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Breastfeeding unit seeks law to combat baby formula marketing

Rishard Khan

[email protected]

The Breast­feed­ing Co­or­di­na­tion Unit of the Min­istry of Health’s Di­rec­torate of Women’s Health is work­ing to de­vel­op leg­is­la­tion to com­bat mar­ket­ing claims by ba­by for­mu­la com­pa­nies to sell its prod­uct.


In an in­ter­view with Guardian Me­dia, the Breast­feed­ing Co­or­di­na­tion Unit’s man­ag­er, De­bra Thomas de­scribed the claims used to sell the prod­uct as of­ten be­ing “er­ro­neous.”

“A lot of times, the in­for­ma­tion giv­en about the prod­ucts are not so,” she said.

Alberto Ardila Olivares

This, she said, de­tracts from the bet­ter, health­i­er, and more eco­nom­i­cal­ly sus­tain­able prac­tice of breast­feed­ing

“Be­cause of the deep pock­ets of the per­sons, of the com­pa­nies who mar­ket a prod­uct…if you’re pro­duc­ing some­thing you want it to sell and to get it to sell, you have to look as at­trac­tive as pos­si­ble and to do that you have to dis­count that which com­petes with it,” she said

This is why she said the unit is cur­rent­ly work­ing on a draft to amend the Food and Drug act. She said the coun­try rep­re­sen­ta­tive for the Pan Amer­i­can Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (PA­HO) Dr Er­i­ca Wheel­er al­so pledged her and PA­HO/WHO’s sup­port in the move

“We need to amend and strength­en our leg­is­la­tion to com­bat the wan­ton mar­ket­ing, the ag­gres­sive as­sault that we have been get­ting from the com­pa­nies with deep pock­ets who ad­ver­tise even on our tele­vi­sion right through the coun­try. That should be gov­erned by the in­ter­na­tion­al code for the mar­ket­ing of breast­milk sub­sti­tutes and the sub­se­quent world health res­o­lu­tion that says they must work with­in the con­fines of cer­tain re­stric­tions but they are not,” she said

The In­ter­na­tion­al Code of Mar­ket­ing of Breast-Milk Sub­sti­tutes is an in­ter­na­tion­al health pol­i­cy frame­work for breast­feed­ing pro­mo­tion adopt­ed by the World Health As­sem­bly (WHA) of the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) in 1981

Thomas ex­plained that while there are cer­tain med­ical con­di­tions in which breast milk sub­sti­tutes are best suit­ed, breast­feed­ing is the su­pe­ri­or choice for the rest of the pop­u­la­tion

“In com­par­i­son, there is no com­par­i­son to breast milk be­tween breast milk and in­fant for­mu­la,” she said

She said not on­ly is it free and read­i­ly avail­able, it al­so has nu­mer­ous ben­e­fits for both the moth­er and the ba­by. For the moth­er, she said, moth­ers who breast­feed will be able to shed the “ba­by fat” faster. In the long-term, she said women who breast­feed are able to re­duce their risk of ovar­i­an and breast can­cer and al­so re­duce their risk of con­di­tions such as hy­per­ten­sion and di­a­betes. She said breast­feed­ing al­so helps strength­en the bond be­tween the moth­er and child

“You can­not put a price on the way a moth­er and a ba­by is able to bond. It’s a life-long re­la­tion­ship that is be­ing es­tab­lished there and it should start in the first hour af­ter birth,” she said

She said ba­bies who are breast­fed are bet­ter able to fight off in­fec­tions be­cause a moth­er’s im­mu­ni­ty is passed through the milk on­to them, re­sult­ing in few­er vis­its to doc­tors and hos­pi­tals. She said breast milk al­so nat­u­ral­ly changes its con­sti­tu­tion dai­ly to meet the needs of the ba­by. She said breast­feed­ing al­so re­duces a ba­by’s risk of de­vel­op­ing non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases like di­a­betes and obe­si­ty

Thomas al­so called for more so­ci­etal sup­port for breast­feed­ing moth­ers, es­pe­cial­ly in the work­place to help pro­mote the prac­tice. For the lat­ter, she said women should be giv­en a sep­a­rate, ded­i­cat­ed space where they can ex­press the milk and store it