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