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Valuing and resourcing mother-to-mother support and breastfeeding counselling across countries – making visible the leadership, innovation and contributions of women and breastfeeding NGOs

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Alessandro Iellamo

Save the Children UK

Normal user

27 Oct 2020, 11:12

Dear colleagues,

Thank you so much for your participation in our series of webinars thus far, we hope you have found them to be of value. 

Next up we have - (please note the time change for those in DST - it is 7pm start AEDT

‘Valuing and resourcing mother-to-mother support and breastfeeding counselling across countries – making visible the leadership, innovation and contributions of women and breastfeeding NGOs’.

This webinar, to be held via Zoom on Monday 9 November, 7-10pm AEDT will highlight the uniquely valuable and innovative contributions of women’s groups to protecting promoting and supporting breastfeeding, including through mother to mother support and ‘breastfeeding counselling’, but also through their feminist advocacy for necessary cultural and structural changes such as on preventing exploitative baby food marketing, universalising the Baby Friendly Hospital initiative, ensuring adequate paid maternity leave and breastfeeding friendly workplaces and childcare services, and applying anti-discrimination laws including on breastfeeding in public.

Information and insight will be provided into the evolution and contribution of grass roots women’s breastfeeding support organisations to creating a supportive cultural and policy environment. This includes through innovative programs addressing structural and institutional barriers to breastfeeding in Australia and across the world. 

The webinar will look at such organisations from diverse country settings, such as Australia, Norway, India, Indonesia, and Brazil and among refugee populations in the Middle East. It will explore the key elements of breastfeeding counselling success, the human rights and gender considerations including the resources committed by women and breastfeeding support organisations, as well as governments and other agencies involved in breastfeeding promotion, protection and support.   

Mothers generally want to breastfeed, as is the right of mother and baby. Breastfeeding is natural, but it is a learned skill that needs to be protected and supported. Health services may not be well placed to help, and may hinder breastfeeding. The BFHI Ten Steps have long recognised that referral to peer support in the community is an essential element for establishing and continuing breastfeeding. 

In Australia, the Australian Breastfeeding (formerly Nursing Mothers’) Association has been providing crucial mother-to-mother support since 1964. This grass-roots organisation has been providing up to date information, mother to mother support and creation of a breastfeeding friendly environment with the dedication of thousands of volunteers since 1964. Other countries have similar organisations or networks. The advocacy of such groups has been crucial to recovering breastfeeding and has led to growing recognition that cultural and structural factors can impede breastfeeding. It emphasises the importance of creating enabling environments and settings for breastfeeding. This approach also reduces inequity in access and helps reduce socioeconomic disparities.

WHO guidelines recently recognized breastfeeding counselling as a core ‘intervention’ that should be provided as part of the health care services. So what does ‘breastfeeding counselling’ look like as part of mother to mother support in the community?

This webinar is the seventh in the series Human rights, gender budgeting and progressing breastfeeding in 2020. Our purpose in holding the webinar series is to use the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy (ANBS) as a vehicle for advancing the human rights, reproductive health and breastfeeding rights of women and children. The ANBS includes initiatives addressing individual enablers such as ‘Universal breastfeeding education, support and information services’ such as through priority actions like ‘strengthening programs that provide mother-to mother support and peer counselling’. It also includes wider BFHI implementation and health professional training as priority action areas.

Our series of webinars since April 2020 have introduced the concepts and tools for a gender analysis of budgeting for breastfeeding, noting that breastfeeding is a human right of women and children, and is economically valuable but unpaid and invisible productive work.

We intend these webinars to help build capacity among participants for advocacy and achieving real progress on each of the ANBS Priority action areas, through sharing experience, knowledge and skills.  This includes harnessing the power of gender responsive budgeting approaches focussed on governments’ international treaty commitments to applying  ‘maximum feasible resourcing’ towards realisation of human rights, such as through adequate maternity care and related policies.  So far we have held 6 webinars, and this has generated high registrations (over 400 individuals have registered, from more than 40 countries, and many for most or all of the webinars) and ongoing engagement in the series, including from numerous international organisations, health professionals and researchers. The events were recorded and presentations can be found here.

1.      Gender Responsive Budgeting and Progressing Breastfeeding Policy in 2020 and Beyond – Introductory Webinar (6 April) 

2.      Breastfeeding policy in 2020 and beyond – Emergency and pandemic preparedness and response planning in Australia (20 April) 

3.      Progressing Australia’s policies and plans for mothers and babies in disasters and pandemics: experiences from high- and middle-income countries (4 May)

4.      Protecting women’s reproductive rights in policy and resourcing decisions – the need for ‘data and dollars’  (18 May)

5.      Advancing women’s and children’s health rights, gender responsive budgeting and progressing the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy in maternity care

‘Back to work’ or ‘babysitting the economy’? - Advancing public health and productive work through investments in maternity protection and childcare

If you would like to attend this webinar you will find more information and access the registration form, and zoom link information here 

Please share far and wide with interested colleagues and friends, 

We hope to see you there - 

Naomi Hull

Julie Smith

Alessandro Iellamo

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