Breastfeeding rate low among Malaysian mothers

The rate of breastfeeding among Malaysian mothers is “very low” — a mere 14.5% breastfeed their children up to six months, according to Health Ministry statistics.

This is attributed to ignorance of the value of breast milk, lack of support from family members, the mother returning to work too soon after delivery, and lack of support from healthcare workers.

The other major reason is the availability of commercial infant foods that are portrayed to be as good as, if not better than, breast milk.

In order to protect, promote and support breastfeeding practices in the country, the ministry has formulated a revised code of ethics for infant formula products, which came into effect in August. The first code was introduced in 1979 and was found to be ineffective.

A copy of the updated code was made available to Bernama on Friday.

The code sets very clear guidelines to control competitive promotion and advertising for commercial infant products which might undermine the mother’s ability to breastfeed.

It is also aimed at ensuring proper use of infant formulas, related products and complementary foods.

The main thrust of the code is that manufacturers and distributors should not market, promote or advertise the products in such a way as to challenge or undermine the supremacy of breast milk.

Research has shown that breast milk is the best for infants as it confers protection against illnesses and helps forge a strong bond between mother and child.

Commenting on the revised code, health worker Tan Bee Lan said this was a good move as companies were using pregnant mothers, health workers, doctors and even school children to promote their products.

“Now, hopefully, with an updated and effective code, mothers would not be lured into giving their infants formula milk,” she said.

Tan, who has been a child health nurse for 30 years, said that ideally breast milk should be the sole source of nourishment for an infant up to at least six months.- BERNAMA
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