A senior health official at the Nairobi Metropolitan Services (NMS) has revealed that Kenya will ban baby feeding bottles from May 28.
Speaking on Wednesday during the country’s first-ever National Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition Symposium organised by the Ministry of Health (MOH), Ms Esther Mogusu, the Principal Nutrition and Dietetics officer at NMS, noted that feeding bottles do more harm than good.
“The BMS (Breast Milk Supplements) general regulations and control have been operationalised through parliamentary legislation and will come into effect from 28th May 2022. In these regulations, bottles, teats, pacifiers and cups with sprouts will not be allowed as containers for use when it comes to feeding children. The manufacturers of the baby foods to include infant formula, complimentary feeds and baby feeding equipment will be expected to comply with the standards and general regulations outlined in the law,” Ms Mogusu said.
“The reason they are regulated is because whatever content that is fed using bottles is not breast milk but often will be a non-nutritious fluid. The teats from which the child feeds are made of silicon which does not have the same texture as the breast nipple and this causes what is known as nipple confusion leading to refusal to breastfeed by the baby,” she later told Nation in an interview.
The principal nutrition secretary at NMS further explained that suckling from the teat causes pressure on the inner ear and children will suffer recurrent ear inflammation.
“The teat also causes misalignment of the jaw because of the fact that a child has to bite on it leading to dental caries because of sugars from the fluid in the bottle. Bottles are not easy to clean because they have multiple grooves and often hide bacteria and microorganisms making it difficult to clean through washing regularly causing frequent diarrhoea and infections to the child.”
The revelation comes after parliament recently passed into law the Breast Milk Supplements (BMS) Regulation and Control Act of 2012 which listed the bottles used for feeding infants as designated products to mean products that are within the scope of regulation by the Act.
According to MoH Nutrition Director Ms Veronica Wanjiru Kirogo, the regulations do not prohibit infant formula and only regulate the marketing.
“The Act gave the Health Cabinet Secretary powers to make regulations touching on labelling, donations, information, education and communication as well as interaction between BMS manufacturers and workers. This is because manufacturers of infant formulas have been using a loophole in the law that involves interaction with health workers and we have minimised, which means it is very clear in terms of the labelling for example,” the nutrition director told the Nation.
The law states that a manufacturer must indicate in the packaging: "WARNING: Breastfeeding is best. Breastfeeding is ideal for the healthy growth and development of infants and young children. It protects against potentially fatal diarrhoea, lung infections, and other illness."
Further, the law prohibits the use of any graphic representation other than that illustrating cleaning and the maker's logo on the packaging, and outlaws the use of words or images idealising using of teats or comparing the act of suckling the teat to that of a human breast.
“I totally agree with the ban but it should come with guidelines because without training, information and alternatives there will be no compliance,” Martha Nyagaya, who is the Kenya Country Director at Nutrition International (NI) pointed out.
The NI director further stressed the need for the availability of information on the importance of using a cup and spoon as an alternative to feeding bottles.
“Remember we have three percent of children who are beneficiaries of alternative modes of feeding and are equally important, banning is just one step ahead, we need to support women to implement it. We also need to recognise that the three percent are vulnerable to malnutrition as they are not able to breastfeed maybe because their mothers died at birth among other reasons,” Ms Nyagaya said.