Message from the Regional Director on World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August 2013)

Manila, the Philippines

Breastfeeding saves lives. Not only does it nourish children, but it protects them from infectious diseases in the short term and from asthma, hypertension, cancer and cardiovascular diseases in the long term.

Even in the remotest villages of the Western Pacific Region, misleading and inappropriate marketing of infant formula reaches vulnerable mothers, manipulating them into using sub-optimal and often dangerous alternatives to breast milk. This marketing in many cases even infiltrates the hospitals, clinics and other health facilities that should be foundations of support for breastfeeding.

Sticking a bottle filled with infant formula into the mouth of a newborn is a deliberate attempt to confuse the infant into believing that the first source of food is the bottle and not the mother’s breast. And all too often it succeeds. The babies start to refuse the breast. As a consequence, countless mothers find their dreams to breastfeed shattered because their infants are tricked into taking the formula.

Because workplace protections are not always sufficient, many mothers are also confronted with the choice of either continuing to breastfeed or of returning to work. In a world that cares adequately for the health of mothers and children, mothers would not have to choose between doing one or the other. They would be able to do both.

The World Health Organization congratulates countries of the Western Pacific Region for adopting measures that protect, promote and support breastfeeding—a universal right for every infant and mother.

During World Breastfeeding Week 2013, we call on all governments to uphold the right of every mother to breastfeed and of every child to be breastfed by:

  • curtailing inappropriate marketing of breast milk substitutes;
  • strengthening workplace legislation and regulation;
  • ensuring that health systems and workers support the initiation and maintenance of breastfeeding; and
  • engaging communities to provide peer support.