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If Breastfeeding Was Law?

By Danielle |

Choice or Law?

Can you imagine a place in the world where government puts laws in place to encourage women to breastfeed longer than they currently do in the region?

This is becoming a reality in one of the worlds most populated countries. Indonesia, with 250 million people and one of the most disaster prone countries has started working on laws that would not only encourage breastfeeding longer for mothers, but help ensure babies in the region are safe from illness often passed through dirty water supplies.

The Indonesian government has therefore passed a law which stipulates that all babies should be breastfed exclusively for six months. A fine of up to 100 million rupiah (11,000 dollars) can be imposed next year on any person or organization which stops a mother from doing this.

Laws that people even in the United States think women would benefit from. Including the head of a large scale breastfeeding advocacy group.

Bettina Forbes from Best for Babes said :

What strikes me as key about the Indonesian breastfeeding law as you describe it below, is that it seems like it intends to put pressure on the “booby traps”–cultural and institutional barriers that keep moms from achieving their breastfeeding goals–and not on moms.   Moms don’t need more pressure, what they need is to not be undermined by organizations that violate the WHO Code.   I hope we can interpret this as Indonesia holding companies that violate the WHO Code strictly accountable for negatively impacting the health of mothers and babies.  I hope it means that all hospitals and birthing centers in Indonesia will become designated Baby Friendly.

Traditionally in Indonesia women have exclusively breastfed children, but the recent numbers are falling with more mothers going to work. Between 2006 and 2008 their breastfeeding rates dropped a full 10% across the country. Despite the current law giving all women three months of paid maternity leave most feel pressured to go back to work sooner for fear of losing their job.  Sounds familiar to our country!

According to the Ministry of Health, the new law will also bring tighter regulations over companies supplying formula milk. Producers will not be allowed to offer any incentives which encourage mothers to switch to their milk products in the first six months. (There is an International Code of Marketing for Breast Milk Substitutes, but this has yet to be adopted in many developing countries). At this stage, it is unclear how the new law will be policed, but with malnutrition affecting millions of Indonesia’s children, it is being welcomed as a step in the right direction for improving the health of the youngest.

In short, no formula coupons, free breastfeeding diaper bags from these formula companies, or anything that may sway the decision of the mother to switch before their infant is six months old.

Do you think countries like The United States would benefit from similar laws?

Photo : Goetter

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About Danielle



Danielle Elwood is a straight-shooting Florida based mom of three and emerging indie author. Read bio and latest posts → Read Danielle's latest posts →

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0 thoughts on “If Breastfeeding Was Law?

  1. laura says:

    I thought we already discussed this when Gisele made her ridiculous statement that she later apologized for??

    This is completely stupid. Offer women six months of paid leave if they breastfeed exclusively. Offer women free access to lactation consultants. Figure out what to do with the women who can’t breastfeed, no matter how much they wanted to. This whole concept is just sad to me.

  2. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    So would they prosecute a woman for choosing not to breastfeed?

  3. Danielle says:

    @Mistress_Scorpio – No, there would be no repercussions on a woman that did not breastfeed. The fine would be in place for anyone preventing a woman from breastfeeding.

    The Indonesian government has therefore passed a law which stipulates that all babies should be breastfed exclusively for six months. A fine of up to 100 million rupiah (11,000 dollars) can be imposed next year on any person or organization which stops a mother from doing this.

  4. Penn Girl says:

    Are there women out there that really felt like the one or two cans of free formula that they got in the hospital completely sabotaged their BF attempts? Except for the occassional bottle of formula (maybe 6 ozs a week), my daughter is EBF for six months and counting, but I took home all the formula company swag I could get my hands on! I agree with laura, women need paid maternity leave or more flexible work schedule options to encourage breastfeeding and it sounds like Indonesia is actually AHEAD of the US on this point. If the law encourages more businesses to provide these options, then great, but otherwise, I think it won’t provide mothers much benefit.

  5. Danielle says:

    @Penn Girl, I think there are many women who feel that way. Wake up at 3am, baby is crying, won’t latch properly, someone gets frustrated, and goes right for the gifts they got in the hospital.
    I can tell you in the first weeks after my oldest was born, had there been any formula in our house, I would have for sure headed for it and scrapped breastfeeding altogether.

    The United States does need better maternity leave, especially with our economy, and we need more help for women who do choose to breastfeed. We have such little support compared to other nations.

  6. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    So has anyone looked at what else in the region may be affecting breastfeeding rates? Such a precipitous drop must have causes beyond formula company advertising. Will they prosecute a company for firing a woman if she takes the three months leave?

  7. TheFeministBreeder says:

    I absolutely think there should be a law in this country imposing fines on anyone medical professional who interferes with a mother’s ability to breastfeed. Every day, women are being told by their uninformed pediatricians that their milk isn’t good enough, who then peddle formula to them from the company giving them kickbacks. It’s criminal – or rather, it should be.

  8. Gretchen Powers says:

    all of these matters are very subjective and therefore nearly impossible to properly govern with laws….”imposing fines on anyone medical professional who interferes with a mother’s ability to breastfeed”…really? so many women are so exceedingly touchy about anything anyone says to them, laws like this will basically disincentivize medical professionals from even mentioning anything at all about breastfeeding…yikes!

  9. Elita @ Blacktating says:

    Mistress Scorpio, according to the WHO office in Indonesia, “The meager rates of exclusive breastfeeding may be contributed to factors such as lack of breastfeeding counselors, scarce regulation on breastfeeding practices and marketing of breast milk substitutes, suboptimum Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) activities, and limited supervision and support for breastfeeding mothers.”

    And to Penn Girl, there is a ton of research out there already that shows that formula swag bags absolutely do affect breastfeeding rates and duration. Do you think the companies give that stuff out because they’re nice?

  10. bob says:

    I’m just thankful that it will be another generation before I have to again give a fig about this debate. Maybe by then there won’t be any more jobs at all and so there will be little need or money for formula. Well, I guess there will always be lactation consultants.

  11. Linda, the original one says:

    “Except for the occassional bottle of formula (maybe 6 ozs a week), my daughter is EBF for six months and counting.”
    The last time I checked, the E in EBF stood for “exclusive” so what you said doesn’t make any sense.

  12. Huh? says:

    “Except for the occassional bottle of formula (maybe 6 ozs a week), my daughter is EBF for six months and counting.”
    The last time I checked, the E in EBF stood for “exclusive” so what you said doesn’t make any sense.

    What a kind and not at all nit-picky comment that adds to this discussion!

  13. Manjari says:

    Too bad there were no laws like this when Nestle was running around developing countries giving out free formula and sabotaging normal breastfeeding. The law would be insane if it targeted moms, but it would make sense if it targeted any company or person giving out formula – especially in areas with contaminated water, or to women who won’t have money to continue buying formula after the free samples (and their breast milk) run out.

  14. Judy @MommyNews Blog says:

    I think prosecuting companies that interfere with a woman’s desire to breastfeed is a huge step in the right direction – although it will be very difficult to police. I also think that we not succeed with increased breastfeeding rates until we give moms the help that they need – paid for lactation consultant, extended paid maternity leave, flexible work schedules/job sharing, etc. Mom’s need support. When I was in the hospital, I asked to speak to a lactation consultant b/c my son wasn’t latching properly – and our hospitals policy was that you get a visit from the LC on the last day – so despite my troubles, I couldn’t get a real LC there any earlier than the last day. Luckily I had some great nurses who helped me out – but I think it would have been a lot easier if I had regular access to the LC the whole time I had been there and not just for a quick visit on the last day. And 6 weeks of paid maternity leave doesn’t even begin to cut it in this country. — Judy

  15. Samantha says:

    Formula saved my baby’s life. There. I’ve said it. I know I’m not the only one on this board for whom this is true. I think of formula as something miraculous, that allowed my underweight hungry baby to thrive. I would like the formula companies to continue to improve their formulations (yes of course it will never be as good as breastmilk, be assured, I do know that) and would strongly resist any attempts to penalize their efforts.

  16. Danielle says:

    @Samantha, Formula saved my youngest son’s life also. Had he not been able to have formula, he would not have been able to tolerate anything to eat, and of course would have starved. That doesn’t happen the majority of the time unfortunately. While the majority of mothers give breastfeeding a try in the start, there is a large population that make the choice to switch to formula.
    After dealing with this in my youngest son, several providers told us the amount of children that truly cannot breastfeed, or woman who physically cannot breastfeed lingers under 10%.

    But I stand by formula companies being penalized for pushing formula on women. It should be there IF it is needed, but it should not be advertised as it is today. They are violating many ethics codes put in place by the World Health Organization.

  17. Gretchen Powers says:

    I strongly believe that people need to be big girls, women, and take responsibility for themselves.

  18. Gretchen Powers says:

    I get the whole WHO code and problems with pushing it on women in developing countries, but this conversation has degraded into American women complaining about how hard it is to breastfeed and I just really don’t agree with that.

  19. Danielle says:

    @Gretchen, I don’t think that the WHO code should only be for developing countries though. We have serious health issues in this country that could be turned around in mothers, and babies just by simple feeding choices in the first years of life.

  20. Gretchen Powers says:

    I agree, however, I think the “barriers” in the U.S. are overstated and self-perpetuating. There is actually alot of information about breastfeeding if people do their homework before having their baby and I get the sense that people are just not “tough enough” to do what it takes to make it happen lots of times (in the U.S.)

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