Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

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

Subscribe to the M&G

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and receive a 40% discount on our annual rate..

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

Seven years’ radio silence for taxpayer-funded Rhythm FM

Almost R50-million of taxpayers’ money has been invested but the station is yet to broadcast a single show

Q&A Sessions: Zanele Mbuyisa — For the love of people-centred...

She’s worked on one of the biggest class-action cases in South Africa and she’s taken on Uber: Zanele Mbuyisa speaks to Athandiwe Saba about advocating for the underrepresented, getting ‘old’ and transformation in the law fraternity

More top stories

ANC confirms it will oppose Magashule’s court application

The ruling party has briefed senior counsel Wim Trengove to head the team that will contest Magashule’s bid to fight his suspension and oust Ramaphosa instead

Magashule defies suspension order and KZN leaders’ advice that he...

A strategy by the KwaZulu-Natal ANC to control the narrative coming out of former president Zuma’s court appearance for arms deal corruption and fraud was thwarted

Landmark Deadly Air case: 10 000 deaths annually can be...

There is no legal mechanism in place to implement and enforce measures to prevent toxic air pollution in the Highveld

No masks. No Covid. But problems do abound

With no cases of Covid-19, a Zimbabwe informal settlement’s residents are more concerned about making ends meet – and their imminent eviction
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…
×