Hosting an Ethiopian health experts team here to benchmark on issues of infant and young children feeding, Mongati said Botswana is one of the first countries to adopt an international code of marketing of breast milk substitutes as provided by the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding. This code prohibits advertising of breast milk substitutes and states that breastfeeding must be actively protected and promoted in all countries.
Mongati said the law is meant to protect mothers and babies who are exposed to media pressure to stop breastfeeding. Promotion of substitutes undermines the mother's inherent ability to breastfeed and exposes her baby to water-borne infections, dehydration and malnutrition caused by poor milk substitutes.
"Mothers should make a choice to buy milk substitutes. It is against the law for shops to advertise products to influence mothers' decisions not to breastfeed, and should not even sell the products at half price," she said.Addressing the press, Tesfaye Chuko, a nutrition officer with UNICEF in Ethiopia, said the Ethiopian government is in the process of adopting the law given the challenges it is facing. He said in Ethiopia, some companies go into hospitals to advertise breast milk substitutes while others give health officers their products to advertise on their behalf. He said even the labelling of the products is wrong.
Meanwhile, president of the Botswana Breastfeeding Association Dikoloti Morewane said due to pressures of fashion, lifestyle and influence of media like television, magazines and the internet, young mothers in particular, find breastfeeding challenging. In the 21st Century, young mothers are forced to work to keep up with life expenses. These mothers find working hours restrictive and force them to put their babies on breast milk substitutes. However, Morewane said young mothers can always milk themselves and leave milk for their babies at home. As for mothers who are struggling to produce enough breast milk, they should be taught how to stimulate their breast milk production.
Morewane said the media has put immense pressure on young women to have certain looks to be able to maintain relationships. This has compromised the mother's choice not to breastfeed. "One of the features to maintain as purported by the media is a cleavage. Most young women skip breastfeeding in attempt to preserve a cleavage.
"In doing so, these young mothers are compromising their babies' health because babies are immediately put on bottles, which have been proven to be one of the leading causes of diarrhoea and increased mortality rates among infants," he said. The World Health Organisation commemorates World Breastfeeding Week during the first seven days of this month. Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of the baby's life and to introduce nutritious soft meals thereafter to supplement the breast milk to the next two years or beyond.