A controversial research study in Indonesia about formula milk that was going to use newborns as test subjects has officially been halted following massive protests from the public and pro-breast-feeding activists.
“We are very thankful that the study has been dropped, which means they won’t be testing and harming perfectly healthy newborns just for the sake of research,” Utami Roesli, chairwoman of the Indonesian Breast-feeding Center, said on Monday.
In a letter sent to the Association of Indonesia Breast-Feeding Mothers (AIMI), the University of Indonesia medical school said that the study, known as the Daffodil Study, would no longer be carried out.
The study, which was supposed to be conducted by a group of researchers from UI’s medical school, was aimed at finding which formula milk most closely resembled breast milk. The study planned to use four-month-old babies as test subjects.
In December, pro-breast-feeding groups initiated a movement against the study. An online petition at change.org gathered more than 1,500 signatures by January.
The pro-breast-feeding groups also met with Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi to ask that the study be stopped. The minister said she agreed the study should be stopped unless it met three requirements: that it would only involve babies more than six months old, that the financier of the research be revealed and that the study would not compare breast-milk with formula milk.
Utami said the study would jeopardize Indonesia’s efforts to promote breast-feeding.
“After all this time and so much hard work, we’re finally seeing a bit of progress, but the study would turn all of this hard work into nothing,” she said.
A 2007 study found that only 32 percent of Indonesian mothers breast-fed their babies exclusively for six months. In 2011 the figure rose to 42 percent, but this is still lower than the rate in neighboring countries like Singapore and Malaysia.
The main researcher of Daffodil study, Darmawan Budi Setyanto, said halting the study would not benefit Indonesian babies.
“We, the researchers, are not losing anything if the Daffodil study is halted; the loss would be suffered by Indonesian babies. Of course, breast-milk is good, but not all babies are that lucky. Some babies are not fortunate enough to be exclusively breast-fed,” he said.
Darmawan said the study was aimed at finding the best formula milk to help babies whose mothers, due to whatever reason, could not breast-feed them.
“But there was so much protest,” he said, adding that they complied with the requirements set out by the Health Ministry. However, he didn’t respond when asked by the Jakarta Globe who was supposed to finance the study.
“Even though we tried to fulfill all the necessary requirements, we decided it would be best to just drop the study,” he said.