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An important document you’ve never read

I’d like to introduce you to the Innocenti Declaration.

The full name of this document is the Innocenti Declaration on the Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding, and it was jointly released by  the World Health Organization and UNICEF in 1990. It was this document that spurred WHO and UNICEF to launch The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative in 1991.

Notice as you read, that this is primarily a document about ensuring adequate and appropriate infant nutrition. Notice also, in the declaration section, the writers tied infant nutritional outcomes to overall maternal health — including adequate nourishment for the mother, access to family planning to allow longer inter-pregnancy intervals, and attention to the social environments in which women work and live.

The declaration includes four targets every government should strive to attain:

  1. Appointment of a national breastfeeding committee
  2. All maternity facilities practicing Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding
  3. Enforce the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk substitutes
  4. Legally protect the rights of working women to breastfeed

UNICEF published an update on progress toward the goals of the Innocenti Declaration in 2007. It is now 2014 — nearly 25 years after the declaration.  Is your country meeting these targets?

I live in the United States, in nearly 25 years my country has accomplished:

  • Formed a national breastfeeding committee.
  •  193 Hospitals accredited as practicing the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, representing 7.74% of births.
  •  The United States endorsed the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes in 1996 and 2001, however there is no legislation mandating the code is followed.
  • National law requires employers to provide both a non-bathroom space and  reasonable break time for nursing mothers. Legal protection for breastfeeding varies by state, with four states lacking laws that specifically allow women to breastfeed in any public place.
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Jennifer Vanderlaan CNM MPH is the author of the BirthingNaturally.net website. She has been working with expectant families since 2000, training doulas, childbirth educators, and midwives. She has worked with midwives in Central America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Her interest in public health grew in 2010, and she is now a PhD student learning to become a producer of knowledge.

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