Have you ever seen adverts for infant formula milk, breastfeeding bottles, bottle teats, artificial nipples, pacifiers, powdered milk or complimentary feeds for babies below six months of age?
And when in hospital after you had your newborn, you may have had some marketing people come over to you and promote some baby products such as diapers, but yet you’ve never seen anyone talk to new mums about which formula milk they should buy.
Have you ever wondered why? Well, because it’s against the law to do so.
According to the Kenyan laws, it is illegal to market breastmilk substitutes and related products to pregnant women, mothers or health professionals. While these products can be accessed by a new mum if she so wishes, the issue is that she should not be faced with deceptive messages that portray infant formula as superior to, or equivalent to breastmilk.
There is alot of power in advertising, and apparently, some of the pictures or messages contained in ads promoting breastmilk substitutes may make some mothers less determined to breastfeed their babies if they know that there is a product they can buy that is just as good as breastmilk.
Similarly, pictures of fancy breastmilk bottles may deceive a mother into thinking that they are just as good as her own breast so she doesn’t really need to do the actual breastfeeding (which any mum will tell you requires lots of commitment, hard work, time, effort and energy. And sometimes blood and tears, but every bit worth it).
Aside from that, these substitutes can also put the lives of the infants at risk. The occurrence of diarrheal and other diseases for such children are high because they are not accessing breastmilk (which contains loads of antibodies that help offer the baby immunity from various infections).
Additionally, if the milk is not prepared well (in the correct proportions and with clean water in hygienic conditions) or the feeding equipment sterilized, the baby could easily fall ill.
Kenya’s Ministry of Health’s policy direction with regard to breastfeeding is that babies below six months should be exclusively breastfed –that is giving baby breastmilk alone and nothing else –NOT even sips of water, foods or other liquids aside from medicines prescribed by a doctor. This is because breastmilk contains all the nourishment that a baby needs during that time for its healthy growth and development.
The law about non-promotion of breastmilk substitutes and related products is all contained in the Breastmilk Substitute (Regulation and Control) Act (2012). It includes some of the following main provisions:
- There should be no advertising of products under the scope of the Act to the public.
- No free samples should be offered to mothers.
- There should be no promotion of products in health facilities.
- Health workers should not be offered these products as gifts.
- There should be no words or pictures on the labels idealizing artificial feeding, including photos of babies.
- All information on artificial infant feeding must explain the benefits and superiority of breastfeeding, as well as the costs and hazards of artificial feeding.
And that is why you’ll never see these ads in the newspaper, magazines, on websites, on television or radio or any other form of media. You’ll also never see them being promoted in supermarkets anywhere.
And that is also why new mothers in hospital will never be given tins of formula or breastmilk bottles as gifts to take home with them as they leave the hospital. Or when they go for clinic they will never be given as free samples. You will also never find leaflets, posters or brochures talking about these products in any health facility.
All because all measures need to be undertaken to encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies and not easily consider alternatives. Why? Because breastmilk is best. And by the way infants who are not breastfed are 15 times more likely to die from pneumonia and 11 times more likely to die of diarrhea than those who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life (UNICEF). So Kenya is committed to curbing and regulating any efforts that undermine the practice of breastfeeding and the benefits of both breastfeeding and breastmilk.
So there you go. Hope you’ve learnt something new today 🙂
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