The Health Ministry wants to tighten Pakistan’s laws on formula milk for infants in order to encourage more women to breastfeed their babies.
The legal amendments will restrict the labeling, age limitation, and marketing of formula milk. The amendments, which will be made to the Protection of Breast Feeding and Child Nutrition Ordinance, 2002, have been proposed on recommendation from the World Health Assembly 2016-17.
The ministry, under the proposed changes, wants formula companies to remove the word “milk” from their labeling.
“It [the packaging] should include a statement on the importance of continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond, and the importance of not introducing complementary feeding before the age of six months.”
The recommendation stressed that the package should have the following sentence printed on it in Urdu: “this is infant formula and it is not a substitute of mother’s milk”.
Here are the other amendments proposed by the ministry:
- The packaging of the formula milk should not suggest that the milk can be used by infants under six months
- No cross-promotion for substitutes of breast milk
- Complete ban of representative of companies selling breast milk substitutes at health facilities
- Ban on marketing on social media and sponsorship events
- BMS companies should spend 2% of their profits on CSR
- Infant formula should only be available on prescription
- It should only be available at pharmacies and authorised stores
Importance of breastfeeding
According to a WHO-UNICEF report, breastfeeding could save the lives of 820,000 children under the age of five, globally, by achieving enhanced rates of breastfed children.
Statistics suggested that 44% of Pakistani children are stunted with lower height for age, having poor cognition, and other developmental milestones. Compliance with early initiation of breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding, and complementary breastfeeding for two years could significantly reduce stunting in Pakistan, they said.
Moreover, evidence shows that breastfeeding has cognitive and health benefits for both infants and their mothers. Children who are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life are 14 times more likely to survive than non-breastfed children.
It also helps prevent diarrhoea and pneumonia which are major causes of death in infants. Mothers who breastfeed have a reduced risk of ovarian and breast cancer, two leading causes of death among women.