Healthcare workers told to promote breast-feeding or else
Healthcare providers will face official sanctions unless they promote breast-feeding to new mothers, a top health official says.
Mothers should breast-feed their babies exclusively for six months after birth unless there was a specific medical condition or emergency, Health Ministry director-general for nutrition and maternal and infant health Slamet Riyadi Yuwono said on Friday.
“As soon as possible after delivery, healthcare workers and healthcare facilities are required to help mothers initiate breast-feeding for at least one hour,” he told reporters at a press briefing at the Health Ministry on Friday.
Slamet was discussing a government regulation on breast-feeding, PP No. 33/2012, which was issued on March 1.
The regulation requires healthcare workers and facilities to promote breast-feeding to mothers and imposes tough rules on the use of infant formula for newborns.
That regulation was promulgated to implement the 2009 Health Law, which stipulates that every child has the right to be exclusively breast-fed for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, giving an exception for medical reasons.
According to the National Socio-Economic Survey (Susenas) 2004-2010, the percentage of exclusively breast-fed babies aged 6 months was 33.6 percent in 2010, down from 34.3 percent in 2009.
The survey also said that the percentage of exclusively breast-fed babies aged under 6 months stood at 61.5 in 2010, an insignificant improvement over 61.3 percent in 2009.
An extremely low rate of early breast-feeding initiation and the excessive promotion of infant formula have been deemed two factors behind the nation’s low exclusive breast-feeding rate. A low number of lactation counselors in the country has aggravated the problem.
According to the Health Ministry, there were currently only 2,921 lactation counselors in the nation, much lower than the government’s target of 9,323.
“With this 2012 regulation on exclusive breast-feeding, we hope that babies can have their right to exclusive breast-feeding in the first six months of their life fully fulfilled,” Slamet said.
Under the regulation, all healthcare workers and facilities are prohibited from giving newborns infant formula or other products that could prevent their exclusive breast-feeding, unless in case of a medical condition or other emergency.
“Mothers have the right to refuse infant formula that healthcare workers intend to give their babies,” Slamet said.
All product advertising and promotions, such as giving healthcare workers free samples, discounts and sales bonuses, that might provide incentives to promote other feeding methods such as formula have also been prohibited.
Two articles of the regulation cover sanctions and administrative penalties for violators.
“For any healthcare workers who refuses to encourage exclusive breast-feeding as stipulated by the PP [regulation], we may impose administrative sanctions in the form of verbal warnings, written warnings, and/or license revocation,” Riati Anggriani, the Health Ministry’s regulations chief, said.
Product manufacturers and distributors would also be liable for sanctions and warnings for violations, she said.
The government is still discussing a ministerial regulation on the sanctions for healthcare workers or formula producers and distributors who encourage mothers to not exclusively breast-feed newborns.
Selected comments will be published in the Readers’ Forum page of our print newspaper.