Breastfeeding Problem Is the Global Problem: World Breastfeeding Week 2021
Have you heard that on the first days of August the world celebrates breastfeeding week? Depending on such measure as the proportion of children who are breastfed, evaluators can estimate not only children’s development indicators but the overall country’s development trajectory and even predetermine policy tools necessary for improvements in areas related to health, demography, and education.
Proper breastfeeding practices are important for the development pathway of babies and, thus, for public health in general. However, breastfeeding is more affordable for women from higher socio-economic groups, and it remains a challenge for many mothers without access to proper feeding, education, and social assistance opportunities.
According to studies conducted in the UK, health inequalities, especially in the part of maternal and child wellbeing, are much more complex and include not only occupational classification, but such impact factors as lack of healthcare professionals, lack of supportive behavior from family members, and social disapproval . In developing countries, these factors are much more severe and must be solved if pressure on disadvantaged women is to be mitigated.
During World Breastfeeding Week 2021, senior UN officials reminded governments once again about the importance of creating a breastfeeding-friendly environment, especially in the context of the global pandemic. Their statement has also emphasized the role of breastfeeding in combatting global malnutrition among infants and children .
According to the WHO, globally there are around 149 million children under 5 who are stunted, 45 million who are wasted, and 38.9 million who are overweight, while 45% of deaths among children of such age group are linked to undernutrition problems . This is the result of insufficient intake of nutrients that are essential for adequate natural growth of a baby’s organs. It is believed that around 13% of all deaths under five can be averted globally by breastfeeding alone since exclusive breastfeeding is the vital determinant of child survival . Indeed, the American Pregnancy Association claims that breast milk is the perfect combination of proteins, fats, vitamins, and carbohydrates without which children cannot intake all the proper elements needed for physical and mental development: “breast milk is ultimately the best source of nutrition for a new baby” .
However, in developing countries not only are newborns deprived of access to their mother’s milk, but mothers themselves cannot obtain the proper nutrition needed for the generation of their breastmilk. For example, initiation of breastfeeding reduces in countries with humanitarian disasters, unstable political landscapes, civil wars and other conflicts. Moreover, such broader problems as climate change, lack of access to education and sanitation, and lack of job opportunities for women have been shown to inhibit care of babies at the critical early stages. This later becomes a disaster for public health. To name but a few, such countries as Kenya, India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Guatemala, Ethiopia continue to suffer from extremely low breastfeeding rates.
Highlighting the importance of breastfeeding again, research communities, practitioners, and evaluators globally need to rethink the factors that contribute to this evolving health issue and incorporate it into their future plans and analyses.
Author information: yEES! Member Daria Blinova is the graduate student from Western Michigan University, studying International Development Administration at the Department of Political Science.
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The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Evaluation Society.