The Breastfeeding Taboo

We live in a world where there is a Normalize Breastfeeding movement. A breastfeeding emoji is still awaiting approval. Babies everywhere are being told they shouldn’t eat or drink in public! Breastfeeding is the best place for babies to find nourishment, packed with all the natural nutrients they need to develop. But female objectification means breastfeeding in many Western countries remains taboo. The barriers to breastfeeding in developing countries are often much more sinister. Luckily, the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) is devoted to discovering factors that can prevent breastfeeding, to encourage families worldwide to get involved.

Mia and Bryndis at the WABA Breastfeeding Forum (Image courtesy of Mia Ydholm)

On their 25th anniversary earlier this month, WABA held the Global Breastfeeding Partners Forum 2016 in Penang, Malaysia. Our students Mia and Bryndís joined them to discuss ways to continue the work of supporting, promoting and protecting breastfeeding on regional, national and global scales.

Bryndís and Mia were participating as panelists along with other youth leaders. WABA is very conscious of the importance of youth voices in their discussions of the global goals. There are more young people in the world than ever before – half of the worlds population is younger than 25 years old. The majority of these young people are in developing countries, where help is needed most. With a young generation emerging that is better educated and more globally connected than ever before, WABA recognize the value of including young people in conversation and decisions.

panelist breastfeeding malaysia
Mia and Bryndís speak on a panel at the WABA Forum

Bryndís met WABA’s Chief Executive at the Women Deliver conference in Copenhagen in 2016, and she expressed an interest in becoming a breastfeeding advocate, as someone dedicated to maternal and child health. He later invited her to represent Metropol Global Nutrition & Health department. Fellow student Mia, is currently on maternity leave from GNH. Her unique perspective as breastfeeding parent and global health and nutrition student, meant she was the ideal representative for NGO Girls Globe.

The main focus of the Forum was to refine elements of the Empowering Parents Campaign (EPC) and the Warm chain. By promoting gender equitable parental protection, with parental leave, family friendly workplaces (that support breastfeeding breaks and provide the facilities for it) EPC promotes supportive norms around breastfeeding.


‘The Warm Chain’ of support is an extension of the Baby-Friendly Family Initiative. It aims to promote access to support across community and healthcare. In an optimal functioning warm chain of support, a mother and her surrounding network  (partner, family, community) are informed and have access to accurate information about breastfeeding and the mother will receive ongoing support from healthcare professionals throughout pregnancy, during birth, after birth, and up to 100 days after the child is born.

youth voice speak up breastfeeding
Panelist asks her children to give their opinion (Image courtesy of Nisha Kumaravel, WABA)

Diversity in collaboration is an important part of WABA’s strategy. By including men, academics, and youth perspectives, innovative approaches were explored to influence breastfeeding rates on both a local and national scale.

A total of eight panels covered different breastfeeding topics. Mia and Bryndís were the last panel with the topic ‘The Next Generation’ – giving youth insight and ideas generation around campaigns such as World Breastfeeding week, EPC and Warm Chain. They discussed why and how to include youth in decision-making to achieve the sustainable development goals.

“We need to include young people at the table and involve them in decision-making. Involvement of young men and women in participatory decision-making and development processes as vital to achieving the sustainable development goals.” Bryndís Skarphéðinsdóttir

Check out Mia’s thoughts on the Girls Globe blog.

A whole host of amazing organizations were part of the forum including:

Want to find out more?

Read ‘Save the Children’s report from 2013
‘Superfood for Babies, How overcoming barriers to breastfeeding will save children’s lives’

Background documents on the EPC and Warm Chain of Support.

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