WBTi Indicator 1 – National breastfeeding policy and coordination.


Image from http://therealtimereport.com/2015/11/11/what-do-you-do-when-employees-bypass-your-social-media-policy/

It’s all in the Guidelines

As the pirate said, “…the Code is more what you’d call “Guidelines” than actual Rules. Welcome aboard the Black Pearl, Miss Turner.”

(Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, 2003)


A culture in which breastfeeding is practiced as the normal way to feed infants and young children consists of many explicit and unspoken rules. These rules are experienced in a variety of settings and circumstances –in our families, social groups, communities and local shops, and through education, employment and health services. Breastfeeding policy helps shape these rules and enable breastfeeding for all women, babies, and families, wherever they are.

In many countries, breastfeeding policies and programs are scattered across different levels of government and between the public and private sectors. How does this stack up nationally?

WBTi Indicator 1 uses eight criteria to assess a country’s overarching breastfeeding policy and its governance.

First and foremost, WBTi Indicator 1 checks that policy on infant and young child feeding follows best practice. The policy should adopt World Health Organization recommendations that babies are breastfed exclusively for the first six months and then introduced to complementary foods, with breastfeeding continuing until at least two years.

Policy or Guideline?

In WBTi terms, a policy is more than a set of guidelines and requires a plan of action and a budget. WBTi Indicator 1 assesses the political and financial commitment to breastfeeding, specifically whether a national breastfeeding policy is in place, with an implementation plan and adequate funding.

WBTi Indicator 1 also scores national policy coordination and accountability. Oversight should be provided by an independent National Breastfeeding Committee, consisting of government agencies and non-government stakeholders that support breastfeeding. The WBTi process also evaluates the administration and transparency of this committee, free from conflicts of interest.

The assessment identifies policy initiatives and gaps and makes recommendations to improve policy coherence.

The WBTi framework will help evaluate breastfeeding policy in a complex federal system like Australia’s, and benchmark our performance against comparable countries. It’s all about strengthening the rules and our capacity to protect, promote and support breastfeeding …without the pirates.

Man dressed as pirate poses during "Weiberfastnacht" in Cologne

Image from http://time.com/4497168/international-talk-like-pirate-day/

Libby Salmon, WBTiAUS, 1 November 2017

About the author

After training as a veterinarian many years ago, Libby thought she knew about lactation until she breastfed her three children, including twins. She is now a volunteer Breastfeeding Counsellor with the Australian Breastfeeding Association and a PhD student at the Australian National University researching infant food security and the regulation of human milk sharing in Australia.