Breastfeeding promotes brain development, and protects infants against malnutrition, infectious diseases and death, while also reducing risks of obesity and chronic diseases in later life. It also helps protect mothers against breast and ovarian cancers. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends exclusively breasfeeding babies for the first six months and giving breast milk alongside solid food until the age of two.
25 experts from 12 countries, including paediatricians, public health specialists, scientists, economists and midwives, find that commercial milk formula companies “exploit parents’ emotions and manipulate scientific information to generate sales at the expense of the health and rights of families, women and children”.
The “economic and political power” of the dominant formula milk companies and countries’ “public policy failures” mean that fewer than half of infants globally are breastfed as recommended, the Lancet 2023 Series on Breastfeeding found.
Dr Nigel Rollins, a co-author of the series and a paediatrician in the department of maternal, newborn, child and adolescent health at the WHO explained, “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.”
The voluntary uptake of the code is not enough and call for an international legal treaty to regulate lobbying and the commercial marketing of infant formula milk to protect the health and wellbeing of mothers and families.