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Mothers must be provided correct information


New Zealand Breastfeeding Alliance (NZBA) executive officer Julie Stufkens today supported the World Health Organisation’s call for increased measures to ensure mothers receive correct marketing information regarding infant formula as a breastfeeding substitute.

This includes urging the remaining New Zealand infant formula companies who haven’t signed up to the industry’s voluntary Code of Practice to do so.

With World Breastfeeding Week running from 1-8 August, Stufkens and the NZBA are urging authorities to put the spotlight on breastfeeding and its wider health, social and economic benefits.

“There is no substitute for breastmilk,” says Stufkens.

“We appreciate that there will always be a place for infant formula, and making the decision to breastfeed is a women’s personal choice.

“However it is our job is to ensure that all mothers and their families are given consistent, accurate information about the benefits of breastfeeding, and receive support to continue breastfeeding as long as they are able.”

The International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes (‘the Code’) was implemented by the World Health Assembly in 1981 to limit inappropriate marketing practices. New Zealand has set up a voluntary, self-regulatory approach to monitoring and implementing the Code, as opposed to legislation.

A new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and the International Baby Food Network is calling on countries to protect breastfeeding by preventing inappropriate marketing of breastmilk substitutes such as infant formula.

The report, titled ‘Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes: National Implementation of the International Code, Status Report 2016’, analyses the legal measures individual countries have in place to protect breastfeeding. It reveals there are still too many countries where mothers are inundated with incorrect and biased information, and adherence to the Code by infant formula manufacturers remains limited.

Stufkens says while New Zealand has a good system in place to support breastfeeding, including regular dialogue with the New Zealand-based infant formula industry and Government-funded programmes such as the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI), there is still room for improvement.

By the numbers, New Zealand’s exclusive breastfeeding rates fall sharply from 82.8 percent while in hospital to a low 18 percent when babies are aged six months. Internationally, the average exclusive breastfeeding rate at six months is 38 percent.

New Zealand needs to more than double its current rate to achieve the WHO Millennium Development Goal of 50 percent of infants being exclusively breastfed at six months.

“There is no substitute for breastmilk and we need to ensure families are not given information that suggests otherwise,” says Stufkens.

“The longer a baby can be exclusively breastfed the better a family’s health, wellbeing and financial benefits.”

According to research published earlier this year in distinguished medical journal The Lancet, the deaths globally of 823,000 children and 20,000 mothers a year could be averted through universal breastfeeding, along with economic savings of US$300 billion.

The theme of World Breastfeeding Week 2016 is Sustainable Development – highlighting the role of breastfeeding in achieving the United Nation’s new Sustainable Development Goals, aimed at ending global poverty, protecting the environment and ensuring prosperity.

In a joint message launching the campaign, the WHO and UNICEF state that breastfeeding is not only the cornerstone of a child’s healthy development, it is also the foundation of a country’s development.

“In fact, supporting breastfeeding is one of the smartest investments countries can make in the wellbeing of their citizens – and thus, in their own long-term strength.”

This further reinforces the NZBA’s call for increased protection and support of breastfeeding at both a national and local level.

Stufkens says: “We will always accept and support the fact that for some mothers breastfeeding is not an option, but for the majority it is possible.

“Breastfeeding is a public health imperative. It’s going beyond the nutrition of individuals as now we understand that society as a whole benefits economically in addition to being healthier.

“It is everybody’s responsibility.”


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