Maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health

World Breastfeeding Week

1-7 August 2009, Geneva, Switzerland

World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated every year from 1 to 7 August in more than 120 countries to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world. World Breastfeeding Week commemorates the Innocenti Declaration made by WHO and UNICEF policymakers in August 1990 to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is the best way to provide newborns with the nutrients they need. WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is six months old, and continued breastfeeding with the addition of nutritious complementary foods for up to two years or beyond.

The theme of World Breastfeeding Week 2009 is "Breastfeeding - a vital emergency response. Are you ready?". It highlights the need to protect, promote and support breastfeeding in emergencies for infant and young child survival, health and development.

Children are among the most vulnerable groups during emergencies, and small children are the most vulnerable of all, due to increased risk of death due to diarrhoea and pneumonia. During emergencies, unsolicited or uncontrolled donations of breast-milk substitutes may undermine breastfeeding and should be avoided. As part of emergency preparedness, hospitals and other health care services should have trained health workers who can help mothers establish breastfeeding and/or overcome difficulties.

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