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


Subscribers only

‘W Cape, fix unplaced pupils crisis’

Civil rights organisations want the department to find a permanent solution to the problem

Shanduka shade over Free State education

Audit firm PwC said R500-million irregular expenditure incurred by the Free State education department is related to an unsolicited bid by the Kagiso Shanduka Trust to improve schools

More top stories

ANC eThekwini branches want Magashule reinstated immediately

ANC branches in Durban want all accused of corruption, and not just the criminally charged, to step aside

ANC considers staff cuts, increasing membership fees to bolster finances

In a leaked recording ANC treasurer general Paul Mashatile proposes staff cuts

How rare is very rare? Your questions about blood clots...

How rare is rare? How are the blood clots from the vaccine trial unusual? How are symptoms tracked?

Even religion has limits on its rights

The constitution does protect faith — but not beyond what is reasonable

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…