Lack of adequate breastfeeding is a significant contributor to malnutrition, disease and death all over the world, but especially in developing countries. Unfortunately, lack of regulatory enforcement of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes has allowed infant food manufacturers to prey on mothers and babies, convincing mothers that artificial baby milk is equivalent or better than their own breastmilk. When mothers are convinced by formula company marketing to forgo breastfeeding, they not only put their own health and that of their children at significant risk, they also accrue the significant economic burden of paying for a commercial product that is far beyond the means of a large portion of the world. Parents are soon unable to afford to feed their children the expensive artificial baby milk products touted by glossy ads, but have missed the important window to establish breastfeeding. As a result, artificial baby milk is watered down with unclean water, or infants are fed the cheapest substitute available such as powdered coffee creamer. These infants, who could have thrived on their mothers’ free breastmilk, instead suffer from disease, malnutrition and death due to the aggressive and predatory marketing of artificial baby milk. The best way to go about addressing this would be to support the creation of laws and enforcement of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. Created by the World Health Organization in 1982, this Code was developed to protect infants and children from malnutrition at death at the hands of aggressive infant formula marketing. However, even the WHO itself has turned a blind eye to the Code in recent months as its Pan American Health Office accepted donations from Nestle, one of the worst violators of the Code. Increased breastfeeding needs to be a major focus of the Millenium Development Goals as it has been shown to greatly impact child and adult health for decades. It is a sustainable, portable, affordable solution to infant nutrition that nearly all mothers have access to. Supporting legislation and enforcement of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes would be a significant step that the UN could make to reduce malnutrition all over the world. I sincerely hope that the Millenium Development Goals will include supporting breastfeeding mothers by reducing the influence of infant formula marketing around the world. For more information, please watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PBtb-UDhEc
This thematic discussion was led by FAO and WFP in collaboration with “The World We Want”.
The consultation was facilitated by the Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)