SINGAPORE - Healthcare group Parkway Pantai, whose hospitals include Gleneagles, Mount Elizabeth, Mount Elizabeth Novena and Parkway East, will do more to support breastfeeding and no longer have sponsorship agreements with formula milk companies.
Senior Minister of State for Health, Dr Amy Khor, on Saturday (June 30) announced at the 30th anniversary celebrations of Mount Elizabeth's Fertility Centre (MEFC) that the hospitals will be working towards attaining the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) accreditation from the end of this year.
Dr Noel Yeo, chief executive officer of Mount Elizabeth Hospital, said at the event held at Raffles Town Club: "In preparation for BFHI accreditation, the hospitals have ramped up engagement of its specialist doctors, training for all staff who come into contact with expectant mothers, and education for mothers-to-be, especially on the benefits of full-time baby rooming-in."
The latter refers to 24-hour rooming-in for mothers and newborns to stay in close proximity, which Dr Yeo added the maternity wards will be reconfigured for.
From Sunday (July 1), Parkway Pantai will also cease sponsorships from formula milk companies and introduce more affordable ready-to-feed formula milk at its hospitals.
"For parents who need to purchase infant formula for their babies, this means they will not be locked in to more expensive brands of formula milk even before they leave the hospital, since the majority of parents tend not to switch brands after leaving the hospital," said Dr Khor.
Awarded by the World Health Organisation and United Nations Children's Fund, the BFHI certification encourages breastfeeding by facilitating skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby for at least an hour immediately after delivery, for example.
The Health Ministry has been encouraging private hospitals to adopt the BFHI certificate since last year. Raffles Hospital was the first to commit to revising its practices and seeks to be certified by the middle of next year, while all three public hospitals offering maternity services - KK Women's and Children's Hospital, National University Hospital and Singapore General Hospital - are BFHI-certified.
There were more than 500 participants at Saturday's event, including babies who were conceived as the result of the fertility centre's efforts.
MEFC has helped deliver almost 3,000 babies since 1988through assisted reproductive technology such as in-vitro fertilisation (IVF).
Among the babies there who have since grown up was Stephen Yang, 10, from Indonesia.
His parents, Mr Eddy Muljono, 49, director of a tin refinery firm near Jakarta, and Ms Melly, 46, a housewife, went through about six doctors in Indonesia and Singapore, spending more than $100,000 in their eight-year fertility journey before Stephen was conceived through IVF.
"But when we finally had Stephen, the happiness was indescribable," said Ms Melly.
In Singapore today, the total fertility rate is 1.16, the lowest figures since 2010, and way below the 2.1 the population needs to replace itself.
Correction note: This story has been updated for clarity.