MOTHERS may see stronger official warnings on baby formula labels about the risks of not breastfeeding.
The nation's food watchdog is seeking feedback on whether "breast is best" messages should be changed to clearly spell out the health benefits of breast versus bottle.
But the Infant Nutrition Council fears more confronting statements will make mothers using formula feel anxious and "second rate".
Under current law, manufacturers point out that "Breast milk is best for babies. Before you decide to use this product, consult your doctor or health worker for advice".
Food Standards Australia New Zealand deputy CEO Melanie Fisher said some public health experts had suggested altering labels amid concern over poor breastfeeding rates.
"Some stakeholders have suggested that the breast is best warning statement be amended to a risk-based statement about the risks to infant health of not breastfeeding," a consultation paper notes.
"These stakeholders state that such a statement would reflect a body of evidence showing that compared to formula feeding, breastfeeding is associated with lower incidence of infection and some chronic diseases, and evidence for improved cognitive development in the breastfed infant."
FSANZ is calling for submissions ahead of a review of infant formula regulations next year.
The Australian Breastfeeding Association says that despite recommendations to breastfeed babies exclusively for six months, less than one in five children are solely breastfed by the time they are at that age.
Infant Nutrition Council chief executive officer Jan Carey said that while breastfeeding was the "ultimate form of nutrition" and a "magical substance", scientifically-based infant formulas were not dangerous.
"I certainly agree that mothers should be able to make an informed choice. It is also important that mothers are not made to feel anxious," Ms Carey said.
"It's unfair if mothers are made to feel second rate." Lack of support at home or in the workplace, concerns about not producing enough milk, and difficulty breastfeeding were key reasons for using formula.
Dr Jennifer James, a senior lecturer in nursing and midwifery at RMIT University, said breast milk provided immunity and childhood obesity protection, and improved brain, oral and eye development.
Infant formula was vulnerable to production errors and contamination if not properly prepared, she said.
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