With a view to protecting and improving the health of newborns, the Ministry of Health is preparing a decree in which baby formula milk will be prohibited from sale at health facilities, a health official said. Le Viet Huong, deputy head of the Legal Department of the health ministry, made the statement at a seminar held yesterday by the Legislative Studies Institute to discuss the building of policies that help protect infants in Vietnam. In order to support efforts to promote breastfeeding, the Advertising Law that took effect in 2012 bans the advertising of formula products for under-24-month babies, nutritional supplements for children under six months old, and milk bottles with nipples, Huong said. As a further step, he said, the ministry is preparing a draft decree, which gives guidance to enforce the Law, which will include a ban on the sale of baby formula milk products at all health facilities. The ban is aimed at encouraging mothers to turn to breastfeeding during the first six months of a child’s life, as well as in the following months, for the sake of the health of newborns and infants, he said. At the ceremony to launch Vietnam’s Breastfeeding Week 2012 in Hanoi on August 1, 2012, experts said breast milk provides the necessary nutrients for babies to grow and protects them from diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhea. According to a recent study conducted by Save The Children, an international non-governmental organization that promotes children's rights and helps support children around the world, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life can help reduce the death toll of newborns by 4,000 per year.
Accordingly, breastfeeding newborns in the first hour after birth will help prevent around 22 percent more babies from dying. In a report issued in May 2012 on the decline of breastfeeding across East Asia, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) warned that only ten percent of Vietnamese women breastfeed their children. UNICEF expressed concerns about the decline and emphasized that mothers should understand the long-term benefits of breastfeeding for their children’s survival and development. According to the National Institute of Nutrition, only 62 percent of the 1.5 million Vietnamese children born annually are breastfed in the first few hours of their lives and only one out of five mothers exclusively breastfeed their children in the first six months.