Israel’s Health Ministry will begin a more concentrated effort to encourage women to breastfeed their babies, instituting new policies in hospitals starting September 1.
Mothers of newborns will receive explanations of the many health benefits of breastfeeding, and their babies will only be given formula if the mothers expressly request it, according to the new policy. Immediately after birth, interested mothers will be eligible to receive lactation guidance from experts on site.
If a health reason for the mother or child necessitates formula feeding, or the mother otherwise chooses not to breastfeed, she will be given a choice between two formulas. Prior to the switch, babies were fed formula from birth unless the mother expressed interest in breastfeeding, or from birth until the mother determined she was ready to begin breastfeeding.
Under the new initiative, mothers will be offered the option of rooming with their newborns, and babies who are fed formula or water will have the amounts recorded in their medical charts. Newborns who are nursing will also not be offered pacifiers.
The choice of two different formulas will also break the monopoly of formula companies which provide free formula to newborns in the hospital. The new regulations will prohibit the distribution of formula, baby foods, teas, and baby bottles in the hospital, and will remove all advertisements for baby foods and formulas from hospitals, health clinics, and national well-baby (Tipat Chalav) clinics.
The health ministry and the World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding during the first six months of life, with breastfeeding plus supplements being recommend even past the first year.