The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) is a global network of individuals
& organisations concerned with the protection, promotion & support of breastfeeding worldwide.
WABA action is based on the Innocenti Declaration, the Ten Links for Nurturing the Future and the
Global Strategy for Infant & Young Child Feeding. WABA is in consultative status with UNICEF & an NGO
in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC).

Exclusive Breastfeeding: the Gold Standard
Safe, Sound, Sustainable


What is the WBW?

The World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is the greatest outreach vehicle for the breastfeeding movement, being celebrated in over 120 countries. Officially it is celebrated from 1–7 August. However, groups may choose other dates to make it a more successful event in their countries. Please contact the breastfeeding group listed in the action folder nearest to you. 

What is this year's WBW theme all about?

This year’s WBW aims to stimulate activity worldwide to get more people to understand the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and to think of ways to enable mothers to do it. The context for this is the new Global Strategy which many people are beginning to implement.   

Exclusive breastfeeding for six months means that the infant receives only breastmilk, from his or her mother or a wet nurse, or expressed breastmilk, and no other foods or drinks with the exception of drops or syrups consisting of vitamins, mineral supplements, or medicines During this time.   

After six months, breastfeeding should continue for two years or more, with complementary foods.

Exclusive breastfeeding is:  

  •        SAFE because it contains protective factors which help to prevent and fight infections, such as diarrhoea and pneumonia, and reduce the risk of allergic conditions, particularly asthma.

  •        SOUND because nutrients in breastmilk are present in the right quantity and they are of special quality. Formula and other foods contain nutrients in different amounts, and of very different quality.

  •        SUSTAINABLE because it helps a household's food security. So long as an infant’s mother, or a wet nurse, is there, breastmilk is available. A woman can make good milk from any mixture of foods, however simple.

Most babies are not exclusively breastfed. On average, globally, only 39% of babies breastfeed exclusively, even in the first 4 months of life. They may be given:  

  •    foods or drinks given before breastfeeding has really started;

  •    substitutes within a few weeks of birth, such as formula, animal milk, diluted cereals, tea or juices;

  •    early complementary feeds, that is solid foods started at 2, 3 or 4 months of age.

However, breastmilk can provide all that babies normally need for the first six months of life, including all the water, even in very hot climates. To ensure that her baby gets enough milk, a mother needs to:  

  •      Be confident that she can do it, and that her milk is the safest  and soundest for her baby;

  •      Start breastfeeding soon after delivery, to stimulate milk production;

  •      Know how to make sure that her baby is properly attached to the breast, so that the baby can suckle effectively

  •      Let the baby suckle frequently - whenever he or she wants to – both day and night. This is called demand feeding, or baby-led feeding.

  •      Let the baby continue suckling for as long as he or she wants, at each feed.

 A baby who has other feeds is less hungry, and takes less breastmilk. Then the breasts produce less milk. The other feeds do not increase a baby’s intake: they replace breastmilk. The baby gets less food, and does not grow well. He or she may get diarrhoea and actually lose weight.

 Mothers may not breastfeed exclusively because:  

  •    They do not know how important it is, or how to do it;

  •    They lack confidence, and have nowhere to turn when they have difficulties.

  •   People around them, such as fathers and grandmothers, are unsupportive, and they may have to resume employment soon after delivery.

Achieving the Gold Standard - mothers can do it with help and support!

Accurate knowledge, a supportive environment, and confidence are major factors which enable mothers to breastfeed successfully.  

  •    Policy makers should ensure that policies follow the Global Strategy,and support exclusive breastfeeding;

  •    Health Care Providers should follow the Global Strategy, which includes the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (1) and counselling mothers about breastfeeding, before, during and after delivery.

  •    The community, employers and families need to understand about exclusive breastfeeding, and how to support mothers to achieve it;

  •    Other mothers can give mother-to-mother support. Mothers, acting together, can help to change community attitudes.

 Baby-Friendly Community Initiative in the Gambia

An approach was developed which integrated maternal nutrition, complementary feeding, environmental sanitation and personal hygiene. Birth attendants and peer counselors now counsel on basic breastfeeding issues"" support groups. Initiation of breastfeeding within one hour of delivery isnow 87%, and exclusive breastfeeding for 4 months increased from 1.3% to 99.5%, in the pilot areas. Over 200 communities in the Gambia are now accredited as Baby-Friendly Communities by the Gambian government.

The Baby-Friendly Community Initiative - and expanded vision for integrated early childhood development in the Gambia. Isatou Jallow Semega-Janneh, UNICEF 2002.

Baby Friendly Hospitals In Belarus

Mothers and babies were followed up from 16 baby-friendly hospitals, which included ongoing support from polyclinics; 43 % breastfed exclusively at 3 months, and 7.9% at 6 months; compared with 6% breastfed exclusively at 3 months and less than 1% at 6 months from 15 non-baby friendly hospitals.

Kramer MS, et al. Promotion of breastfeeding intervention trials (PROBIT): a randomised trial in the Republic of Belarus. Journal of the American Medical Association 2001; vol 285:pages 413-20.

Preparing for WBW

In preparation for WBW activities, you may want to start with some of the following:  

  •     Find out how many mothers breastfeed exclusively in your country or district, from  national statistics, research studies, or data available from the internet, WHO or UNICEF.

  •     Find out if there have been any meetings about the Global Strategy, and if there are any plans to implement it in the country.

  •     Talk to some mothers in hospitals, clinics, the community, or your workplace, about their experiences, whether they breastfed exclusively and what the reasons for their decisions were.

  •     Talk to any doctors or other health workers you know and ask them what their ideas about exclusive breastfeeding are, and if they have heard about the Global Strategy.

This should give you some idea about what is happening, which should help you to plan activities for WBW 2004. Good luck!  

WBW 2004 Calendars - to download these files, right-click your mouse on the link and choose "Save Target As.."

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WBW 2004 Action Folders - to download these files, right-click your mouse on the link and choose "Save Target As.."

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Share your stories with us! 

Sharing your wonderful work will show linkage and solidarity with the global WBW campaign. We would be happy to hear from you about your efforts in promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding! Send your reports, materials you have produced or photos, if any, to PO Box 1200, 10850 Penang, Malaysia or email us. You could also download the Feedback Form (right-click your mouse on the link and choose "Save Target As.."), fill it up and fax it to us at 60-4-6572655.

SPONSORSHIP:  WABA does not accept sponsorship of any kind from companies producing breastmilk substitutes, related equipment and complementary foods. WABA encourages all participants of World Breastfeeding Week to respect and follow this ethical stance. All WABA materials are NOT TO BE USED IN CONJUNCTION WITH or BY BUSINESS INTERESTS ASSOCIATED WITH THE PRODUCTION or SALE of breastmilk substitutes, related equipment, breastpumps and complementary foods.

WBW participants reproducing or adapting WABA materials in total or in part, should credit WABA, by reproducing the WBW logo in their materials. Please send a copy of all translations and adaptations of WABA/WBW materials to the WABA Secretariat. 


World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action
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