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Why support pro-breastfeeding policies

Please take a few minutes to go through the articles linked on this blog post. They are good articles with valuable information.

On yesterday’s post I talked about a woman’s right to breastfeed or not. In a time when we are talking about consent and about a woman’s right to live freely, I thought it was important to remind us that free will also applies to motherhood.

However, when, according to WHO only about 40% of infants 0–6 months old are exclusively breastfed, it becomes clear that this is a social and political issue.

Why do we need more laws and policies that support breastfeeding?

Look, to be honest, I never gave it importance to the studies that show that breastfeeding improves IQ, school attendance, and is associated with higher income in adult life. There are many other factors in play like income, parents educational level, social background or public policies. Don’t worry, if you don’t breastfeed your children can still be successful.

What it is important is that over 820 000 children’s lives could be saved every year among children under 5 years, if all children 0–23 months were optimally breastfed. Thus, improving child development and reducing health costs.

If you have ever prepared formula, you know how important hygiene is. You need to clean and disinfect the bottle and nipple. You need hot water. If you are poor, how can you afford the formula and all the things required to properly disinfect everything? Wouldn’t you try to make the most of it reducing just a little bit the ratio formula/water per feeding? Moreover, do you have access to safe water?

Unfortunately, many families live in this situation. In consequence, as reported by Save the Children, many babies get sick, malnourished or die.

The marketing of baby formula

As per this article Why invest, and what it will take to improve breastfeeding practices? published on the medical journal, The Lancet “The marketing of breastmilk substitutes negatively affects breastfeeding: global sales in 2014 of US$44·8 billion show the industry’s large, competitive claim on infant feeding.”

We are talking about a business that makes lots of money. Advocacy groups and charities have accused Nestlé of unethical methods of promoting infant formula. For example, IBFAN claimed that Nestlé, uses a tactic very similar to that of a drug dealer, distributing free formula samples to hospitals in poor countries; after leaving the hospital,  the supplementation has interfered with lactation, forcing the new mom to purchase the formula. Save the Children in their 2013 Superfood for Babies report denounces marketing practices promoting misleading nutritional claims about formula.  Currently many companies are marketing premium infant formula milk without any scientific support. The formula is basically the same but marketed differently and, unfortunately, there is no much control on how it is manufactured.

What policies should be implemented?

According to WHO some measures are:

  • “adoption of policies such as the International Labour Organization’s “Maternity Protection Convention 183” and “Recommendation No. 191”, which complements “Convention No. 183” by suggesting a longer duration of leave and higher benefits;
  • adoption of the “International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes” and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly resolutions;
  • implementation of the “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding” specified in the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, including:
    • skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby immediately after birth and initiation of breastfeeding within the first hour of life;
    • breastfeeding on demand (that is, as often as the child wants, day and night);
    • rooming-in (allowing mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day);
    • not giving babies additional food or drink, even water, unless medically necessary;
  • provision of supportive health services with infant and young child feeding counselling during all contacts with caregivers and young children, such as during antenatal and postnatal care, well-child and sick child visits, and immunization; and
  • community support, including mother support groups and community-based health promotion and education activities”.

As you can see this is a global issue. Formula is simply not safe for those who haven’t access to a clean environment and hot water. I’m not asking you, my reader, to breastfeed your children but I’m asking you to support organizations that advocate for breastfeeding and for a bigger control on infant mil formulation (for example, this one).

 

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