World Breastfeeding Week 2023: Nurturing the Next Generation through Empowered Workspaces
Every year, from August 1st to 7th, the world commemorates World Breastfeeding Week (WBW), a global campaign to raise awareness and promote action towards the benefits of breastfeeding. Organized by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the campaign provides an essential platform for shining light on the health and well-being of mothers and children.
For 2023, the theme of WBW is "Let's Make Breastfeeding and Work, Work" – a call for society and workplaces to create a supportive environment that empowers breastfeeding mothers.
Work, Breastfeeding, and the Need for Balance
The WHO and UNICEF recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. However, many working mothers find this challenging due to the lack of supportive breastfeeding policies in their workplaces. Work pressure, rigid schedules, lack of privacy, and inadequate parental leave policies often create a barrier that limits mothers from combining work and breastfeeding successfully.
The 2023 theme is a rallying cry to make breastfeeding compatible with work, advocating for better conditions and stronger legal protection for working mothers.
The Vision: Supportive Work Environments
“Supportive workplaces are key. Evidence shows that while breastfeeding rates drop significantly for women when they return to work, that negative impact can be reversed when workplaces facilitate mothers to continue to breastfeed their babies.” - Joint statement by UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell and WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
The vision of this year's WBW is to build an environment where every working mother has the freedom and support to breastfeed. This involves enforcing policies that protect and support breastfeeding, such as paid maternity leave, flexible working hours, access to breastfeeding breaks, and facilities for breastfeeding or expressing milk in the workplace. Such measures help foster a culture that respects and values the act of breastfeeding.
Key Messages of World Breastfeeding Week 2023
The key messages conveyed this year emphasize the shared responsibility to create supportive work environments.
Policymakers can make breastfeeding and work, work by:
- Legislating at least 18 weeks, preferably more than 6 months, paid maternity leave
- Ensuring employers provide paid time off and a dedicated space for breastfeeding or expressing milk after this period
- Ensuring all women have access to maternity entitlements, including those in the informal sector or on limited contracts
- Tackling employment-related discrimination against women, including during and after pregnancy and birth
- Providing maternity leave that – at minimum - meets national requirements
- Providing time and space for breastfeeding or expressing and storing breastmilk
- Providing options that reduce separation of women from their babies after maternity leave, such as:
- Flexible work schedules
- On-site childcare
- Part-time work
- Letting mothers bring their babies to work
Impacting the Future
A supportive work environment is not just beneficial for the mother and child, but it also creates a ripple effect that positively influences society and future generations. By nurturing children through breastfeeding, we foster healthier, stronger communities. Ensuring that breastfeeding mothers are supported in their workplaces is, therefore, not merely a personal issue, but a societal one.
World Breastfeeding Week 2023 shines a light on an essential issue that combines women's rights, children's health, workplace fairness, and societal wellness. It's a week to celebrate, raise awareness, and most importantly, catalyze change towards creating an environment that helps mothers make breastfeeding and work, work.
The real success of World Breastfeeding Week lies not just in its ability to raise awareness but to spur action at individual, community, and policy levels. So, let's come together this week to pledge our support for breastfeeding mothers. Because a society that supports breastfeeding is a society that thrives.
World Breastfeeding Week offers a moment for us to reflect, reassess and realign our actions to support and protect one of nature's simplest yet most profound processes – the nurturing of our next generation through breastfeeding. And as we approach the 2023 edition, it's clear the time for change is now. Let's make breastfeeding and work, work!