Private hospitals support breastfeeding over infant formula

Private hospitals support breastfeeding over infant formula
A woman breastfeeding her child. AP File Photo
Published: 9:40 PM, May 11, 2017
Updated: 12:22 AM, May 12, 2017

SINGAPORE — Private healthcare providers Parkway Pantai and Thomson Medical Centre said they are supportive of mothers breastfeeding their children fully, following a report on infant-formula prices jumping sharply in recent years.

The Competition Commission of Singapore said on Wednesday (May 10) in its report that heavy investment in marketing, as well as research and development activities by formula-milk makers, were part of the reason the average retail prices of infant milk powder have more than doubled in the past nine years.

Thomson Medical Centre, known for its specialities and services targeting pregnancies and paediatrics, told TODAY that it “advocates and supports total breastfeeding”.

“Breastfeeding confers many other benefits (apart from) providing the child’s nutritional needs,” its spokesperson said. 

These include a deepening of the emotional bond between mother and child, and enhancing the baby’s immunity. 

They are why as many as 96 per cent of mothers choose to breastfeed at the time of their discharge from the hospital, he added. These mothers also get training and support from lactation consultants.

The centre said that it is actively moving towards Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) certification — an accreditation that the authorities have been urging private hospitals to achieve. 

The initiative encourages practices that protect, promote and support breastfeeding, so its staff members have been working to promote skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby at birth, training the relevant people to help mothers breastfeed successfully.

It also conducts childbirth education classes that focus on the benefits of breastfeeding.

Parkway Pantai, which runs Mount Elizabeth, Mount Elizabeth Novena, Gleneagles and Parkway East hospitals, also said that the group strongly advocates breastfeeding. 

Ms Elaine Ng, its group director of nursing, said: “Our four hospitals in Singapore … have always recognised that breast milk is best for infants.”

Lactation consultants at the hospitals actively coach and support mothers in breastfeeding through and after pregnancy, she added.

In its report, the Competition Commission of Singapore found that in 2014, a majority of babies — close to 60 per cent — were born in private hospitals compared with public 

In response to the competition watchdog’s findings, the Ministry of Health said in a statement on Wednesday that it would “strongly encourage” all hospitals providing maternity services to achieve BFHI certification, noting that hospitals are “important touch-points” for parents.

“None of the private hospitals offering maternity services has obtained such certification to date, and we hope that they will see that this is beneficial to their patients and will come on board to support the initiative.”