Nappies and nurture

2014-08-30 00:00

WASHABLE nappies made a surprising, bouncing comeback at Durban’s Baby Expo yesterday.

Meanwhile, similar trends were revealed in scrums of parents and strollers at stalls selling sleep sacks, pricey organic baby food and stem cell storage at Africa’s largest baby products showcase. But information on infant formula was definitely out, leaving dozens of moms grumbling with irritation at the massive infant food stands at Durban’s Exhibition Centre.

Hosting bland exhibits with no discount or marketing information, the friendly infant food salespeople told everyone the same, seemingly strange thing: “Sorry, we are not allowed to tell you anything about our products. And we are not allowed to offer promotions.”

At this year’s 10th running of MamaMagic, The Baby Expo, new Health Department regulations limiting the promotion of breast milk substitutes left many moms having to guess the best options for their little ones.

Agent Candice Briggs said: “It’s so frustrating. I know the answers to the moms’ questions but I’m not allowed to tell them; we have to refer them to their doctors.”

Meanwhile, dozens of other stands — from ultra-light car seats to toys, safe toothpaste and even sand for sandpits — saw perhaps 1 500 parents inundated with information, giveaways and discounts.

The marketing policy follows a government campaign to promote the benefits of breast-feeding, following research that showed that only eight percent of South African infants enjoyed an exclusive diet of mother’s milk.

However, just a week after giving birth, Roxy Wolf shook her head in disbelief when confronted with a new sign at the Nestle stand, which read: “We may not promote or advertise any infant formula … or treats … to infants under 36 months. Sincere apologies.”

Wolf said: “These rules are pathetic. Yes, breast-feeding is good, but my older child would not drink enough of it and my newborn will also have formula. The government should not limit my choices on what I know to be best for Luke.”

Pinetown salesperson Patience Mkhwanazi said her almost silent role at this year’s expo was “a bit weird”, but spent much of the time cooing over cute babies instead.

Nearby, Glenwood scientist Shaun Berry was also shaking his head in amazement, having noticed queues at two stalls selling cloth nappies.

The father of five said: “Seriously, why would you want to wash nappies nowadays?”

Candice Neethling was stocking up on the streamlined cloth options because “it’s very good for the environment — disposables take hundreds of years to degrade”.

Teacher Robyn Zietsman said the grandmothers of today’s maternity generation had been “right all along”. “It’s healthier for babies’ bums; no chemicals or plastics.”

Westville mother of two Sally Fouche recently started her own cloth diaper company, Bam Boo, using local designs and said “demand has more than doubled this year”.

Fouche said middle-class parents spend up to R22 000 on disposables and wipes for a single child, and claimed the bulk of this could be saved with washable options.

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