Save the Children has launched today a major new body of research, Superfood for Babies, which looks into the state of breastfeeding globally. This year’s G8 will see countries pledge support for combatting malnutrition. If all babies were breastfed within the first hour of life, 830,000 children’s lives would be saved every year. But breastfeeding is undervalued. This report finds that progress made in increasing breastfeeding rates in the 1980s has stalled. Global rates of breastfeeding have remained below 40% for the past 20 years as breastfeeding has slipped down the list of political priorities.
The report calls for more support and education for Mothers and health workers, and covers off in detail recent breaches of The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (also referred to as ‘the Code’).
Market leaders of breast milk substitute products, Nestlé and Danone, are being called to account for their part in misleading and aggressive marketing in emerging markets, as are other manufacturers such as Heinz. Nestlé is one of the most boycotted brands in the UK, and while campaigners and activists may want to vent their anger and scream from the proverbial social media hilltops (I have to say I felt outraged at what I heard in a prebrief), I urge you to read this report and understand the facts about what is happening now. If you want things to change, you can help by signing the Save the Children petition which asks both Nestlé and Danone to stop putting the lives of babies at risk.
Here’s a couple of excerpts from the report which I find particularly pertinent:
Nestlé: On 1 August 2012, the Food and Drug Administration(FDA) in Haryana state, near Delhi, raided a Nestlé factory in Samalkha for allegedly using inappropriate graphics on milk substitutes meant for infants. The FDA seized consignments of infant milk substitutes, which the FDA Commissioner Rakesh Gupta said had graphics depicting a feeding bottle along with advertisements for other products, which are prohibited for infants below two years under the drugs law. The raids, he said, came after the FDA (within whose power it is to determine that labels are noncompliant and confiscate products had sent a notice to Nestlé in this regard, although Nestlé claims not to have received any written communication of the FDA’s concerns. A Nestlé spokesperson denied any violations, and Nestlé India has said it is now revising BMS labels. In another case, Nestlé India was charged by a court in Delhi in March 2012 for allegedly violating the country’s infant formula labelling laws. The charge, which relates to a complaint filed by the Association for Consumers Action on Safety and Health in 1994, was denied by Nestlé. The case is ongoing.
Danone: Sari Husada, a BMS company acquired by Danone in 2007, has been cultivating relationships with midwives in Indonesia for several years through its various ‘Srikandi’ programmes. These programmes aim to build brand loyalty and trust among health workers, including midwives. Evidence published by IBFAN in 2010 and seen by Save the Children suggests that the Srikandi scheme provided midwives with incentives of money and foreign travel in return for selling formula. The evidence suggests that Srikandi midwives were given monthly criteria including providing details of babies born and buying a certain amount of formula and that midwives could get financial rewards, invitations to scientific seminars and tourism trips, depending on how long they remained in the scheme. Some of the free trips on offer were said to be a pilgrimage to Mecca. Danone has said that this Srikandi programme has been terminated.
There are some amazing people all over the world doing great work in supporting new Mums in their first few days of breastfeeding. My guest blogger today is Dibha, one of the founding members of AIMI and also their Secretary General.
She explains what the Association of Indonesian Breastfeeding Mothers (AIMI) is doing in Indonesia to overcome the challenges they are facing. Here’s her story:
It’s so good to see Save the Children’s report about how
breast-feeding can save children’s lives in developing countries.
In a different way, I always say that it saved mine too.
I was lucky enough to not have any problems breastfeeding my son when
he was born but sadly his father and I separated when he was just 18
months old. I so struggled in the separation and felt so heartbroken
that I struggled to have the strength to carry on. It was only those
times when I was breastfeeding my child that I managed to find any
sense of peace.
It was only when I went on to do my breastfeeding counsellor training
that I found that breastfeeding raises your levels of oxcytocin, your
‘love hormone’, which calms you.
I went to do breastfeeding counselling training as I wanted to be able
to help other women be able to have this experience of breastfeeding,
if they wanted to. From that I searched online and found Mia – we were
the first participants in breastfeeding counselling who are just
common mums and not medical practitioners
We then went on, with 20 other founders to form AIMI (the Association
of Indonesian Breastfeeding Mothers) to provide mother to mother
support and advice about breastfeeding, and to campaign against
aggressive marketing practices & lobby the government to provide more
support for women who have to work and want to be able to breastfeed.
In a few short years we’ve gone from one branch in the capital to
having 7 branches across Indonesia. People find out about us on
twitter and get in touch, asking for support in their area. Here in
Indonesia Twitter & Facebook have taken off massively and using these
has allowed us to grow so quickly. People mainly have mobile access to
the internet and find us on facebook or twitter to ask for advice.
I think it’s because there are so few health workers who are able to
properly support and advise women about breastfeeding that we get so
many people getting in touch with us. There’s demand from all over
Indonesia which can be overwhelming – we have the fourth biggest
population in the world so that’s a lot of people to reach! – but when
I think about what we’ve achieved so far it’s like a dream come true.
You can find out more on the state of breast feeding in Indonesia and AIMI’s work by reading Zoe Williams’ article in The Guardian.
Follow #firsthour tweets on twitter to see more news on the topic too.