Motsoaledi: Promote breast-feeding by restricting formula

There should be a general consensus on creating policies on breast-feeding in South Africa, Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi said on Monday, and suggested that making baby formula available by prescription only could be on the cards.

Speaking at a two-day breast-feeding summit in Centurion, Motsoaledi said the increasing child mortality in the country was “disturbing”.

“We need to reposition, protect and support breast-feeding as a key child survival strategy in South Africa,” he said.

The country had a low prevalence of exclusive breast-feeding at 8%, according to the 2003 Demographic and Health Survey.

Motsoaledi said this was caused by among others the “aggressive and deadly” promotion of infant formula milk and misconceptions that breast-feeding was a sign of poverty.

He said this “propaganda” destroyed communities and drew a comparison with the skin-lightening creams which were pushed onto black communities.

A “dramatic drop” in exclusive breast-feeding rates was reported in the age group of four to six months, where only 1.5% of infants were exclusively breast fed.

Motsoaledi said this was one of the lowest rates in the world.

He quoted a survey by the Human Sciences Research Council, which suggested that among infants zero to six months old, 25.7% were reported to be exclusively breast-fed while 51.3% were mixed-fed.

Solids and formula were being introduced far too early, he said.

Motsoaledi said the summit should thoroughly discuss why many women have neglected what was done religiously in the past and promoted culturally.

One way to ensure that mothers return to breast-feeding would be to obtain infant feeding formula on prescription from doctors under strict conditions, said Motsoaledi.

This was supported by many paediatrics and the professor of child health at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Hoosen Coovadi.

Coovadi said government needed to stop subsidising formula and encourage women to breast-feed, whether they were HIV-positive or not.

“Transmission of the disease is [through breast-feeding] 1% … it can’t get lower than that,” he said.

Meanwhile, a presentation by the World Health Organisation highlighted a need for countries to promote a single infant strategy for infected mothers and infants.

Coovadi also shared Motsoaledi’s view that the working environment needed to change in favour of breast-feeding.

He further spoke about a need for childcare facilities in the workplace and urged the health department to lead by example by being the first to implement such a facility.

The summit was attended by among others, health officials, traditional leaders and healers, and members of UN agencies.

It ends on Tuesday. — Sapa

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


Nehawu launches urgent court bid over protective gear for health...

The health workers’ union says the government has rebuffed its attempts to meet about mitigating risks to workers

Stay at home, Cyril said. But what about the homeless?

In Tshwane, forcing homeless people off the street resulted in chaos and the abuse of a vulnerable population. In Durban, a smooth, well-planned operation fared far better

Press Releases

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world

SAB Zenzele special AGM rescheduled to March 25 2020

New voting arrangements are being made to safeguard the health of shareholders