by Julie Snyder
World Breastfeeding Week is an annual event held August 1st - 7th. For over 20 years, this has become a worldwide celebration commemorating the signing of the Innocenti Declaration outlining the many benefits of breastfeeding along with government and global goals. More so, this week has enabled women around the world (currently in over 150 countries) to encourage, empower, and serve as witnesses as they breathe life into and expand the document's findings.
In 2009, the theme was centered on "Breastfeeding -- A Vital Emergency Response." It's still as vital today. Emergencies can happen anywhere and anytime. Infants and young children are especially vulnerable in these situations by threats of malnutrition, illness, and death. When disaster strikes child mortality rates may rocket 2 to 70 times their norm. As devastating as these emergencies can be – from home fires, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes, hurricane disasters, conflicts within a nation, or threats of pandemics – the story remains the same. Breastfeeding serves as a lifeline and shield protecting these innocent little ones.
Being able to continue breastfeeding during an emergency can bring comfort and a sense of normalcy even in the most stressful situations. Breastfeeding can continue even when an emergency interferes with the family's established food supply and utilities. Situations that would otherwise be devastating for families that rely on sufficient funds for and access to formula, sanitation for feeding supplies, and refrigeration are no cause for alarm when the established food supply for the baby is mother's milk. A breastfed baby is better prepared to deal with health challenges, avoiding some medical emergencies.2