Inside the Politics of Breastfeeding Promotion

20 MARCH 2014 | ONLINE

Originally published on the Impatient Optimist

Shawn Baker, Mariam Claeson, Werner Schultink

The Sistine Chapel seems an unlikely place to launch a new breastfeeding revolution, but future historians may tell us that’s where it began. When Pope Francis recently invited mothers to feed their hungry infants during a special baptism, he was also sending a global message in support of public breastfeeding. "If they are hungry, mothers, feed them" said a smiling Francis, “because they are the most important people here." Breastfeeding advocates were thrilled, calling on other personalities to follow his lead.

It doesn’t make headlines, but every year 800,000 children under five die because of poor breastfeeding practices. Scientific evidence about breastfeeding’s extraordinary benefits continues to grow. Initiating breastfeeding within the first hour after birth can reduce newborn mortality by up to 20 percent.