Bill to force breastfeeding

2012-09-21 00:00

CAPE TOWN — Women may soon find themselves not being able to decide for themselves whether or not to breastfeed their babies.

This is because the government plans to restrict “aggressive marketing” of formula milk for infants.

The Health Department outlined its idea to the portfolio committee in Parliament this week.

Gilbert Thsitaudzi, acting director for nutrition, said draft regulations for the Foodstuffs, Cosmetic Products and Disinfectants Control Bill would forbid health workers from marketing “unnecessary” milk formulas.

“The goal of the regulations is to help promote the correct feeding of babies and toddlers by establishing standards for baby feeding.

“The regulations must also ensure exclusive breastfeeding for six months after birth,” he said.

The draft regulations forbid hospitals and clinics from including formula in goody packs given to new mothers.

They also set standards for baby bottles and teats, and for the advertising of these items.

“We want to restrict or ban everything that interferes with breastfeeding,” the MPs were told.

“Companies use every conceivable method to undermine breastfeeding as the norm. Bottle feeding is becoming the norm,” said Thsitaudzi.

Not all MPs agreed with the proposed regulations.

ANC MP Morwesi Segale-Deswai, said it seems mothers would be punished for the aggressive marketing of formula. “But whose fault is it? It seems as if those who should be aggressively marketing breastfeeding are not doing their jobs and have now come up with these regulations.”

She asked whether women had been consulted. “It is every woman’s right to choose between breastfeeding and bottlefeeding. We can’t sit here and talk about women’s breast milk without including them in the discussion,” she said.

Committee chair Monwabisi Goqwana asked, in reference to teenage mothers who return to school after giving birth: “Will children now be asked to leave class to go and feed their babies?”

The DA’s Patricia Kopane asked whether the legality of the regulations has been established.

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