World Breastfeeding week 2014 (1 – 7 August)

“Breastfeeding – a winning goal for life!”

Lisanne du Plessis, MNutrition, RD/RNT (SA)
Senior Lecturer, Community Nutrition, Division of Human Nutrition, Department of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University

As we draw closer to the target date of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015 and progress to the Sustainable Development Goals beyond this date, NUTRITION will remain part of these goals as it has been unequivocally linked to health, survival and performance. Very prominent in the nutrition component of these goals is the most natural and healthful first foods for babies, BREASTMILK and the act of BREASTFEEDING!

This year’s World Breastfeeding Week theme [“Breastfeeding – a winning goal for life!”] asserts the importance of increasing and sustaining the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding in the post 2015 agenda, and engaging as many groups and people as possible.

The Tshwane Declaration of support for breastfeeding in South Africa states that “promotion, protection and support of breastfeeding requires commitment and action from all stakeholders, including government and legislators, community leaders, traditional leaders and healers, civil society, healthcare workers (HCWs) and managers, researchers, the private sector, employers, the women’s sector, the media and every citizen”. This declaration recognises the multiple influences at different levels in a mother’s environment which can either support or hinder her ability and efforts to optimally feed her children.

HCWs are a major source of infant and young child feeding (IYCF) information to mothers and the crucial link between policy and practice. It has been shown that counselling delivered by trained HCWs is effective in improving exclusive breastfeeding rates. Formula feeding does not provide a safe alternative to breastfeeding in SA, mainly because of poor caregiver knowledge and education, poverty and a lack of resources that result in poor hygiene and suboptimal IYCF practices. There is also a lack of family and community support for breastfeeding; a situation that has led to many mothers opting to formula feed. Other major identified barriers that must be overcome to successfully scale up breastfeeding promotion include the lack of public facilities for breastfeeding, challenges for working mothers, including insufficient maternity leave and facilities at work that are not supportive of breastfeeding.

The winning goals of the 2014 Football World Cup is still fresh in our minds and the theme of World Breastfeeding Week reflects this excitement of hard work and achievement. It is believed that interventions focussed on women of reproductive age, pregnancy and children in the first 2 years of life can turn the tide of the high present and future disease burden caused by malnutrition in these groups. One of the interventions that can aid this achievement is to support, promote and protect breastfeeding. Let’s do it!

1. World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action. World Breastfeeding Week. Homepage on the internet. Available at: (Accessed on 25 July 2014)
2. Department of Health. The Tshwane Declaration for the Support of Breastfeeding in South Africa. S Afr J Clin Nutr. 2011;24(4):214.
3. Du Plessis LM, Pereira C. Commitment and capacity for the support of breastfeeding in South Africa. S Afr J Clin Nutr. 2013;26(3)(Supplement):S120-S128.
4. Bhutta ZA, Das JK, Rizvi A, Gaffey MF,Walker N, Horton S. et al. Evidence-based interventions for improvement of maternal and child nutrition: what can be done and at what cost? Lancet 2013;382,452–477.