Innocenti Declaration

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Twenty years ago, health care leaders and breastfeeding proponents in the World Health Organization and UNICEF held a conference in Florence, Italy regarding the promotion of breastfeeding in all nations. The result of that conference was the Innocenti Declaration. As appropriate today as ever, here are some of the major findings of the conference:

  • Human Breast milk is the most natural and healthy substance for infants to feed upon. It naturally contains the vitamins, minerals, and other essentials babies need.
  • Breast milk helps reduce instances of certain infectious diseases in babies.
  • Breast feeding has numerous health benefits for the mother as well as the child. These include reduced instances of post partum depression and breast cancer.
  • Breast feeding has emotional benefits for both mother and child, particularly as it relates to bonding.
  • Breast feeding has economic benefits for families, eliminating the need for infant formula and numerous associated items (i.e., bottles, nipples, etc. ).

Because of these obvious benefits of breast feeding, here are the main tenets of the Innocenti Declaration:

  • All infants should be breastfed exclusively for the first four to six months.
  • Babies should continue to breastfeed, supplemented with other appropriate foods until at least their second birthday.
  • An environment of awareness must be fostered, making it more comfortable for women to breast feed their babies.
  • Obstacles to breast feeding in the work place, health system, and community must be eliminated.
  • A “Culture of breast feeding” must be re introduced into developed nation where a “bottle feeding culture” has become ingrained. Further, this must be defended against anyone who would oppose it.
  • Breast feeding policies should be set at a national, governmental level. National governments should use what influence they have to encourage breast feeding.
  • Breast feeding should be promoted on a national and international level, with constant monitoring and evaluation an integral part of supporting breast feeding to all socio economic levels of society.

Today, a mere twenty years since the Declaration, which was co sponsored by the United States, very few would argue that the healthiest way to feed a baby is breastfeeding. Of course, there are still many who choose, for one reason or another, not to do so, but as a whole, the international community is making a significant shift back towards breast feeding.

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This entry was posted in Pregnancy.


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