Mothers around the world have bared their chests in an event to promote and raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding. From the Philippines to Romania, breastfeeding mothers have taken to the streets armed their infants to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week which is held every year from 1 to 7 August in more than 120 countries.
First celebrated in 1992 WBW promotes exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) agree the practice yields tremendous health benefits, providing critical nutrients, protection from deadly diseases such as pneumonia and fostering growth and development.
In the Philippines 500 women attended the ‘Hakab Na! 2016’ event in Pasig City, east of Manila, on Saturday. The fourth annual event of ‘Hakab’, which means to cling tightly to the body, was organised by non-government organisation Breastfeeding Pinays. Mothers proudly breastfed their children while holding up signs such as ‘breast is best’, ‘new generation mums love breastfeeding’ and ‘breastfeeding is nation building’. One mother said she was proud to have breastfed her daughter for more than three years. Breastfeeding is protected by various laws in the Philippines, which grants mothers the right to breastfeed in public and taking breastfeeding breaks at work.
While UNICEF and the World Health Organisation promotes exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, only 34 per cent of infants under six months are exclusively breastfed. Pro-breastfeeding groups have protested against the rise of breast milk substitutes, such as baby milk formulas. The Milk Code of the Philippines prohibits the advertising of infant formula or bottle teats for infants under two years old.
Dozens of Romanian mothers gathered at a museum in Bucharest to breastfeed their babies to promote the freedom of mothers to breastfeed in public. Mothers dressed in embroidered traditional peasant blouses sat, chatted and fed their children Saturday at the event at the picturesque Village Museum. Alexandra Hulea, a 31-year-old marketing specialist, still feeds her 13-month-old twins Eva and Dominic. She says ‘people look strangely at you, but I don’t care because my children are my priority.’ Pediatrician Iulia Balint-Boia said that only 12.6 percent of Romanian mothers still breastfeed their babies at six months. She added, ‘It benefits both mothers and children, but not everyone is used to seeing it in our society.’
In India – where women also took part – a nationwide awareness programme has been launched, called ‘Maa – Mother’s Absolute Affection,’ on breastfeeding with Bollywood star Madhuri Dixit as the brand ambassador. Both funding and counselling services will be provided thanks to the nationwide initiative. India’s health minister JP Nadda said in New Delhi on Friday that promoting breastfeeding in the country is imperative. Currently nearly 20 per cent of newborn and 13 per cent of children under the age of five years die in India due to causes attributed to poor breastfeeding practices.
The Global Big Latch On movement also advocates the importance of breast feeding encouraging women to gather together to breastfeed and offer peer support to each other. Volunteers from within the community host each location, hosting a Global Big Latch On creates a lasting support network for the community.
The Global Big Latch On – started in New Zealand in 2005 – takes place annually over two days during WBW. Last year 28 countries took part with 15,336 women recorded as breastfeeding in 654 location across the world. This year’s figures are not yet known.