Data from the World Health Organisation (WHO) says breast milk antibodies help protect a baby from illness and that it has health benefits for both babies and mothers as it provides a baby with ideal nutrition and supports growth and development and can also help protect baby and mom against certain illnesses and diseases.
Breastfed babies are said to have a lower risk of asthma, obesity, type one diabetes and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Breastfed babies are also less likely to have ear infections and stomach bugs.
Also breast milk shares antibodies from the mother with her baby and these antibodies help babies develop a strong immune system and protect them from illnesses
As a benefit to mothers, breastfeeding can reduce the mother’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer, type II diabetes and high blood pressure.
Breastfeeding also helps to reduce families’ out of pocket expenditures to treat diarrhoea and pneumonia.
Globally, it is estimated that improving breastfeeding practices could save more than 820,000 lives annually—87 per cent of them infants under six months of age.
In Ghana, it is estimated that 52 per cent of babies are exclusively breastfed for six months.
August 1 to 7 every year is recognised as World Breastfeeding Week.
The week is used in celebrating the successes achieved in breastfeeding as well as serves as an avenue to educate and also create awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding to mothers and their babies.
This year’s week celebration in Ghana was on the theme: “Enabling Breastfeeding: Making a Difference for Working Parents” and it emphasises the importance of creating a supportive environment that allows working parents to continue breastfeeding without affecting their work.
In a joint statement by the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and the Ghana Health Service (GHS) to mark the week, they reaffirmed their commitment to promoting and supporting breastfeeding.
It said breastfeeding was a fundamental right of every child and was vital to child survival and development.
It, however, said despite the irrefutable benefits of breastfeeding, many working parents still faced difficulties in keeping up with exclusive breastfeeding for the recommended six months and continue to breastfeed for up to two years or longer.
It pinpointed long working hours, limited maternity leave, inadequate breastfeeding leave and the stigma surrounding breastfeeding in the workplace as some of the barriers preventing parents from providing optimal nutrition for their infants.
The two entities therefore called on all stakeholders, including governments, employers, civil society and community organisations, to work together to overcome those barriers and create a favourable environment to support breastfeeding for working parents.
It recommended among others for laws and workplace policies as national legislation that protects the breastfeeding rights of working parents, including full leave, flexible work arrangements and breastfeeding leave.
Also a joint statement by the UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell and WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, to mark the week, said in the last 10 years, many countries have made significant progress to increase exclusive breastfeeding rates.
Yet even greater progress is possible when breastfeeding is protected and supported, particularly in the workplace.
The statement which was on the international theme, “Let’s make breastfeeding at work, work” emphasised the need for greater breastfeeding support across all workplaces to sustain and improve progress on breastfeeding rates globally.
It said in the last decade, the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding has increased by a remarkable 10 percentage points, to 48 per cent globally saying to reach the global 2030 target of 70 per cent, the barriers women and families faced to achieving their breastfeeding goals must be addressed.