The Ministry of Health has dismissed media reports on the ban on plastic feeding bottles in the country.
The Ministry and experts in nutrition and diet clarified that what is being regulated is the marketing, promotion of breast milk substitutes against misinformation that could harm mother and infant through the Breast Milk Substitute (Regulation and Control) (General) Regulation, 2021.
The Head of Nutrition and Dietetics Veronicah Kirogo said the Act thus, does not ban feeding bottles, rather, it was to structure the implementation of the regulations.
“Bottle-feeding has not been banned, but it is regulating, marketing and distribution of infant formula, pacifiers, and teethes. It is not the ministry’s mandate to ban bottles,” clarified Kirogo adding that issues raised in the Act concerned labelling of infant formula, breastfeeding substitutes and other designated products including teeth and pacifiers.
The Act thus prescribes the regulation, in terms of marketing and distribution, but does not ban plastic feeding bottles.
“As a ministry, we have not banned bottles, these are feeding bottles because there are designated products in the act,” said Kirogo dismissing media reports to the effect that feeding bottles had been banned for among others interfering with breastfeeding of infants besides contributing to dental carriers.
Kirogo, also a nutrition expert, said the first choice of feeding an infant is a spoon and a cup, because of hygiene issues and though “there are other aspects that discourage bottle feeding in an infant, we have not banned it.”
The regulations, Kirogo said, are neither superior to the Act, nor can they introduce any new law. “The regulation spells out the how, that is what the regulation do. There is no ban”.
The Act stipulates the need for appropriate marketing and distribution of breast milk substitutes; to provide for safe and adequate nutrition for infants through the promotion of breastfeeding and proper use of breast milk substitutes, where necessary.
The designated products include feeding bottles, teats, infant formula, breast milk fortifiers, pacifiers, cups with spouts. Others are follow-up formula for infants or children between the age of six months to 24 months and products marketed or otherwise represented as being suitable for feeding infants of up to the age of six months.
Prof Ruth Nduati, a consultant paediatrician, Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, University of Nairobi, concurs that the Act does not prohibit but regulates the sale of breastfeed substitutes to protect mothers and infants against aggressive and inappropriate marketing of breast milk substitutes.
“It is not banning such that the bottles will not be found in the shops,” she clarifies, “but it is talking labelling and giving correct information. The law just regulates marketing.”
Prof Nduati notes that the regulation gives other safe feeding options, regulates advertising and prohibits the use of health workers as advertises for the designated products.
But Prof Nduati said mothers are encouraged to use the much safer cup and spoon as feeding bottles, which she explained, causes nipple confusion that interferes with breastfeeding.
Feeding bottles also cause interferes with an infant’s dental formula besides improper cleaning leading to contamination more so at the nipple of the bottle, but the “Act does not stop mothers from supplemental feeding using bottles, but it cautions that the bottle creates a harmful environment for a child” said Prof Nduati.
Dr Elizabeth Wala founder of Multiple to Multiple Society said bottle feeding is safe, despite the hygiene issue and though it can cause nipple confusion, affecting breastfeeding in infants, both are not reasons for the bans and threatened legal action if the ban was imposed.
Miriam Nabiie, clinical nutritionist, with the Smile Train program, said if there was a ban it would negatively impact on children born with cleft lip and cleft palate.
Nabiie said breastfeeding in children with cleft lip and cleft palate is hard, reason why mothers are encouraged to express milk and use specialized bottles for breastfeeding.
“If bottle feeding is banned, it is unfortunate that this vulnerable cluster of children will be disadvantaged, because if only we advocate for cup and spoon-feeding, they may end up not feeding enough, and deaths,” said Nabiie.
Bottle feeding, she explained, enables the vulnerable group to meet nutritional status for corrective surgery.
Feeding bottles are not safe for normal children due to infections that result in cases of diarrhoea among other diseases.
“Using spoon and cup is an idea for normal children, but not in those born with cleft lip and cleft palate, cleft left, they have a hole in the mouth, a condition that interferes with feeding,” she maintained.
“Children with cleft and cleft lip and cleft palate are likely to die because of malnutrition and infections. A ban is an unfortunate move,” observed the nutrition expert.