Warnings for formula mooted

By Teuila Fuatai

Wairarapa DHB say there is a still a lack of awareness about breastfeeding and formula, and would support any moves to promote the benefits of breastfeeding.

The comments follow a proposal to introduce product labels warning of health risks associated with infant formula.

Research suggest babies who don't breastfeed are at increased risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and being obese. Slower cognitive development and weak immunity have also been linked to not breastfeeding.

A Food Standards Australia and New Zealand consultation paper is calling for submissions on proposals, including warning labels that could replace or supplement the "breast is best" statement currently on infant formula products.

"Such a statement would reflect a body of evidence showing that compared to formula feeding, breastfeeding is associated with lower incidence of infection and some chronic diseases, and evidence for improved cognitive development in the breastfed infant," the paper says.

Wairarapa DHB inpatient services manager Carla Jacobson said they welcomed consultation and the potential for more detailed information being provided about breastfeeding.

"There are still issues with a lack of awareness or misperceptions in the community about breastfeeding and formula, and we would support anything that can be done to promote the benefits of breastfeeding."

Lactation consultant Yvonne Stewart said the DHB was committed to promoting breastfeeding.

"We can report that very few mothers come through our services have made a conscious decision to feed their baby formula before they deliver. Most mothers choose to breastfeed their baby at least initially."

Debate over breastfeeding versus formula has flared this year, with formula-feeding mothers complaining they feel villified for choosing formula for their babies.

The NZ Breast Feeding Authority said it was important parents understand the difference between formula-feeding and breastfeeding.

"We would endorse the importance of informing mothers about the risks," executive officer Julie Stufkens said.

"There does need to be a statement about the importance of breastfeeding on [infant formula products] and people also need to know if they are using formula, there are risks."

Mrs Stufkens also wanted better promotion of safe formula mixing and storage practices.

"People expect that when you get a product in a tin that it's sterile and safe. Infant formula, as a product, especially if it's powdered, is not sterile."

Submissions to the FSANZ consultation paper close on November 7. Extra reporting by Tessa Johnstone


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