Over 50 representatives from the Ministry of Health, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organisation are discussing a national breastfeeding code decree drafting at a meeting held in Vientiane on Aug 22-25.
“This code decree draft will be implemented to push forward the indicators and action plans of the national nutrition strategy to achieved planned objectives with a focus placed on the protection, promotion and supporting of the exclusive breastfeeding of children for the first six months after birth and the continuation of breastfeeding for children aged between six and 24 months old,” said Deputy Minister of Health Phouthone Meuangpak on Aug 22.
“Breast milk is best for babies, and the benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition. In addition to containing all the vitamins and nutrients baby needs in the first six months of life, breast milk is packed with disease-fighting substances that protect babies from illness,” said Dr Phouthone.
“The International Code of Martketing of Breast-milk Substitutes was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981. One of the main principles of the code is that health professional or health facilities should not be used for the purpose of promoting breast milk substitutes,” said WHO Representative, Dr Juliet Fleischl.
“We know from evidence that stunting is largely irreversible. The time between conception and the age of two years (the first 1000 days) is a critically important window during which improved nutrition and feeding practices, particularly breastfeeding needs to be protected promoted and supported,” said Mr Myo-Zin Nyunt, UNICEF Deputy Representative.
“In this workshop you will be reminded that the Code is a set of recommendations adopted to regulate the marketing of breast milk substitutes, feeding bottles and teats. It does not prohibit the sale of breastmilk substitutes, but it does regulate the marketing and promotion of these products. Code violations by infant food manufacturers are still widespread in the Lao PDR, and a Code Decree that includes a strong monitoring and enforcement system is essential,” said Mr Myo-Zin Nyunt.
The Code of Marketing of breast-milk substitutes was formulated in response to the realization that poor infant feeding practices negatively affect the growth, health and development of children, and are a major cause of mortality in infants and young children.
Research shows that advertising and marketing of breast milk substitutes can undermine a mother’s choice to breastfeed, thereby reducing her child’s chances of a healthy life.