South Africa: Breastfeeding Is Key to a Healthier Population and a Healthier Planet

Breastfeeding baby.

We are mid-way through World Breastfeeding Week 2020 and it's obvious that little has changed in decades for women whose environments are not conducive to breastfeeding their infants.

"When I am hungry, I even breastfeed her my hunger." These were the words of one of my research participants back in December 2018. Long before Covid-19's arrival.

It's World Breastfeeding Week 2020, the annual global campaign to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding. The campaign has, since 1992, called on governments and all sectors of society to promote, protect and support breastfeeding.

Much of the world has suboptimal breastfeeding rates, despite global and local breastfeeding promotion efforts. This year's global theme is, "Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet". Locally, the national Department of Health's theme is, "Support breastfeeding for a healthier South Africa".

But the question remains. How can we call on women to breastfeed when, in so many cases, their circumstances are far from favourable to allow them to breastfeed successfully, much less optimally?

Breastfeeding provides lifelong benefits and therefore any investments in its support and promotion will have multiple returns - but if we want to meet our sustainable development goals, women and children must...

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