World Health Organization: Stronger breastfeeding laws needed

May 10, 2016 12:13 PM by NBC News

In a new report, the world health organization said while more countries are passing laws to protect breastfeeding, the laws passed are not strong enough.

The WHO, along with the United Nations Children's Fund and International Baby Food Action Network said that of the 194 countries analyzed in the report, 135 have some form of legal measures related to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes up from 103 in 2011.

"In this report, what we really found was that many more countries are actually passing laws that are protecting breastfeeding but often times those laws are not as strong as they ought to be, and in fact there are many countries who still haven't passed any laws at all to protect against the marketing of infant formula," said Laurence Grummer-Strawn, WHO Department of Nutrition.

However, only 39 countries have laws that enact all provisions of the code. The code is a set of rules defined by w-h-o 35 years ago to try and protect breastfeeding. It calls on countries to stop the inappropriate marketing of breast-milk substitutes, including infant formula, and feeding bottles.

It also aims to ensure breast-milk substitutes are used safely when they are necessary and bans all forms of promotion of substitutes, including advertising, gifts to health workers, and distribution of free samples.

"It’s certainly true that there are some babies, a very small proportion of babies, who can't breastfeed, for some reason and those babies need to have infant formula,” Grummer-Strawn said. “So we don't want to get in the way of products of infant formula, but the way that they are marketed actually gets in the way of all of those women who can breastfeed. And so what the code does, is it sets out certain rules for how the marketing of breast-milk substitutes, such as infant formula, should be controlled and regulated by governments."

The WHO and UNICEF recommend that babies are fed nothing but breast milk for their first six months, after which they should continue breastfeeding, along with other nutritious foods, until at least two years of age. WHO member states have committed to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life to at least 50 percent by 2025 as one of a set of global nutrition targets.


Most Popular