New mothers ‘illegally’ lured by formula milk companies
The Jakarta Post , Jakarta Post | Thu, 08/21/2008 10:16 AM | City
Wilson just had his first birthday last weekend and his mother was busy not only preparing for his party but also entertaining formula milk marketers.
“I got some phone calls from two milk companies and was sent a sample package of formula milk from another one. I think it’s because it’s time for Wilson to change his formula milk,” said Wilson’s mother, Melvin.
“I had a Caesarean section. After he was born, the nurse brought him to me … and we tried to give him breast milk but none came out. So the nurse asked me if I would like to give him formula milk,” she said.
She accepted the suggestion even though she could have chosen to insist on breast-feeding.
“I was told breast milk is better but I have not been producing enough. I don’t think there is any problem with formula milk. He has been healthy so far,” she said.
Reni Ningsih, a mother of a three-year-old and now six months’ pregnant, recalled a similar experience.
Neither was aware that the formula milk companies had violated international regulations in marketing their products to them, or that the medical practitioners should have encouraged them to give their children breast milk as stated in a 2004 ministerial decree on breast-feeding.
Formula milk companies are not allowed to contact mothers, and nurses are required to promote breast-feeding as stipulated in a 1981 World Health Assembly regulation on the marketing of breast milk substitutes.
The regulation says no promotional materials of any breast milk substitutes can be displayed at hospitals and in public spaces. Also, no events involving babies should display the sponsorship of any brands.
“Violations have continued for years. It has not changed much since we published a pamphlet on their violations in 2006,” Sri Sukotjo, a nutrition specialist of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) said.
She said many hospitals still display or use promotional products in the form of posters, tissue boxes, clocks, scales and baby name tags.
Some companies distribute pamphlets at children’s events, while many events are often organized or sponsored by these companies.
The head of health and nutrition at Unicef Indonesia, Anne H. Vincent, last month said the marketing of formula milk was very aggressive and could shift mothers from breast-feeding to using bottled milk.
Nationally the rate of breast-feeding dropped 32.4 percent in 2007 from 42.4 percent 10 years ago, government data shows. The rate of bottle feeding rose to 27.9 percent from 21.1 percent during the same period.
The government has also tried to limit companies’ marketing through a 1997 ministerial decree on formula milk marketing. But the latest legislative draft on breast milk substitutes has been in limbo for three years without clear status, Anne added.
Central Jakarta Mayor Sylviana Murni said the government, which poses no penalties for not following regulations, was still distributing information on breast-feeding.
“There has been a reduction. We have circulated letters urging a reduction in exposure, especially in hospitals,” she said.
“The campaign for breast-feeding is actually very intense, just like the anti-smoking campaign. But people are still smoking even though the cigarette companies have stated that smoking is harmful,” Sylviana said.
Not only mothers are bombarded by advertising, but also some hospitals considered nonsupportive of breast-feeding despite the push from the government.
Mia Sutanto, chairwoman of the Indonesian Association of Breast-Feeding Mothers (AIMI), said her medical practitioner insisted on giving her baby (now four years old) formula milk and threatened the baby would lose weight if she did not.
“But newborns can actually survive without liquid for 48 hours and losing weight is normal for them,” she said.
She said mothers must do their homework to pursue breast-feeding and find supportive hospitals.
“The standard practices at many hospitals are not supportive of breast-feeding. Some doctors are reluctant. Without enough support from their doctors, hospitals and family, some mothers may find it hard to breast-feed,” she said.
Roesli Utami of the Indonesian Lactation Center said the campaign for breast-feeding was directed at the failings of healthcare providers, not the mothers.
“Mothers who do not breast-feed should not feel guilty, because that would make it even harder to breast-feed,” she said.
“The father plays an important role in this. In this era, breast-feeding is not only between mother and child but also the father,” she said. (mri)
Further information on breast-feeding is available at www.aimi-asi.org.
Source : http://www.thejakartapost.com/