Speech by UNICEF Iran Deputy Representative on World Breastfeeding Week 2011
I am privileged to join you in celebrating this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, an important occasion and a major cornerstone in the health and wellbeing of both children and mothers.
I would like to appreciate the Ministry of Health in Iran for their endless work and support in promoting breastfeeding across the country through activities such as promotional campaigns for World Breast Feeding Week, publishing an encyclopedia on breastfeeding, implementing the baby Friendly Hospital Initiative and developing guidelines for children’s nutritional care.
This year, our collective efforts are focused to protect, support and promote breastfeeding under the theme” Talk to Me.”
The theme puts an intentional emphasis on communication, as an essential dimension of promoting breastfeeding. Each of us plays a variety of roles and has the most powerful tool needed – a voice to talk to others about why breastfeeding matters, how to help mothers breastfeed their children, what role the community can play and what is the role of health systems.
Every mother can breastfeed, if given appropriate support, advice and encouragement, as well as practical assistance to resolve potential problems. Studies have shown that early skin to skin contact between mothers and babies, frequent and unrestricted breast feeding to ensure continued production of milk, help with positioning and attaching the baby increase the chances of breast feeding being successful.
Breastfeeding has an extraordinary range of benefits. From its profound impact on a child’s survival, health, nutrition and development to creation of a mysterious bond between mother and baby, stimulation, development of behaviour, speech, sense of wellbeing and security to wide range of benefits for the health of mothers.
Unfortunately the region where we are, Middle East and North Africa is the only region with reducing trend of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life, with official figures in Iran indicating a 50% reduction of this practice from 1998 to 2007. Why the practice of this natural holy phenomenon is on decline in Iran and many countries in region?
The reasons are a network of interlinked causes, among them a very neglected one is “inefficient communication” on the matter!
The benefits of breastfeeding for the child and the mother is known to all of you, but mothers are the ones who need to know most, and through change attitude and behaviours, choose breastfeeding as the healthy option. Efforts should be focusing on a systematic communication strategy!
A strategy that can also dilute the impact of the societal and commercial pressure to stop breastfeeding specially the aggressive marketing and media adverts by formula producers.
This pressure is too high, and unfortunately often worsened by inaccurate medical advices!
Being able to promote breastfeeding under such pressure, long term, well organized and strategized communication programs for promotion of breastfeeding is needed.
This year we would like to emphasize that communication for breastfeeding must not be limited to annual breastfeeding days or weeks, but longer term plans and campaigns are needed to be effective and to bring a change.
Breastfeeding is an option which holds equity by nature. Regardless of their socio-economic situation, ethnicity, living standards, etc all mothers can breastfeed their children, the only factor which disturbs this balance, is the mentioned pressure and lack of competitive efforts on communication for promotion of breast feeding.
As a mother who has breastfed my child, I, personally, feel responsible to talk to other young women and support them in breastfeeding. In fact, each and every one of us is accountable to pass on the message, through any communication means possible, be it a chat with friends, sharing on blog and social media, speaking on Tv& radio, and many more ways as the theme of this year’s World Breastfeeding Week also suggests.
Finally, I would like to announce that UNICEF Iran has devoted strategic and long term programmatic attention to communication for better breastfeeding in the coming years and we would like to urge all of you to join us in this effort: You as a caregiver, You as an integral member of society, You as a receiver and giver of knowledge and support, and You as the young person thinking of this issue for the first time. Let’s enhance the perception and knowledge about breastfeeding, and bring the dialogue to life, making this year’s World Breastfeeding Week celebration a true experience: an opportunity for outreach, an investment in a healthy future, and ultimately, a unifying lens through which to see the world, because Breastfeeding is about more than the milk.
If every lactating mother can persuade only another mother to breastfeed her baby, the number of breastfed children will be doubled.