Leche League International
Statement Prepared for the Governments Attending the 4th World
Conference on Women, September 4-15, 1995
As a non-governmental, grass-roots, action-oriented organisation, La Leche League International (LLLI) fulfills the need for support of tangible, concrete actions in the promotion, protection, and support of breastfeeding. Women are empowered through LLLI's continuous support of the importance of breastfeeding on local, national and international levels.
The act of breastfeeding is the natural conclusion to the cycle of conception, pregnancy and childbirth. Breastfeeding contributes significantly to a woman's sense of well-being. She derives self-esteem and confidence knowing that the milk she is providing for her baby is the perfect food.
Significant protection for the mother against breast cancer and epithelial ovarian cancer have been related to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is protective against osteoporosis, with fewer hip fractures and stronger bones reported among postmenopausal women.
The contraceptive effect of exclusive breastfeeding provides 98% protection against pregnancy in the first six months. In many women, continued breastfeeding will postpone return of fertility for a year or longer. Thus, a woman's health and nutritional status is not compromised by a monthly loss of iron through menstruation or closely spaced pregnancies.
Human milk, like all mammalian milks, is species specific. The milk a woman provides is ideally suited for her baby whether preterm or full term. Around the middle of the first year of a child's life, with the addition of locally grown indigenous foods, human milk continues to meet the nutrition and immulogical needs of her growing child for two years and beyond.
Human milk reduces the risk of allergies while breastfeeding promotes jaw, tooth, facial and speech development. The role breastfeeding plays in cognitive development was demonstrated in a 1993 study which examined the long-term effect of breastfeeding. It was concluded that breastfeeding has a positive effect on children's developmental scores or school grades.
The colostrum that precedes breast milk is high in immunological factors, providing the baby's first defense against infections. Current data suggest that early and frequent breastfeeding decreases the risk of hyperbilirubinaemia and that most occurrences of jaundice need not interfere with breastfeeding.
As mother and/or baby are exposed to illnesses, the mother provides antibodies through her milk to the baby. Human milk prevents gastrointestinal and respiratory illnesses and appears to have a protective effect against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
The breastfed baby develops a sense of security by being held frequently in the mother's arms. Hormones secreted by the nursing mother promote a strong bond of love between mother and baby, thus enhancing the child's ability to grow into a loving and caring individual.
Breastfeeding ensures a secure and nutritious food source for the baby. Even when food sources are scarce and the mother's nutritional intake is compromised, breast milk continues to remain the superiour infant food. Supplementing the diet of a malnourished mother is easier, less expensive, and more beneficial than providing alternate milks and foods for a baby.
Breastfeeding contributes to food security for the entire family. A significant amount of money is saved by breastfeeding as costly artificial feeding products do not have to be purchased. Since breastfeeding contributes to the superiour health of the baby there is less money spent on health care providers, hospitals, and medicine. A woman's economic power is enhanced through breastfeeding.
Breast milk, a natural product, requires no packaging and wastes no energy. Breastfeeding has a positive impact on the environment and contributes to the quality of life of future generations on the planet Earth.
Recognising the vital importance of continued support for breastfeeding by all levels of society, La Leche League International and other members of the World Alliance For Breastfeeding Action are deeply concerned about the role of the baby milk industry, in general, and at this conference in particular.
The marketing practices of the baby milk industry that include the provision of free and low cost formula supplies to health care facilities and free samples to mothers, undermine women's confidence in their ability to nurture and sustain their children through breastfeeding.
Formula and baby food manufacturers around the world are the primary source of infant feeding information, disseminating misleading educational materials through the health care system thus giving a medical stamp of approval to breast milk substitutes. This is a major factor contributing to the decline of breastfeeding around the world.
Industry representatives have been actively involved at this conference attempting to influence the document, to undermine unified networking with NGO's, creating alliances, buying goodwill, and muting discussion or criticism of their activities.
LLLI supports the right of every woman to be informed and supported in her choice to breastfeed her baby.
The experiences of women in LLLI all over the world, in both developed and developing countries, whether at home or in the work force, have demonstrated time and again that women who are provided with accurate information and support can breastfed their babies without the use of commercially produced milks or baby foods.
Through successfully supported breastfeeding mothers benefit, babies benefit, the family unit benefits, nations benefit. The whole world benefits.
La Leche League International
PO Box 4079
Schaumburg, Illinois 60168-4079 USA