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S.Africa to stop free infant formula at hospitals: minister

South Africa will no longer distribute free infant milk to public hospitals and clinics in an effort to promote exclusive breastfeeding and lower child mortality, the health minister said Tuesday.

“South Africa is one of only 12 countries in the world where infant mortality has been on the increase and as government we have committed ourselves to changing this unacceptable situation…, said Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

“Hence reducing child mortality is one of the most important priorities in our country and central to this is breastfeeding as a child survival strategy.”

He was speaking at a breastfeeding summit where delegates recommended that infant formula milk should be distributed only if an authorised health practioner gave permission to mothers who, for medical reasons, could not breastfeed.

“It is undeniable that breastfeeding is the very best way to nourish babies – there is, literally, no substitute for it,” he said adding that even HIV-positive mothers were encouraged to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months.

The government was concerned with the declining number of women who exclusively breastfeed in the country, and identified barriers to exclusive breastfeeding which included aggressive promotion of formula milk by manufacturers, lack of support for working mothers to breastfeed in the workplace and teenage mothers leaving their babies at home with relatives, who rely on formula feeding.

“In addition I will make regulations to enforce the international code of marketing of breastmilk substitutes.

“The promotion of sustained and exclusive breastfeeding should also be seen in the context of strengthening primary health care,” the minister said.