Baby milk ‘should have health warnings that breast is best’
Baby formula milk should carry bigger cigarette packet-style warnings that breastfeeding would be better, a charity has claimed
Save the Children, which claims more breastfeeding could save 830,000 lives a year, said that the advice should cover at least a third of the packaging.
The proposals would apply to the UK and other European nations as well as the developing world.
But other health campaigners are worried that the move would only increase the guilt felt by mothers unable to breast feed, according to the Daily Mail.
The NHS recommends breastfeeding for the first six months with optional further breastfeeding when the baby moves on to solids.
The Superfood for Babies report, out today, said the lives of 95 babies could be saved every hour worldwide – 830,000 a year – if new mothers breastfed immediately after giving birth.
It points out the benefits of babies receiving colostrum – the mother’s first milk – within an hour of birth which triggers the baby’s immune system.
The report says that the warnings are needed because some marketing practices by breast milk substitute companies can result in mothers believing formula is the best way to feed their baby.
The aid agency is launching a petition to get breast milk substitute companies “to increase health warnings that formula is inferior to breast milk to cover a third of its packaging”.
At present, all formula milks in the UK have to carry the message ‘breastfeeding is best’ but it is on an advice panel the size of two postage stamps and hidden among information about ingredients and how to make it.
Brendan Cox, director of policy at Save the Children, said changes to warnings would have to apply in the UK and other developed countries because the packs might be exported to the Third World.
He said: “It’s about having a standard measure of packaging information saying that breastfeeding is the most effective way of protecting the health of the child.
“We have lots of examples of formula products where the information is illegible or very small.”
But Clare Byam-Cook, former nurse, midwife and author of Top Tips For Breast Feeding and Top Tips For Bottle Feeding, said the report was “emotive”.
“The saving of 95 babies applies to developing countries, not Britain,’ she added.
“I’m concerned that cigarette-style warnings will increase the guilt felt by mums who need or want to use formula feed – when all women are aware that breastfeeding is good for the baby and the mother.
“These mothers already feel a failure because they have to use formula feed and then they are treated like bad people when buying it.”
Research shows breast milk protects babies against stomach bugs, chest infections, asthma, eczema, and allergies, and confers health advantages in later life
- Ketan Amin