Last week Việt Nam News asked readers if Việt Nam should only allow advertisers to promote formula for infants under one-year-old, rather than maintain its current four-year policy of allowing such advertising for toddlers up to two years old.
Here are some comments we received:
Andrew Burden, Canadian, Hà Nội
Nothing’s better for a newborn and mother than breastfeeding. This life- and intelligence-giving activity should be exclusive for six months. Only then should solid food be introduced. No one - no government, no corporation and certainly no non-governmental agency such as UNICEF - should be messing around with this.
Mother Nature knows and produces best. Breast-fed kids grow up healthier and smarter. Problems such as not producing enough milk and the inexperience of mothers can be successfully addressed. Society really should not drop the ball (or teat) on this important human development topic.
It is well known that companies provide free samples of formula at hospitals and clinics and try to promote the convenience of formula feeding. These corporate sharks are taking advantage of sleep-deprived, stressed out, young and new mothers. That doesn’t mean you stop or replace breastfeeding. It’s not a competition. One should support and compliment the other.
Mother’s milk should come first, healthy food should come second.... and (maybe) formula could place a distant 3rd, if at all.
As long as Việt Nam supports new mothers and encourages females to learn to respect their bodies, sexuality and reproductive cycles, then I have no problem with UNICEF. By all means introduce formula - but don’t pressure, don’t profit, and don’t pretend a powder from an anonymous factory can be better than a loving mother’s breast milk.
Nguyễn Thu Hà, Vietnamese, Hà Nội
Advertising formula for babies older than 12 months is not necessary. I oppose such advertisements because when a baby is between one to two years old, mothers are encouraged to breastfeed the baby exclusively.
After six months, rice flour soup will start being added to the baby’s diet of primarily breast milk.
Mothers who must leave their babies to go to work can store breast milk in the fridge.
The diet of infants older than 24 months can be supplemented by powdered formula, so mothers need nutritional information about products to make good choices.
Lý Mai Sao, Vietnamese, HCM City
Some women cannot - or choose not to - breastfeed. It is important they have the information they need to make the right choice for their baby’s health.
I didn’t have enough breast milk for my 6-month-old baby. I was busy and always stressed with my work when I started returning to the office. So I needed to find a good quality, affordable brand of formula for my baby’s health.
Eighty per cent of infants older than 12 months in Việt Nam eat supplementary foods because most mothers must return to work after six months of maternity leave. Such mothers can’t ensure a healthy nutritional regime for their babies without feeding them baby formula.
The ban on advertising formula for babies older than 12 months will deprive nursing mothers of access to information when they want to choose which infant formula brand to feed their babies.
Nguyễn Hùng Cường, Vietnamese doctor, Hà Nội
Formula manufacturers have been able to promote brands of formula through TV, newspaper advertising, and sophisticated leaflets in paediatricians’ offices.
But the Ministry of Health has been attempting to encourage more mothers to breast-feed.
If firms which make baby formula are permitted to advertise their products easily, I think the cost of formula will be high because advertising costs affect the price of baby formula. Only consumers suffer when prices are high. I know many mothers forced to pay two-thirds of their salary to buy foreign formula for two-year-old babies.
The psychology of the parents is important. Many nursing mothers, and especially grandparents, have a funny psychology. They always compare the weight of their babies when they see each other and they think “bottle-fed babies look chubbier than breast-fed ones”.
Đặng Thu Hà, banking official in Đà Nẵng City
At present, the baby formula business has been bringing manufacturers big profits, so firms have spent a lot of money on advertising aimed at luring parents.
Many mothers are determined to feed powdered formula to infants over six months old to help them be more intelligent and grow well.
The new proposal is an inadequate response of the Government to the problem and continues to put Vietnamese mothers’ and babies’ health at risk, in favour of the interests of the baby formula industry.
Nguyễn Thu Hường, a nursing mother in Hà Nội
I didn’t have enough breastmilk for my 16-month-old baby, so I bought baby formula on the advice of friends who had used such products recommended by their doctors.
I was conscious of the importance of breastmilk for the growth of infants during their first two years and I told friends to breast-feed.
Even more important than banning or not banning the advertising of formula for infants, relevant Government offices must closely monitor product quality before such products are forcibly advertised in the Vietnamese market.
Consumers in Việt Nam are confused by excessive advertising by the firms which make baby formula. — VNS