Most countries lack adequate laws to protect and promote breastfeeding: Report
May 19, Geneva: Laws to protect breastfeeding against the growing multi-billion-dollar breast-milk substitute business are inadequate in most countries, exposing small children to a greater risk of childhood diseases.
According to a United Nations report released on Monday, marketing of breast-milk substitutes: National implementation of the International Code, shows that of the 194 countries analyzed, 135 have in place some form of legal measure related to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes (the Code) and subsequent, relevant resolutions adopted by the World Health Assembly.
This is up from 103 in 2011, but only 39 countries have laws that enact all provisions of the Code, a slight increase from 37 in 2011.
The report, by the World Health Organization (WHO), UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) , reveals that among the countries that have any laws on marketing of breast-milk substitutes, just over half sufficiently prohibit advertising and promotion of breast-milk substitutes, including infant formula, feeding bottles and teats.
“It is encouraging to see more countries pass laws to protect and promote breastfeeding, but there are still far too many places where mothers are inundated with incorrect and biased information through advertising and unsubstantiated health claims,” said, Francesco Branca, Director of WHO's Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, in a joint press release.
“This can distort parents' perceptions and undermine their confidence in breastfeeding, with the result that far too many children miss out on its many benefits,” he adds.
WHO and UNICEF recommend that babies are fed nothing but breast milk for their first 6 months, after which they should continue breastfeeding – as well as eating other safe and nutritionally adequate foods – until two years of age or beyond.
The report says that globally, nearly two out of three infants are not exclusively breastfed for the recommended 6 months – a rate that has not improved in two decades. Breast milk is the ideal food for infants. It is safe, clean and contains antibodies which help protect against many common childhood illnesses.
Breastfed children perform better on intelligence tests, are less likely to be overweight or obese and less prone to diabetes later in life. Women who breastfeed have a reduced risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Inappropriate marketing of breast-milk substitutes continues to undermine efforts to improve breastfeeding rates and duration worldwide, the report warns.
In this context, WHO member States have committed to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months of life to at least 50 per cent by 2025 as one of a set of global nutrition targets.
The Code calls on countries to protect breastfeeding by stopping the inappropriate marketing of breast-milk substitutes, including infant formula, feeding bottles and teats. It bans all forms of promotion of substitutes, including advertising, gifts to health workers and distribution of free samples.
The Oslo Times