Nurse Mary Caines.

Officials at public health institutions in St. Kitts and Nevis have put measures in place to protect the tradition of breastfeeding, ensuring that newborns and mothers can enjoy the natural practice that promotes bonding and health benefits, Assistant Nurse Manager of the Maternity Unit, Mary Caines, said.

Caines said that the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, established by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1981, is strictly followed.

According to the www.unicef.org, “the code stipulates that there should be absolutely no promotion of breast milk substitutes, bottles, and teats to the general public;´ that neither health facilities nor health professionals should have a role in promoting breast milk substitutes; and that free samples should not be provided to pregnant women, new mothers or families.”

In addition to the stipulations, Caines added that no company representatives that sell formulas or other breast milk substitutes can come to any hospital or health clinic to advise mothers about their products, and no healthcare workers can accept tokens from any company officials.

“We can’t receive any gifts,” she said. “A pencil, a ruler, anything that has on anything that represents any company such as Nestle Good Start, we can’t take anything from them as a health institution that is working towards becoming baby-friendly.”

She added that there is no use of space, equipment, or educational/promotional materials sponsored or produced by companies during breastfeeding education sessions with mothers; no pictures of infants or pictures depicting artificial feeding on the label of products; and all information regarding artificial substitutes include the natural benefits of breastfeeding, as well as the negatives associated with substitutes. Labels on products must be in English, the official language of St. Kitts-Nevis.

The public can learn more about the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and other related issues during Breastfeeding Week, with public activities running now through Saturday. This year’s theme is “Protecting Breastfeeding in the Workplace.” Events will include screenings of a documentary on breastfeeding at various locations as well as training for maternity, staff and community nurses.