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Breastfeeding - A Key to Sustainable Development

39/2016, 30.09.2016

To mark the occasion of international World Breastfeeding Week, the National Breastfeeding Committee at the BfR is issuing a reminder of the significance of breastfeeding for mother and child

International World Breastfeeding Week is being celebrated in the German-speaking world from 3 – 9 October 2016 under the motto “Breastfeeding – A Key to Sustainable Development”. To mark this occasion, the National Breastfeeding Committee is emphasising that breast milk is the ideal nutrition for infants. “Breastfeeding is not only important for the health of the child and mother but also for the development of an entire country,” says BfR President Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel. “Out of responsibility towards the growing number of migrants and refugees in Germany, we have translated the BfR’s breastfeeding recommendations into many languages, including Arabic this year”.

Breast milk is the natural and therefore the ideal food for infants because it is easily digestible and ideally adapted to infants’ needs. Its composition is such that it completely satisfies a healthy child’s requirements for liquid and nutrients during the first six months of its life. Breastfed children take ill less often than those that aren’t because the antibodies contained in breast milk protect against many infections. Breastfeeding also supports emotional bonding between the mother and child and enhances the child’s cognitive development and intelligence. There are also indications of a long-term reduction in the risk of becoming obese or contracting Type 2 diabetes. Breast milk is available at virtually all times and it comes in hygienically perfect condition at the right temperature. Breastfeeding mothers have a lower risk of contracting certain diseases such as breast cancer. Breastfeeding therefore promotes the development and health of both mother and child and is an economically sustainable feeding method which makes a considerable contribution to public health.

Infants should be breastfed exclusively until the beginning of the 5th month at least. Even after complementary feeding has been introduced at the beginning of the 5th month at the earliest and beginning of the 7th month at the latest, mothers can and should continue to breastfeed. The mother and child determine the total duration of breastfeeding. The National Breastfeeding Committee recommends that both parents be informed about the advantages of breastfeeding before the child is born. Mothers should have the opportunity to seek advice from qualified persons if they have difficulties with breastfeeding. Social enlightenment should help to ensure that mothers encounter a breastfeeding-friendly environment in public and at work too.

With its breastfeeding recommendations, the National Breastfeeding Committee at the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) provides information on the significance of breastfeeding and attempts to encourage mothers to seek competent help if they encounter any difficulties. Breastfeeding problems can be due to insufficient information and a lack of support. The BfR flyers “Breastfeeding recommendations for pregnant women” and “Breastfeeding recommendations for infancy” list various points of contact and organisations that offer help. These flyers have been available for quite some time in German, Turkish, Russian, English, French and Italian and since 2016 in Arabic too. The flyers were translated into Arabic at the request of physicians and midwives who attend to expectant and nursing mothers who have fled their home countries. Psychological strain and mental stress for such reasons as unsafe and uncertain living conditions can have a negative effect on breastfeeding. In cases of this kind, it is all the more important for those affected to have understandable information on how to get help.

All flyers can be requested free-of-charge from the National Breastfeeding Committee or downloaded in pdf format from the BfR website:

In line with the 17 sustainability goals of the United Nations, the theme of World Breastfeeding Week refers to the sustainability of breastfeeding. This aspect is of particular importance to people who live in poverty. Breastfeeding has a more favourable energy and environmental balance than substitute breast milk products.

The National Breastfeeding Committee was founded in 1994 with the goal of supporting the development of a new breastfeeding culture in Germany and making a contribution towards ensuring that breast milk becomes the normal food for infants. The committee is made up of members from professional medical associations and organisations which support the promotion of breastfeeding in Germany. More information on the work of the National Breastfeeding Committee is published on the following website:

About the BfR

The German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) is a scientifically independent institution within the portfolio of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) in Germany. It advises the Federal Government and Federal Laender on questions of food, chemical and product safety. The BfR conducts its own research on topics that are closely linked to its assessment tasks.

This text version is a translation of the original German text which is the only legally binding version.


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