Code to prioritise breastfeeding under way

National 2 minutes, 47 seconds


A NEW Health Workers Code is being drafted by the Maternal Infant and Young Child Nutrition (MIYCN) Taskforce.

The code seeks to only encourage breastfeeding and refuse any inducements from formula milk companies.

Among the regulations outlined in the code is that health workers must refrain from accepting subsidiaries from milk companies and refuse free samples of formula milk or other products such as teats and bottles from manufacturers and distributors.

The code also calls for manufacturers and distributors to only share scientific and factual information to health workers, without implying that bottle-feeding is superior to breastfeeding.

According to one of the secretariats of the taskforce, the drafting of the Health Workers Code is part of the initiatives done by the Ministry of Health (MoH) to adapt the International Code of Breast Milk Substitutes into the country.

However, repercussions of violating the Health Workers Code and the complaint process are still under discussion.

The International Code of Breast Milk Substitutes was set up by the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1981 to protect and promote breastfeeding through the dissemination of proper information and regulation of the marketing of breast milk substitutes, bottles and teats.  

Hjh Roseyati Dato Paduka Hj Yaakub, said that the Health Workers Code is only a part of the international code, whereby another set of regulations will be set up to regulate the advertising and promotion of breast milk substitute products.

“Targeting companies will be big in the international code as this is what the World Health Organisation (WHO) is asking us to do… The best code in a country which has made it into law is in India, they have the best laws in terms of protecting breastfeeding,” Hjh Roseyati said.

Besides the progress towards adapting the International Code, other initiatives carried out by the MIYCN also include the 20-hour Breastfeeding and Lactation Management Course held monthly at RIPAS and Suri Seri Begawan Hospital, Kuala Belait.

Both hospitals are aiming to be recognised as a ‘Baby-Friendly Hospital’, an initiative launched by the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) back in 1991.

Hjh Roseyati said at least 80 per cent of health workers dealing with mothers, infants and young children must undergo the training for the hospital to be considered a ‘Baby-Friendly Hospital’.

To date, over 200 workers from departments such as Obstetrics and Pediatrics at RIPAS Hospital have completed the training.

The training ensures adequate skills and knowledge to aid mothers in exclusive breastfeeding of their children.

Another initiative carried out by the taskforce is assuring that more breastfeeding rooms and facilities are made available in government and private buildings.

Recently, the Ministry of Health (MoH) unveiled a breastfeeding room at its headquarters, which hoped to encourage working mothers to breastfeed their child in a conducive and comfortable environment.

A national survey conducted in 2012, involving over 3000 women from five Mother and Child Health Clinics recorded 32.1 per cent of women breast feeding their child exclusively for a period of six months.

This was a six per cent increase since the last statistic recorded at the 2009 National Survey of Health and Nutrition Status saw only 26.1 per cent of exclusively breast feeding mothers.

However, the nation is still behind as UNICEF has quoted countries in East Asia and the Pacific to have a high average breast feeding rate of 57 per cent.

The Brunei Times