Three years on, breastfeeding initiative sees little success

Kathmandu, July 31:

Though Breast Milk Substitute Act was introduced three years ago with the objective of encouraging mothers to breastfeed their children and discourage the feeding of alternative milk products, the government has not been able to enforce the act.

Amid this failure, the Ministry of Health and Population is celebrating the breastfeeding week with the slogan, ‘25 years of protecting breastfeeding,’ from tomorrow. Over 60 countries have acknowledged that internal laws promote breastfeeding by keeping baby foods at bay.

Though a monitoring committee has been formed to check the enforcement of the act, it has not been able to perform its duty. “Thanks to the non-implementation of the act, canned milk, powder milk and alternative baby food products have captured the market,” said Dr Yasovardan Pradhan, director at the Child Health Division (CHD).

“We have directed the concerned NGOs and district health workers to monitor whether the babies are being breastfed and to intensify advocacy programmes,” said Dr Pradhan.

The act states that production companies should give correct information on mother’s milk. It should clearly state that canned milk or powder milk is just an alternative to breast milk. The act also states that babies should be given alternative food only on doctors’ recommendations. Young mothers, especially from the urban areas, opt for canned milk. The CHD has also directed support groups to make it clear to the mothers that breastfeeding does not disfigure their bodies.

“Exclusive breastfeeding and complementary diets help reduce child mortality rate caused due to malnutrition,” said Dr Pradhan. Sarada Pandey, chief of the Nutrition Section under the CHD, said mother’s milk is the best diet a child can have. However, due to commercialisation and marketing strategy, alternative diets have replaced mothers’ milk.

With the aim of enforcing the act, the government has formed support groups in various communities.