May 16, 2016

    Do more to wean mums off formula: UN report


    LEGISLATION against the promotion of breast-milk substitutes must be tightened if efforts to encourage breast feeding are to succeed, a UN report recently warned.

    It is recognised that breastfeeding carries huge health benefits but countries' failure to crack down on the marketing of substitutes means far too many children are still being reared on formula, said the World Health Organization, the UN children's agency Unicef and the International Baby Food Action Network.

    A study in the Lancet medical journal earlier this year estimated that more than 800,000 child deaths and 20,000 breast cancer deaths could be averted every year if more babies were breastfed for longer.

    WHO and Unicef recommend babies have nothing but breast milk for the first six months, after which they should continue to breastfeed alongside other safe and nutritionally-adequate foods until they are at least two.

    But in spite of the clear advantages, only about one child in three is exclusively breastfed for the first half year of life - a rate that has not improved in two decades.

    Countries have agreed to try to push that number up to at least 50 per cent by 2025 but pressure from a growing breast-milk substitute industry is complicating those efforts.