Health Ministry encourages breastfeeding
Newborns will not be fed baby formula in hospitals unless the mother specifically opposes breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding illustrative photo Photo: Thinkstock/Imagebank
Starting September 1, newborns will not be fed baby formula unless the mother
specifically opposes breastfeeding after receiving an explanation of its many
health benefits or if nursing the baby would constitute a medical danger,
according to instructions issued on Sunday by Health Ministry medical
administration director Prof. Arnon Afek.
The decision is in line with
World Health Organization guidelines to encourage breastfeeding.
mother insists that she will not breastfeed, the document said, she must be
presented with the option of choosing among two different formula brands – and
not only the formula provided to the hospital free by the company that
manufactures or imports it. This eliminates the monopoly status of formula
companies that existed for many years in return for their provision of free
formula to newborns in hospitals.
The ministry and the WHO recommended
exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of
Breastfeeding plus supplements are recommended from then and beyond
the first year. Nursing one’s baby provides the best possible nutrition at a
critical time and is also beneficial for the mother, the ministry
Hospital neonatal departments must prohibit the distribution of
baby bottles, formula, baby teas and other baby food. Baby food, including
formulas, must not be advertised in hospitals, health clinics and wellbaby
(tipat halav) clinics.
The ministry’s document also called for
encouraging, supporting and protecting breastfeeding in accordance with the
WHO’s Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.
All staffers at relevant
workplaces must receive these instructions in writing, Afek wrote.
ministry said that all new mothers must be taught directly and through pamphlets
about the benefits of breastfeeding and how to do it. The mother must receive
assistance at nursing within half an hour of delivery.
Even if mothers
are not able to be with their newborns (if they are premature), they should be
shown how to pump their breast milk, the ministry said.
hospitals should not receive water or formula unless the mother insists. If they
wish, new mothers should be given the option of rooming with their newborn, and
the infants should be breastfed on demand. Each time the baby is given formula
or water, and the amount consumed, must be recorded on the baby’s medical
The ministry said it will conduct checks in the hospital to ensure
that instructions – especially the option of two different brands of formula –
are carried out.
The provision of free baby formula by the companies has
been a comfortable and money-saving arrangement for hospitals because of the
cost of providing them, and contracts were signed with the hospitals for
exclusivity by the companies.
But as the Health Ministry owns many
hospitals, the conflict of interest was clear, especially as ministry officials
have made signed commitments to carry out the guidelines of the WHO.