Thursday, 3 February 2011

Exclusive breastfeeding rates remain low in Singapore - where the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative has not yet been adopted

The review of Singapore took place on the 20th January 2011 by the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
When discussing health issues the Committee members raised questions about breastfeeding. One of the members noted that in 2003, the Committee had already recommended to Singapore to promote breastfeeding and the International Code. Nonetheless, exclusive breastfeeding under 6 months of age remains low. The Committee wanted to know what measures have been taken by the Singaporean government to promote bf. The Chair of the Committee also raised a question about the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative: she wanted to know what is the current status of the BFHI in Singapore - given that the country has no certified hospitals up to now.
The government representative who responded on issues of health was Ms. Bhalla Ajay – Director of Hospital Services Division at the MoH.  She admitted that the rates of breastfeeding are low, but progress has been made and the rates have improved since 2003. Generally exclusive breastfeeing is good for the first 3 to 4 months - she said - and then for cultural reasons (like grandmothers who say babies should be fed on bananas or water) these rates decrease. 
 The government affirmed that it supports the work of associations and advocacy groups who promote breastfeeding and it is now working to provide a supportive environment for breastfeeding, like having room for the mothers who breastfeed, and is also working on a new program for early child nutrition. 
However, the direct question on the BFHI was not answered. Also new nutrition guidelines have been released and breastfeeding is one of the key elements.
In addition the maternity leave has been set to 4 months to allow for exclusive breastfeeding- the government representative said. Also the government affirmed that it strongly supports the International Code: Singapore - she said - is one of the first countries to have a committee on the infant food ethics. Also Singapore is one of the few countries to have stronger guidelines than the International Code and to have processed and sued formula producers