Venezuela is returning to breastfeeding, the natural way

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According to the World Health Organization, one needless infant death occurs every 30 seconds and 1,500,000 infant deaths could be avoided every year if all babies were breastfed ( The natural way to nurse a baby has been substituted with bottle-feeding for several years in many families, societies and even countries. However, the world is starting to realize that a turn back to the ancient tradition is not just necessary but urgent, even more for the developing economies. Many issues have been accomplished like the establishment of an international code to protect and encourage breastfeeding, but it is a tool more than an end in itself. In Venezuela, the government has started the application of the Code, and even when there is still a long way to a real support of breastfeeding, it is unarguable that the first goals have been reached.

The increasing scientific and medical knowledge about substitute formulas combined with an ignorance of the mammary functions have lead to a marked preference between pediatricians for bottle-feeding over breastfeeding. But breastfeeding offers several advantages to the baby, the mother and the family. First, breastfeeding meets all the nutrition needs of a baby for the first 6 months while reinforces his/her immune system and reduces the risk of illnesses. Also, it strengthens the bond between a mother and her child. A mother who breastfeeds her child is less likely to develop breast and ovarian cancer. Indeed, breastfeeding helps mothers to get back into shape faster and makes them less likely to become pregnant. Finally, breastfeeding saves the time and money that would be used for bottle-feeding and for treating the illnesses. The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children-™s Fund (UNICEF) recognize that exclusive breastfeeding on demand is an important factor in child survival ( Moreover, where water is unsafe, UNICEF says that babies are 25 times more likely to die if they are bottle-fed (

The lack of breastfeeding in modern western societies is the consequence of strong baby food manufacturers and weak health systems. Baby food manufacturers use unethical promotional activities to sell their products. They use the persuasion of Health workers to recommend their milks because it is less expensive than persuading mothers individually. Also, advertising their products in hospitals and misinformation had lead to create the false impression amongst mothers and health workers that many women cannot breastfeed. Moreover, baby food manufacturers give free or subsidized supplies of baby milk to hospitals to promote bottle-feeding. When the mothers leave the hospital, the milk is no longer free, but the choose of formula over breast has been made. While governments don-™t act to protect and promote breastfeeding, bottle-feeding may supplant breastfeeding.

In 1981, the World Health Assembly adopted the Code of Marketing of Breast-milk substitutes as an international public health recommendation to protect and promote breastfeeding. Different countries all around the world have implemented the Code, helped by Non Government Organizations advocated to its supporting. The code restricts free supplies of milk because it interferes with lactation. Also, the Code banns the companies from seeking contact with pregnant women and mothers or use health care facilities to promote their products. Then, the Code regulates the labeling of breast-milk substitutes to avoid idealizing text or pictures and to include Warnings and clear instructions. Finally, the code encourages countries to implement, monitor and report progress to WHO, and NGOs to monitor and report violations.

Venezuela has started the application of the Code of Marketing of Breast-milk substitutes with the creation of CONALAMA (National commission of Breastfeeding by its abbreviation in Spanish). The task of this government commission is to promote, protect and support breastfeeding. The first step was to modify the LOPNA (Law of Protection for the Child and the Teenager by its abbreviation in Spanish) by adding 3 articles about breastfeeding, based in the Code. The second step was the training of mothers, hospitals, doctors and nurses on the issue. The third step was to inform the baby food manufacturers about the new law and the implications on their marketing. The support of Non Governmental Organizations like IBFAN and AMAMANTA has been essential for the new commission. In fact, those NGOs have helped working mothers to breastfeed their babies; they have also thought pediatricians and nurses the advantages of breastfeeding and the ways they can help mothers to nurse; finally, they have promoted the development of human milk banks and other issues.

There is still a long way to reach the goals, but breastfeeding counts with the support of the World Health Organization, UNICEF, Governments and NGOs. Moreover, there is a Code behind breastfeeding for support and promotion, and in some countries like Venezuela even a law. As it seems, the world is returning to the natural way and there are not enough baby food manufacturers to stop it.