Amidst growing concerns over the increasing costs of formula milk in Singapore, the Ministry of Health (MOH) has decided to encourage breastfeeding in both public and private hospitals.
The Ministry has also urged all the hospitals with maternity services to attain the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) certification. All BFHI certified hospitals must actively encourage and support breastfeeding targets.
The global initiative is a tie-up between the World Health Organisation and the United Nations Children’s Fund. It requires hospitals to show new mothers how to breastfeed and maintain lactation, among other criteria.
Issuing a press statement, MOH said, “Currently, all three public hospitals offering maternity services-KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, National University Hospital and Singapore General Hospital-are BFHI certified, and account for 42 per cent of births in 2015.”
MOH added, “However, none of the private hospitals offering maternity services has obtained such certification to date, and we hope that they will see that this is beneficial for their patients and will come on board to support the initiative.”
The Competition Commission of Singapore, in its market inquiry into formula milk products, found that manufacturers had invested significantly in marketing activities, including hospital sponsorships and milk rotation programmes to gain a first-mover advantage.
These manufacturers paid or sponsored private hospitals, in terms of nurses’ training, educational talks and gift packs for new mothers, to join their milk rotation programmes.
The MOH said that in situations where mothers are unable to breastfeed in hospital, it will work with industry players to provide more affordable infant formula brands in the hospitals.
MOH has also assured for addressing the concern of the rising costs of formula milk, “The Government will take comprehensive steps to address parents’ concerns about the rising prices of formula milk in Singapore. With support from public and private hospitals, these measures will enable parents to make more informed decisions,”