Experts have called on mothers to breastfeed their children for at least six months after giving birth to ensure the baby’s health and reduce expenses on baby formula.
Speaking at a seminar last week, Hou Kroeun, Helen Keller International’s deputy country director, said that the number of mothers breastfeeding their children for at least six months has decreased from 73.5 percent in 2010 to 64.6 percent in 2014.
Mr Kroeun added that the number of mothers who breastfeed their children immediately after giving birth fell from 65.3 percent to 62.6 percent, while the number of mothers breastfeeding for 12 months dropped to 80 percent from 83 percent.
He noted that the number of babies being fed formula continues to rise, noting that the number rose from 11.8 percent in 2005 to 31 percent in 2014.
“Almost $100 million is spent annually on baby formula,” he said. “However, the total cost of inadequate breastfeeding is more than $326 million, which is combined from health system, mortality and cognitive losses.”
He noted that a number of mothers do not breastfeed because they misunderstand that baby formula is better than breast milk, adding that some mothers lacked encouragement from society and their families, while others travelled for work.
“Maternity law in Cambodia provides only 90 days off after giving birth,” he noted. “Therefore, most mothers cannot afford to feed their babies at work in the next three months.”
According to a World Vision and Helen Keller International report in 2018, 98 percent of formula products sold did not have a label in Khmer, 72 percent did not have a statement indicating the total cost of feeding an infant with formula for the first six months and 63 percent did not include a statement saying that cup feeding is more hygienic than bottle-feeding, all contradicting sub-decree No. 133.
Saing Rany, an advocacy officer at World Vision, said that mothers should be encouraged to breastfeed.
“There is no law which prohibits the sales of baby formula, but do not encourage customers,” Ms Rany said.
She noted that a company must inform customers that breast milk is superior, as well as note its costs for a six-month period.
“The number of advertisements has increased from 110 types in 2015 to 165 types at present,” Ms Rany said.
She added that companies that do not follow the sub-decree will be fined about $500. However, she noted the government does not reveal the name of the company despite it having been punished.
Health Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine could not be reached for comment yesterday.