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Celebrate World Breastfeeding Week

Celebrate World Breastfeeding WeekWe’re mid-way through World Breastfeeding Week, but it’s not too late to get involved. The theme for this year’s World Breastfeeding Week is “Breastfeeding: Prepared for Life.

The health benefits of breastfeeding through the first year and beyond are well established. But many people don’t think about nursing mothers during times of tragedy such as earthquakes, floods, or war. There is no better comfort, both physical and emotional, for a mother and baby in the midst of a disaster, than nursing. It’s especially important that nursing mothers receive the support they need, including water, healthy food, and a comfortable place to nurse.

World Breastfeeding Week, taking place from August 1 – 7, 2009 is organized by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. According to the organization, breastfeeding advocates in more than 150 countries will take part in the celebration, now in its 18th year.

Breast is best, even in a crisis

The World Health Organization and UNICEF have joined WABA in the celebration. Both organizations issued a press release explaining the importance of a mother breastfeeding her infant or toddler in the midst of a crisis.

Historically, well-meaning groups have cited “inadequate milk supply” brought on by stress and/or malnutrition as a reason to provide nursing mothers with formula. In reality, breastfeeding through a crisis helps the mother maintain her milk supply (as most nursing mothers know, the more you nurse the more milk you produce), as well as offering emotional benefits throughout the tragedy. The endorphins released during breastfeeding can actually help a mother cope when everything she has known is in upheaval. Meanwhile, the nursing infant or toddlers regains a sense of normalcy from the familiarity of his mother’s milk.

Even more important, the antibodies present in breast milk can help children fight off infections and disease that may result from less-than-sanitary conditions, a lack of clean water and inadequate food supplies.

Breastmilk (unless it is pumped) needs no refrigeration for storage, requires no heating or added water, and involves no sterilization of bottles and nipples. As far as a convenient, nutritious “emergency” food, it really doesn’t get any better!

Local activities

Several local organizations, including various chapters of La Leche League, are hosting fundraising and awareness activities in honor of World Breastfeeding Week, with a specific emphasis on this year’s theme.

Some of the activities include picnics, bake sales, walk-a-thons, potluck dinners and more. You can find out more at the La Leche League USA Web site.

You don’t even have to leave your house to support the message of World Breastfeeding Week, though. The Mother’s International Lactation Campaign (M.I.L.C.), non-profit organization, dedicated to the normalization, protection and promotion of breastfeeding, is holding a Virtual Nurse-in until August 7 at 6 PM.

Get involved

No one likes to think about tragedy striking, but natural and man-made disasters can occur anywhere. There’s no reason for a nursing mother to curtail her breastfeeding during challenging times.

It’s easy to get involved in raising awareness of the importance of breastfeeding during emergencies. You can participate in any of the activities going on worldwide, join M.I.L.C’s efforts as part of the virtual nurse-in or simply take a few minutes while you are nursing to think about those experiencing difficult times – and then spread the word to others about how important it is to consider nursing mothers during emergency preparedness.

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