History of GIMS

GIMS for Breastfeeding, a global initiative coordinated by the Mother Support Task Force of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), aims to create the appropriate environment of awareness and support for a mother to initiate and sustain breastfeeding.

Since 2003, the MSTF has been producing a quarterly newsletter. Click here to read current and past issues of the newsletter.

As defined by GIMS, mother support is any support provided to mothers for the purpose of improving breastfeeding practices for both mother and baby. The support needed varies from woman to woman but generally includes encouragement, accurate and timely information, humane care during childbirth, advice, reassurance, affirmation, hands-on assistance, and practical tips.

Moral and social support is needed from many persons in different places. Women need the support of professional health providers, employers, friends, family and the community. Conditions need to be created during pregnancy, birth and lactation so that women can safely carry healthy babies to term and give birth in the company of those they select to share this experience. Employed women should receive support for practicing exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding after the introduction of complementary foods.

GIMS is based on an approach that respects human rights and women’s reproductive rights. This approach calls for men’s participation and community involvement. GIMS emphasizes gender-sensitive support services, women’s right to good prenatal education and care, and respectful and women-centered birthing practices that give an appropriate and adequate
measure of control to women. GIMS recognizes the role of experienced women in the community who can share their wisdom on health, food and medicine.

While broad in scope, the Global Initiative for Mother Support for Breastfeeding is further defined by networks of individuals and organizations concerned with breastfeeding support. Some groups may focus on strengthening community support systems, others on mother-to-mother support, support groups, or health services.

Background Information on GIMS for Breastfeeding 

In 1990, policy makers from 31 governments, representatives of ten UN agencies, and other participants at a WHO/UNICEF meeting adopted the Innocenti Declaration on the Protection, Promotion, and Support of Breastfeeding. During the decade of the 90’s, the Innocenti Declaration provided momentum for the global breastfeeding movement, particularly in launching the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative and strengthening implementation of the International Code
of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. The Innocenti Declaration also served as the driving force for setting international targets (particularly for policy issues and health services), increasing support for working women and establishing national breastfeeding committees.

In reviewing the current state of breastfeeding, WABA identified areas that need reinforcing. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), focused on the infant, does not sufficiently address the needs of women. It is time to make BFHI more “mother friendly” by ensuring that antenatal, labor, delivery and postnatal care for the mother supports a woman’s health and well being, recognizing that such care also supports optimal breastfeeding. Pregnant women and those who have just given birth are often in a precarious situation due to fragmented services and lack of supportive policies, procedures, and practices in health facilities.

Gaps occur in the community as well as in health facilities. In traditional societies, relatives and close friends provided women with the support and practical advice needed to successfully initiate and maintain breastfeeding. In some places this traditional support structure still exists, but in other settings it has broken down.

Aware of these needs at both the health facility and community levels, WABA resolved to develop an initiative that gives heightened attention to the “support” component of the Innocenti Declaration and calls for strategic thinking around support for mothers at all levels.

What is GIMS?

Global Initiative for Mother Support (GIMS) for Breastfeeding is a global initiative that focuses on women’s needs and rights to adequate and accurate information, support and health care services before, during and after childbirth. The initiative takes a holistic view of women’s reproductive cycle, and promotes various measures to help mothers and their infants experience optimal breastfeeding.

Vision for GIMS for Breastfeeding

Every woman irrespective of her circumstance of residence will have lay, professional and social support for breastfeeding and will receive the necessary information, education and encouragement enabling her to have the breastfeeding experience she and her child want.


To put optimal outcomes for the mother and her baby at the core of steps taken in providing breastfeeding information, education, support and care.


On practices that specifically affect breastfeeding outcomes for women during their reproductive cycle (pregnancy, childbirth, post-partum and breastfeeding). This does not preclude reaching out with education or support before or after this period or to their support network (partner, relatives, friends etc).


  • To broaden the support for mothers beyond the breastfeeding period, to include support during pregnancy, birth and post-natal
  • To develop guidelines and tools for transforming birthing practices that specifically affect breastfeeding into a more humane and gender sensitive health care practice
  • To promote a global understanding of mother support that values, gives credibility and strengthens community-based mother support programmes and networks
  • To promote step 10 of the BFHI, and develop guidelines for putting it into effect by broadening the understanding of breastfeeding support groups
  • To link and collaborate with other issue movements such as those working on natural/humane childbirth practices, family support, midwifery, women’s health and rights, etc. in order to facilitate a holistic view on mother support
  • To provide the impetus for changes in employment, health facility, and marketplace policies and practices so that women experience optimal pregnancy, birthing and breastfeeding outcomes.

Statement GIMS for Breastfeeding

Given that:

Mothers are life-givers, bearers and nurturers of humanityMothers are the primary child care givers of their infants

Mothers need support to optimally feed their infants

Breastfeeding contributes to the health and well being of mothers and children, 
families and communities

Many traditional forms of support for mothers have been undermined and threatened 
by forces of globalization, modernization and industrialization

Peer support group methodology has been shown to be effective in changing or maintaining optimal behaviors in a variety of fields such as substance abuse, cancer treatment, etc.

Mother support for breastfeeding is a concept not well understood or valued.

We declare the following:

Mothers should be considered active participants in the support dynamic, being both recipients and providers of information and supportMother support should be viewed and valued as an important contributor to optimal infant feeding practices throughout the reproductive cycle, with special attention on humanizing pregnancy and childbirth care

Mother support should be defined broadly as any support provided to mothers for the purpose of improving breastfeeding practices for both mother and baby

Mothers should receive support throughout their entire reproductive cycle (pregnancy, birthing and post-natal)

Mother-to-mother support groups are one of many ways that mother support can be provided

Mother support is particularly important for mothers at greatest risk for not breastfeeding optimally such as working women, women in emergency situations, women with HIV/AIDS, etc.

Therefore we propose that:

Mother support should be given the highest priority for international, national and local attention and funding Information and practical help should be provided to the childbearing and breastfeeding woman Strategies for ensuring sustainability of mother support efforts should be identified and implemented, including provision of opportunities for networking and sharing of experiences, models, and tools

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Mother Support E-Map