Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Abundant Health and Breastfeeding: Working Together for the Common Good

By Kathy Griffith and Bella DiFilippo*

World Breastfeeding Week, August 1–7, 2017

This week marks the 25th anniversary of World Breastfeeding Week. People from more than 170 countries are expected to participate because of breastfeeding’s universal value. It is vital to sustainable development and to global action to end malnutrition. Breastfeeding is not just a woman’s issue, as stated by World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), “it’s a collective, societal responsibility shared by us all.”

Mutum Biyu Clinic_Mother and Child 21.jpgA Nigerian woman holds her healthy infant, one of the many babies that has benefitted from the Abundant Health initiative implemented at the Mutum Biyu Clinic in Nigeria.                                    PHOTO: KATHY GRIFFITH

Breastfeeding Has a Vital Role to Play

Breastfeeding is critically important for children and mothers everywhere. It offers the healthiest start to life, providing the fluids, nutrients, and protection that children need in their first six months. Breastfed children have at least six times greater chance of survival in their early months than non-breastfed children. Breastfeeding reduces infant death, childhood illness, and non-communicable disease. It also supports children’s brain development and bonding between mother and child.

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A mother breastfeeds her child outside of the Mutum Biyu Clinic in Nigeria.                                  PHOTO: KATHY GRIFFITH

Mothers in the Formal Workplace

Many women in the formal workplace go back to work in the weeks after giving birth, but many are still in need of supportive work conditions like maternity leave, breaks from work, and privacy to enable them to breastfeed.

Statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)ⁱ on breastfeeding in the United States show that upon giving birth, most mothers in America (about 81 percent) breastfeed their babies. However, that number decreases significantly after the baby reaches six months in age.

Contributing factors to this decrease are often caused by lack of support in the work place and from healthcare providers and family members. Without helpful resources, American women often become discouraged in breastfeeding and turn to formula to feed their babies.

Mothers in the Informal Work Sector

There are tens of millions more women working in the informal work sector or are simply trying to survive. These women may work in their homes, on farms, on the road, or may even live in refugee camps. They need family and community support to manage the demands of both work and breastfeeding their children. Some mothers are still children themselves.

Women are often negatively affected by cultural beliefs that surround breastfeeding. It is important that attitudes and mindsets be changed for mothers to know the best care and health for their children.

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Joyce Madanga talks about the benefits of the Abundant Health initiative taking place at the Mutum Biyu clinic in Nigeria. PHOTO: KATHY GRIFFITH

Breastfeeding is strongly promoted at each of the international Abundant Health initiative projects. Mrs. Joyce Madanga, a registered nurse and coordinator for maternal and child health with Global Health’s Abundant Health Initiative project in Nigeria spoke about the improvements that have taken place since the start of the project: “Pregnant women now come on their own for prenatal care, having seen the improved health of their pregnant neighbors attending Gwandum and Worom Maternity Centers. Home deliveries and complications in pregnancy and labor have declined . . . and mothers now know that exclusive breastfeeding for six months is key for their children’s survival.”

Advocating for Mothers and Children Everywhere

The Global Health Unit of Global Ministries stands with WABA to advocate for breastfeeding and breastfeeding-friendly environments. Breastfeeding needs to be understood as a matter of rights and gender equality.

Pray for mothers everywhere for their ability, wisdom, and the means to nurture their children.

To support Global Health’s work around healthy mothers and their healthy babies, give to Advance #3021770.

Learn more about breastfeeding through WHO’s presentation

*Kathy Griffith is the program manager for Global Health Unit’s Mother, Newborn, and Child Health program. Bella DiFilippo is program area liaison from Communications for Global Ministries.