A mother breastfeeds her newborn in the maternity unit alongside the father

The 2023 Lancet Series on Breastfeeding

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“The marketing of commercial milk formula for use in the first three years of life has negatively altered the infant and young child feeding ecosystem.”

8 February 2023

The new Lancet series outlines the multifaceted and highly effective strategies used by commercial formula manufacturers to target parents, healthcare professionals and policy-makers.

Findings also shine a light on how the value of breastfeeding is wasted by government and public health.

The three-paper series covers:

  1. Breastfeeding: crucially important, but increasingly challenged in a market-driven world
  2. Marketing of commercial milk formula: a system to capture parents, communities, science, and policy
  3. The political economy of infant and young child feeding: confronting corporate power, overcoming structural barriers, and accelerating progress

Members of the 2023 Lancet breastfeeding series group shared:

“Advice that breastfeeding is best for their babies’ health is no use if women are not supported to understand and manage unsettled baby behaviours, or if mothers without maternity leave or pay are forced to go back to work out of financial necessity.”Dr Julie Smith, Australian National University

“The sale of commercial milk formula is a multi-billion-dollar industry which uses political lobbying alongside a sophisticated and highly effective marketing playbook to turn the care and concern of parents and caregivers into a business opportunity. It is time for this to end. Women should be empowered to make choices about infant feeding which are informed by accurate information free from industry influence.” – Professor Nigel Rollins, WHO

Findings supportive of Baby Friendly

The reports highlight positive infant feeding outcomes stemming from implementation of Baby Friendly across services:

“Robust evaluations show a greater effect on breastfeeding outcomes at scale than interventions that are not well coordinated across sectors and different levels of the socioecological model. For instance, the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative can provide an important springboard for multilevel and multicomponent interventions that involve the engagement of community and individual families.” (Paper 1)

“Evaluations show that the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative is effectively implemented when resourced and fully supported at the health system level, rather than when costs and responsibilities are imposed upon individual facilities.” (Paper 3)

Learn more

Access the papers via The Lancet. You can also watch a recorded webinar with Richard Horton, Editor in Chief of The Lancet and a panel of experts for a live event at the Royal Society of Medicine on 8 February 2023.

Learn more about support for breastfeeding across the UK and the exploitative marketing of breastmilk substitutes:

The impact of infant formula marketing

Read more

The Becoming Breastfeeding Friendly project

Read more

Call to Action on infant feeding in the UK

Read more