Fabian Demicoli

Breastfeeding Policy:


GRTU emphasises on the need of increased knowledge and guidance for businesses – GRTU
CEO Abigail Psaila Mamo this week took part in a panel discussion that
commented on the newly proposed Breastfeeding Policy.

The Breastfeeding Policy aims to raise breast feeding levels in the interests of mothers and
their children. Malta has amongst the lowest rates of breastfeeding amongst EU
Member States especially the level of continued breastfeeding after leaving
hospital.

The policy aims at encouraging mothers to breastfeed exclusively for
six months and then to continue for two years using breast milk and appropriate
supplements. This they say would lead to healthier individuals with lower
possibilities of becoming obese and suffering from high blood pressures and
cholesterol levels. It would also result not only in immediate  savings from not buying milk but also long
term savings in our healthcare systems.

The policy aims at making mothers
realise the benefits of breastfeeding and making it easier for them to continue
breastfeeding even when they go back to work.

Ms Psaila Mamo said that GRTU agrees
with the aims of this Policy but we want to discuss how we can get there when
it comes to the private sector. GRTU's position is that we support the
reconciliation of work and family life, most of the businesses we represent are
family businesses and therefore this is inherent to us. GRTU agrees that a
successful career can exist inparallel to family obligations and we are also in
favour of the increased employment of women. GRTU recognizes that such family
friendly measures also give a return to employers because employees are
encouraged to go back to work after maternity leave and stay in work. This also
could result in increased commitment and performance of employees.

GRTU is also of the opinion that
employers are already doing a lot. For a micro enterprise complying to
maternity leave requirements is no easy feat and we therefore should try to
alleviate the burden on business as much as possible. The approach GRTU would
accept is one based on knowledge and giving the correct information, not just
to parents and the public at large but also to businesses and their employees.
GRTU would also encourage communication between the employer and his employees
as employers need to be notified in advance that the employee would need
support also in relation to breastfeeding. In addition the approach should not
be to impose but to guide employers and help them understand that with some
minor changes they can be supporting employees and we must give them practical
and cost effective options. This is an approach GRTU would fully support.

The drafted legislation also seeks to
control the marketing of breast milk substitutes by stopping companies from
advertising products as breast milk substitutes and impeding these companies
from sponsoring or advertise in certain health-related events. GRTU feels that
as far as health centres, the  hospital and health events organized by
them are concerned they have the right to limit the involvement of the private
sector as they deem fit. We do however feel that it is excessive to regulate
private and independent advertising. This we feel would have insignificant
benefits and if we start regulating advertising like this to protect people from
the influence of the media there is no telling where we will stop.

The
consultation is open till the end of August and GRTU will be consulting its
members and presenting a position paper.

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