August 1 – 7, 2018 is World Breastfeeding Week and doulas are on the front lines of helping families get breastfeeding off to a good start. Every year, World Breastfeeding Week has a specific theme, and the 2018 theme is “Foundation of Life.” In a world filled with inequality, crises, and poverty, breastfeeding is the foundation of lifelong good health for mothers and babies. The World Breastfeeding Week organization shares that “breastfeeding prevents hunger and malnutrition in all its forms and ensures food security for babies, even in times of crises. With no additional burden on household income, breastfeeding is a low-cost way of feeding babies and contributes to poverty reduction. Nutrition, food security, and poverty reduction are fundamental to achieving the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

There are four objectives that are called out as World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated worldwide. Today, I share a bit about how birth and postpartum doulas can help support families to achieve their breastfeeding goals

Objective 1: Inform

When families are interested in learning more, doulas can discuss prenatally the benefits of breastfeeding for both the parent and the baby. Information about supportive nutrition prenatally and during the postpartum period can help families understand how this supports a breastfeeding relationship and demonstrate how breastfeeding has financial benefits along with the known health benefits. Breastfeeding has benefits on a societal level, especially where there are food inequities or in under-resourced areas.

Objective 2: Anchor

Doulas can help establish breastfeeding as a biological norm and share that all humans, just like every other mammal, are born knowing how to breastfeed. All birthing parents have all the “equipment” they need to successfully breastfeed their newborns. All newborns have the desire and skills to breastfeed. I would like to acknowledge that there are some circumstances where either the parent or the baby (or both) require additional support to successfully breastfeed or are unable to breastfeed due to conditions that may arise in one or the other or both. Most healthy parents and babies can establish a successful breastfeeding relationship given time, space and appropriate resources if necessary.

Objective 3 Engage

Doulas can identify those organizations in their own communities who are providing services and support to new families. Working with those effective community organizations to reach families who need support can help new parents meet their breastfeeding goals and help extend the reach of the organization.

Objective 4: Galvanise

Doulas can work both in their community as well as on a larger scale with local, state/provincial and federal agencies to help grow the breastfeeding support that families receive while parenting infants and young children, and also working with those agencies to establish fair parental leave policies that allow families to make caring for their new family a priority. Leaning in with time and energy can help bring awareness of the importance of breastfeeding to poverty reduction, proper nutrition, and improved health.

 Breastfeeding Matters

The World Breastfeeding Week website has many useful resources for doulas and other birth professionals, including campaign images, infographics, sample media messages and more. I encourage doulas to increase awareness about the importance of breastfeeding within their business and their community. Breastfeeding matters on a global level and doulas can play a useful role in helping the families they support to start out on the right path to a sustained and effective breastfeeding relationship with their little ones.

What are you doing to publicize World Breastfeeding Week? Share in the comments below.