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Venezuela Considers Taking Bottles From Babies' Mouths

posted 17 Jun 2013, 19:37 by Mpelembe   [ updated 17 Jun 2013, 19:38 ]

Venezuela's Congress set to debate a ban on baby formula and bottles in move some mothers see as a governmental overreach.

CARACASVENEZUELA (JUNE 17, 2013) (REUTERS) -  Venezuela's Congress is slated to discuss legislation on Tuesday (June 18) that would prohibit bottle feeding of infants to try to encourage breast-feeding and reduce the use of baby formula, according to ruling Socialist Party officials.

Last week one legislator, Odalis Monzon, said the proposal would "prohibit all types of baby bottles" as a way to improve children's health.

The proposed legislation would also prohibit advertising of bottles and baby formula similar to bans on running ads for cigarettes and would bar the use of bottles for babies younger than six months in health centres.

"We have to promote breast-feeding and I am in full agreement, but I don't think it is necessary to sanction it. I also think there needs to be flexibility because there are mothers who can't or don't want to. How can you make them?" one mother, Eva Uzcategui said.

The bill's supporters say it would strengthen the bond between mother and child that has been jeopardized by "transnational companies" selling formula.

Mothers using bottles or people distributing the bottles or formula could face heavy fines if the bill is passed by Congress, where President Nicolas Maduro's Socialist Party has a majority.

"I don't think it is the right way because unfortunately there are mothers who cannot breast-feed and you can't restrain them and force them to have a prescription in order to get formula and then a bottle, because if there is an emergency you don't have the formula on hand. This isn't the way to go about it," another mother, Maria Alejandra Abreu said.

Monzon said, however, that exceptions would be allowed, such as in the case of the death of a mother, or for women with limited breast milk production, as determined by the health ministry.

Such legislation would likely raise the ire of opposition sympathizers who say the government of the late President Hugo Chavez excessively extended the reach of the state into the lives of private citizens.

Maduro, a Chavez ally, was elected in April after his mentor's death from cancer, has vowed to extend his predecessor's 14-year self-styled revolution that enjoyed strong support among the country's poor.