom can get much needed sleep.
However, I think the World Health Organization and the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, the original founders of the annual celebration, may have had something bigger in mind. After all, breastfeeding isn’t just good for moms and babies. It’s good for society. Breastfed babies are healthier and have fewer medical problems, which reduces healthcare strain on communities.
That means that everyone should get behind moms who are breastfeeding. I’d like to see more local organizations that support breastfeeding, like farmer’s markets that offer coupons for breastfeeding and partially-breastfeeding women to ensure a healthy diet. I’d like to see more corporate efforts to protect this important service that mothers provide, like Target, whose breastfeeding policy received praise after it was recently posted on Facebook.
Being a mom under any conditions is both rewarding and exhausting. Likewise, breastfeeding has too many benefits for everyone to count, but it does take a toll on moms, who can feel “touched out” after a day of nursing. This week, pay special attention to the breastfeeding moms in your life and let them know you’re proud of them. Offer to lend a hand if you’ve got the time.
And if you’re the breastfeeding mom, I want you to know that I’m proud of you. Keep up the labor of love. You’re not just improving the health of your own child – you’re improving the health of your family, your community, and the world.