The Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) has reported that the baby food industry has allegedly violated the Infant Milk Substitute (IMS) act, that saw all promotion of breastmilk substitutes banned, including baby food and bottles for children aged 0-2.
A survey conducted by Breastfeeding Support for Indian Mothers - a Facebook group of over 29,000 members - revealed that more than half of the 950 mothers who had delivered in a private hospital were given formula milk. Some of these mothers were unaware of the dangers and had no knowledge of the policies in place.
Some mothers reported that their babies were fed formula milk in the hospital without them even knowing about it.
Top violators included popular brands such as Nestle and Heinz - who have violated provisions on more than one occasion and still continue to mislead mothers through various delusive tactics.
The breastfeeding protection watchdog found that violations were made at least 54 times between 2008 and 2016, before it was brought to the attention of the government regulatory authorities.
According to Euromonitor, 10,847 tonnes of standard infant milk (0-6 months old) was sold in India in 2012. Doctor Gupta, Central Coordinator, BPNI and Regional Coordinator, IBFAN Asia said, "Converting this into containers of 400 grams, it means India sells about 27 Million containers of 400 gms each year, almost equal to its babies born. Going by the estimated growth of formula industry in 2022, this figure will be 32.7 million.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) advise that formula milk is an established risk factor as it can cause diarrhoea, respiratory problems and infections in babies, and also increase the risk of diabetes, obesity and even heart disease in adulthood.
Not only does breastfeeding have significant health benefits for babies, it also has a lot of economical advantages for Indian families. Each family could save more than RS 2,000 per month with a one month old and as much as Rs 4,000 can be saved with a 6 month old.
Better infant health also means less health insurance claims and fewer sick days at employment due to child sickness - contributing to improved economic outcomes for India overall.