Our Call to Action campaign urges UK governments to take four key steps to enable mothers to breastfeed for as long as they wish and to protect all babies from commercial interests.
The following outlines Step 4: why work to improve breastfeeding rates must include strengthening the law that protects babies from harmful commercial interests.
This marketing is highly successful, with the UK baby feeding industry projected to be worth over $900 million a year by 2019. As a consequence, the UK now has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world. This has a severe impact on our children’s health and wellbeing, with soaring rates of childhood obesity and diet- related illnesses such as diabetes. Despite compelling evidence that breastfeeding saves lives, protects health and cuts costs, marketing of breastmilk substitutes fuels a misconception that formula milk is almost as good as breastmilk.
Because of its profound effect on human health, WHO has long considered baby feeding to be in need of special protection from commercial interests. Over 30 years ago, WHO produced the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (the Code) which aims to restrict the advertising of food and drink intended for babies. This ensures that all parents, whether breast- or bottle-feeding, are protected from harmful marketing and given only scientific, factual and evidence-based information about infant feeding.*
WHO and the United Nations continue to urge all countries to adopt the Code as law. The UK has never done this, instead choosing to adopt inadequate legislation which places few restrictions on the advertising of food and drink intended for babies.
In light of the UK’s continuing low breastfeeding rates and the serious impact this has on public health, UNICEF UK calls on the UK and all devolved Governments to protect the public from harmful and misleading marketing by adopting, in full, the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and all subsequent resolutions as recommended by WHO.
It is crucial that UK governments fully adopt the Code in order to protect the health of all babies, whether breast- or formula- fed.
*Scientific and factual information about infant feeding, free from commercial interests, can be found from First Steps Nutrition Trust, UNICEF UK’s Baby Friendly Initiative and the Department of Health.
Much greater political will is needed to enact and enforce The Code, together with national investment to ensure implementation and accountability.