University of São Paulo: WHO warns of marketing that encourages breast milk replacement

A study recently published by the World Health Organization (WHO) in conjunction with the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) warns that many countries fail to protect mothers and newborns from misinformation about breastfeeding.

The document highlights the importance of breastfeeding for the health of women and newborns. According to the report, in addition to misinformation, the isolation caused by the pandemic and abusive marketing encourage the replacement of breast milk.

Flávia Gomes-Spostolz, professor at the Department of Maternal-Infant Nursing and Public Health, coordinator of the Postgraduate Program in Public Health Nursing and member of the Breastfeeding Nucleus (Nalma), both at the Ribeirão Preto School of Nursing (EERP). ) from USP, highlights that, in normal situations, breast milk should not be replaced by infant formulas and other similar products.

“In the breast, the baby has everything it needs, not only food, but also the warmth, warmth and gaze of the mother”, he says. It is important that breastfeeding is a woman’s choice, it should not be an imposed practice. Substitutes should only be used in cases where the mother is unable to breastfeed. “It is a decision that, although difficult to make, it is very easy to access products that replace milk.”

The WHO and UNICEF report questions the cases in which, even under conditions, mothers choose substitutes due to external pressure from family members, health agents or even aggressive marketing. One of the objectives of the study is precisely to encourage breastfeeding and the regulation of products intended for newborns.

Brazil, in addition to being a signatory to the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes , follows the Brazilian Standard for the Marketing of Foods for Infants and Early Childhood Children, Nipples, Pacifiers and Bottles (NBCAL). However, Flávia says that the history of breastfeeding in the country has not privileged this practice. “Women need the support of the family, the father of the baby, society and also the State. She needs the laws that protect breastfeeding to be complied with,” says the teacher.

benefits of breastfeeding

The encouragement of breastfeeding by agencies and specialists is due to the numerous benefits for both women and babies. “It is the food considered internationally as the gold standard, because it meets all nutritional needs, from birth to the sixth month of life, exclusively”, explains Flávia. In its composition, milk includes, in addition to nutrients, anti-inflammatories and antibodies. The WHO highlights that babies who are not breastfed are up to 14 times more likely to die, for example.

In the case of mothers, the benefits include reducing the risk of developing breast cancer and diabetes, in addition to mitigating some postpartum effects. There is also an emotional character: “Breastfeeding stimulates the affective bond between mother and baby”, says the teacher.

Flavia advises that newborns are breastfed in the first hour of life. Afterwards, the mother must continue offering the breast on demand and exclusively until the sixth month of life. “Exclusively, it means breast milk with no other food, no water, no tea, no juice, absolutely nothing else”, explains the professor. “Free demand is whenever the mother wants to offer the breast and whenever the baby wants to breastfeed.” From six months and up to two years or more, the woman should continue to breastfeed, but also supplement this diet with other foods.

In order for breastfeeding to occur optimally, it is important to ensure the protection, promotion and support of women. The professor cites research that indicates that, under these conditions, breastfeeding rates increase, while the probability of stopping this process decreases. “Breastfeeding is very important, but it also requires great dedication. The good thing about it all is that it’s really worth it.”

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