BPNI asks health ministry to notify and ban their donations
Geetanjali Minhas | April 29, 2020 | Mumbai
Taking note of many cases of distribution of commercial baby foods as part of Covid-19 pandemic ration support, the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) has raised an alarm and said that free distribution or donation of baby foods for children under two is harmful and prohibited.
“The agencies giving out formula feeds for small babies may be ignorant of the issues around breastfeeding and misinformed that newborn babies cannot digest regular milk and that their unhealthy mothers do not have milk for them and therefore the milk powder is being supplied free,” the BPNI said in a statement.
A WHO advisory says that in a situation when the mother is unable to breastfeed or express breast milk, re-lactation, wet-nursing, donor human milk or appropriate breast milk substitutes should be used. Appropriate precautions should be taken to avoid promotion of breast milk substitutes, feeding bottles by the health facility and healthcare providers.
Similarly, UNICEF also says that donation of BMS by manufacturers has been shown to lead to increased use of substitutes and a reduction in breastfeeding. For this reason there should be no donations of free or subsidized supplies of breast milk substitutes in any part of the health care system. Any required breast milk substitutes should be purchased, distributed and used according to strict criteria.
“I strongly condemn such actions that can undermine breastfeeding. This is playing with the life of babies of poorest families given the known dangers of powder infant formula which according to WHO is not a sterile product,” said Dr Arun Gupta, central coordinator, BPNI.
He said that if safe drinking water is not available it can be very risky for child. Moreover, donation of infant formula is not sustainable and can lead to diluting the milk powder which will perpetuate undernutrition.
BPNI has asked the health ministry (MoHFW) to immediately notify states and districts that free distribution or donations of baby foods for children under two years of age is harmful and prohibited. The organization has said the ministry must disseminate this information to the nation through its daily briefings, should establish a criterion for handing over a substitute for the baby only after assessment of the need of an individual baby is carried out (as in case where the mother is not available) and that the MoHFW must issue specific instruction to the district administration about “supply of provisions to meet the needs of infants and small children, counselling for lactating mothers” and preventing unnecessary donation, distribution and misuse of baby foods (as mandated by NDMA Plan 2019) which is critical to maintaining breast milk supply from mother to the baby.
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