What is the International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes?

by Debra Tolson, ICEA Presdient

Do you know what the “International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes” is? Have you heard the verbiage “WHO Code compliant”? Did you know that the International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes was written by the World Health Organization (WHO)? The International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes was developed by WHO to “level the playing field” with advertising of well-funded formula companies and is part of the Baby Friendly Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. It supports breastfeeding as the first choice for infant feeding. The basic principle states any and all companies who manufacture, distribute and market infant feeding “supplies” should abide by the WHO Code recommendations. A summary of the code includes:

  • No advertising of breastmilk substitutes to families.
  • No free samples, gifts, or supplies in the health care system.
  • No promotions of products through health care facilities, including no free or low-cost formula.
  • No contact between marketing personnel and mothers.
  • No words or pictures idealizing artificial feeding on the labels or product.
  • Information to health workers should be scientific and factual only.
  • All information on artificial feeding, including labels, should explain the benefits of breastfeeding and the costs and hazards associated with artificial feeding.
  • Unsuitable products should not be promoted for babies including: formulas, bottles, nipples, and pacifiers.

Did you know ICEA supports the International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes? Did you know that all of our educational programs and conferences will only promote or display materials from companies that are Code compliant? Did you know that everything we do runs through the filter of this code? These are important questions to ask when you are a member of any organization or seeking certification from an organization! Make sure you have knowledge to make an informed decision!

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