World Breastfeeding Week Begins
Today is the beginning of World Breastfeeding Week. According to UNAIDS, this week is designated to pay tribute to the power of breastfeeding in aiding the health of babies and toddlers. “It helps to prevent a number of diseases in childhood and later in life. It offers protection from infections, allergies and adult-life chronic conditions like hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and cancer that rob the national budgets of millions of dollars.”
Not only is breastfeeding important for overall health, but it is critical in helping keep the babies of women living with HIV healthy. Breastfeeding is a major cause of mother-to-child-transmission, but in environments where drinking water may be less than ideal, breast milk provides many needed antibodies, nutrients, and vitamins. Moreover, studies have found that ARV use by the mother during breastfeeding can cut the risk of mother-to-child-transmission, making breastfeeding the best way to ensure HIV-free survival for babies and toddlers in the developing world. But in order to keep babies and mothers healthy, an HIV vaccine is much-needed to prevent mother-to-child-transmission and provide immunity for life.
The World Health Organization (WHO) advocates for exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months. UNICEF has more information on the importance of breastfeeding here.
Jane Coaston is Media Relations Coordinator for EGPAF in Washington, D.C.