In the wake of Covid 19, the world is misled in the name of breast milk substitutes and the UN Agencies have recommended stronger legislation to protect the parents from false claims about the safety of breast-milk substitutes or aggressive marketing practices.
A report of WHO, UNICEF, and International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) has said that several countries have failed in protecting parents from misleading information despite efforts to stop the harmful promotion of breast-milk substitutes.
The report suggested a strong legislation in the wake of Covid 19 pandemic. Stressing that breastmilk saved the lives of children lives as it provided antibodies that protect them against childhood illnesses, the World agencies said that mothers can breast feed their babies even if they are confirmed or suspected COVID-19. While researchers continue to test breastmilk from mothers with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, there was no evidence to show that COVID-19 will be transmitted through breastfeeding or by giving breastmilk. They also noted that the numerous benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the potential risks of illness associated with Covid 19. They also said that it was not good to give formula milk to infants.
The report said that 136 of the 194 countries analysed have in place some form of legal measure related to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent resolutions adopted by the World Health Assembly (the Code). However, it said that legal restrictions in most countries did not fully cover marketing. It noted that only 79 countries prohibited the promotion of breast-milk substitutes in health facilities. A total of 51 countries have provisions to prohibit distribution of free or low-cost supplies within the health care system. The sponsorship of scientific and health professional association meetings by manufacturers of breast-milk substitutes have only been prohibited in 19 countries, the report said.
WHO’s Department of Nutrition and Food Safety director Dr Francesco Branca said that the aggressive marketing of breast-milk substitutes was mainly done through health professionals. The parents trust these experts. Branca said that health care systems must act to boost parent’s confidence in breastfeeding.
WHO and UNICEF hace already recommend babies to be fed nothing but breast milk in the first 6 months. This should continue as well as given other nutritious and safe foods until 2 years of age or beyond.