Indonesian govt urged to promote breast-feeding benefits

Child health activists and doctors are urging the government to campaign more on the benefits of breastfeeding.

The Indonesian Breastfeeding Mothers' Association (AIMI) said on Thursday that the government did not invest enough in reproductive health education or new technology to raise public awareness on the greater benefits of breast milk over commercially-produced baby formula.

AIMI activist Wiyarni Pambudi, a pediatrician and member of the Indonesian Lactation Center, said that the country had good laws concerning the health of mothers and children, but a lack of proper children rearing skills had threatened the lives of infants.

Law No. 36/2009 on health stipulates that all infants have the right to be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, but in December 2013, the Health Ministry called for the provision of lactation rooms in all government offices to support breastfeeding working mothers.

"What we lack is knowledge. New mothers are getting education at home, therefore, they believe in a lot of old wive tales. The Religious Affairs Ministry can encourage more child-rearing sermons, the Education and Culture Ministry should start teaching young people how to raise children, and the Health Ministry must provide accurate information about breastfeeding," Wiyarni said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a full year of breastfeeding for all infants. However, according to Health Ministry data, only 34.3 percent of infants are exclusively breastfed and only for the first 6 months of life.

"It is the government's duty to promote breastfeeding practices with the same political and financial will as they put into other nation-building programs, such as equal access to basic education, infrastructure development and skills development," said chairman of AIMI Mia Sutanto.

AIMI has been campaigning for the need of more breastfeeding campaigns in obstetric clinics and hospitals to counter the widespread promotion of infant formulas, which lack the health benefits of breast milk.

With its targeted proteins and carbohydrates, breast milk has the propensity to boost the immune systems of infants.

Indonesia, with 26.06 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, has a higher infant mortality rate than most Southeast Asian nations.

According to AIMI, the promotion of breastfeeding nationwide could help reduce the infant mortality rate and improve children's health.

AIMI recently introduced new software called Infant and Young Child Feeding, developed by the International Baby Food Action Network- Asia as part of the World Breastfeeding Costing Initiative, and the Breastfeeding Network of India.

The software was developed to help governments and policymakers estimate how much money should be invested to promote and educate young mothers and medical personnel on breastfeeding.