Despite the enactment of the Breast Milk Substitute Act three years ago to encourage breastfeeding and to discourage the use of alternative milk products, it is awful to be told that the Act is yet to be implemented effectively. Due to the inefficiency on the part of the monitoring committee formed under the Ministry of Health and Population, the unhealthy trend of substituting breast milk with alternative products is on the rise, more so, with the working women in the urban areas. As a result, umpteen varieties of canned milk, powder milk, and alternative baby foods are setting unhealthy precedents.
The new government is expected to take a cue from more than 60 countries that have acknowledged that domestic laws — by keeping baby foods at bay — can promote breast-feeding. The district health workers along with the NGOs had better reinforce advocacy programmes and awareness campaigns on the advantages of breastfeeding and the harmful effects of artificial milk that should, in fact, be used only on a doctor’s prescription. Support groups — formed to enforce the Act — have to remove the misconception that breastfeeding disfigures the body but on the contrary helps reduce the risk of breast cancer. Infants who are not breastfed run the high risk of heart and respiratory problems apart from certain types of allergies. Mortality rate caused due to malnutrition can also be drastically reduced by breastfeeding and complimentary diets. More importantly, the companies concerned should be made to clearly state that powder milk is no alternative to breast milk. Regardless of the manifold advantages, many women are unable to find enough time for breastfeeding. In this context, the provision of two months’ maternity leave for working women is hardly enough. The authorities may want to address this issue in as feasible a way as it is practicable.