YSPH-Led Project to Increase Breastfeeding Expanding Globally

Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly (BBF): A Guide to Global Scale-Up, developed to increase breastfeeding rates globally is expanding to include England, Scotland, Wales, Germany, Myanmar and Samoa.  The announcement was made this month by the Swiss-based Family Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation (FLRF) who recently allocated an additional $1.5 million toward the BBF -- strengthening its close partnership with the Yale School of Public Health (YSPH).

Led by Rafael Pérez-Escamilla, YSPH Professor of Public Health and Director of the Global Health Concentration, the BBF program was developed to improve breastfeeding around the world by helping to guide countries on how to scale up and sustain cost-effective breastfeeding programs.   BBF applies benchmarks to assess roadblocks to successful breastfeeding and helps countries identify gaps in their own breastfeeding programs, thus enabling efficient and focused resource allocation. 

Breastfeeding is crucial to the health and development of mothers and children, as well as the wellbeing of their families. Child benefits include improved IQ and protection against infectious diseases and the development of obesity.

Rafael Pérez-Escamilla

“Breastfeeding is crucial to the health and development of mothers and children, as well as the wellbeing of their families. Child benefits include improved IQ and protection against infectious diseases and the development of obesity,” said Pérez Escamilla.  “And, breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes among mothers.”

The BBF objectives align with official statements by the World Health Organization and the World Bank, identifying breastfeeding as one of the most cost-effective health interventions a nation can make. During the first six months, an exclusively breastfed child is 14 times less likely to die than a non-breastfed child in low-income countries.  Dr. Katharina Lichtner, Managing Director of FLRF, said the YSPH team has been highly effective in pretesting the BBF program in Mexico and Ghana, and that enrolling six additional countries in this second stage is a remarkable achievement. “Seeing countries from such diverse regions committing to the BBF program is testament to the quality of the program and YSPH’s work,” she added.  

Pérez-Escamilla piloted the project in Ghana and Mexico to test the feasibility and utility of BBF, and to operationalize all the processes involved with the implementation of BBF. Early initiation and exclusive breastfeeding of young children are essential components of Ghana’s child health strategy. However, only 56% of Ghanaian infants are put to the breast within one hour of delivery, as recommended with only 52% of infants younger than six months exclusively breastfed, showing a continued decrease in that country. Through a partnership with Dr. Richmond Aryeetey at the University of Ghana, the BBF process was pretested and implemented between June 2016 and January 2017.  In consultation with the Ghana Health Service, a committee was established, drawn from government, United Nations agencies, civil societies, bilateral donor organizations, and academia. The committee’s BBF assessment resulted in a set of concrete measures and priority actions Ghana can take to sustainably increase their breastfeeding rates. As a result Ghana is reconsidering their maternity leave policies and how best to promote and support breastfeeding through public health care services.  Ghana is also in the process of launching their first ever social media breastfeeding campaign in the country under the leadership of YSPH Scientist Kassandra Harding and Dr. Aryeetey.

This article was submitted by Elisabeth Reitman on February 13, 2018.

Related People

Kassandra Harding

Associate Research Scientist in Public Health (Social and Behavioral Sciences)

Rafael Perez-Escamilla

Professor of Public Health (Social and Behavioral Sciences)