Maybe on another planet

I just read over the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and I am shocked. Once again. I will copy here the article 5, intitled “The general public and mothers”:

5.1 There should be no advertising or other form of promotion to the general public of products within the scope of this Code (my note: these include breastmilk substitutes, including infant formula; other milk products; feeding bottles and teats).

5.2. Manufacturers and distributors should not provide, directly or indirectly, to pregnant women, mothers or members of their families, samples of products within the scope of this Code.

5.3. In conformity with paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Article, there should be no point-of-sale advertising, giving of samples, or any other promotion device to induce sales directly to the consumer at the retail level, such as special displays, disount coupons, premiums, special sales, loss-leaders and tie-in sales, for products within the scope of this Code. This provision should not restrict the establishment of pricing policies and practices intended to provide products at lower prices on a long-term basis.

5.4 Manufacturers and distributors should not distribute to pregnant women or mothers of infants and young children any gifts of articles or utensils which may promote the use of breastmilk substitutes or bottle-feeding.

5.5 Marketing personnel, in their business capacity, should not seek direct or indirect contact of any kind with pregnant women or with mothers of infants and young children.

I knew this, but the marketing of breastmilk substitutes is so all over the place that after a while I tend to forget the code and accept the marketing of breastmilk substitutes as almost normal. For example, I was at the gym this weekend and saw a mom with an infant who was carrying the best tactical backpack for the money with the BabyNestlé logo on it. Part of me was saying, oh, that’s nice, a free backpack. And another was saying: NO, IT IS NOT NICE. There is a good reason why “presents” from the formula companies are forbidden by the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, and it is the same reason why the formula companies give them away: freebies from the formula companies interfere with the protection and promotion of breastfeeding.

A "free" backpack that comes at a high price
A "free" backpack that comes at a high price

I wonder when the governments who have signed the WHO Code will abide by it (as a reminder, Canada signed it in 1981).

6 thoughts on “Maybe on another planet”

  1. I actually wrote an email to a formula company once, based on the reading of these rules. (They don’t seem much like rules, really, do they, but only suggestions, with the amount of actual obedience they receive.) The company told me that according to the WHO codes/laws, the company is only prohibited from promoting and distributing in countries that are considered 3rd world. I find it interesting that the countries who already breastfeed almost exclusively are the ones who receive the least amount of formula interference by law.

    We as Americans are considered educated, but our rampant use of breastfeeding substitutes suggests otherwise. My sister and sister-in-law both NEVER even attempted breastfeeding after their babies were born. I did not judge them about this decision. They both work outside their homes, while I do not, and have breastfed all 4 of my sons. I don’t know if this is actually something foremost in their minds- that I have more time to concentrate on my baby while I stay home. But while I do not judge their choices, I get grief from pretty much all of my family because of my breastfeeding choices. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done for my children, but it sucks that breastfeeders receive little to no support even from their own families. I think I would have given up if my husband wasn’t my biggest supporter.

    1. Hi Angel, Thank you very much for sharing this. It is not true that formula companies only have to follow those rules in third world countries. Of course, formula mixed with dirty water is very dangerous, but the advertising of formula undermines a mother’s confidence in her ability to breastfeed just as much in North America than it does in third world countries. Breastfeeding is best for all babies, regardless of race or income level.

      I’m glad you got the support of your husband: it is so important !

  2. I actually avoid purchasing anything made by nestle or any of it’s affiliates. I HATE Nestle as they are the WORST for violations of the WHO code

    1. That’s a brave decision and a very hard one to maintain ! I’ve tried to boycott Nestlé too, but so many products are produced by them that I got discouraged. You make me want to rethink this ! It may be a good time to do so as well, since I’m trying to cut processed and prepared foods from my diet.

  3. I had the bombardment of samples come after my daughter was born. I think the most unethical part of their marketing is the timing of their samples, as they all came within a week or 2 of my due date. For me the first month of breastfeeding was extremely challenging, and I know a lot of mothers who felt the same, so getting the samples so early on seemed like a bit of a dirty trick to me (but I’m too stubborn to fall for it!). There is a time and a place for formula, but we all know it’s available, so the marketing practices are highly unethical.

    As a side note – the food bank in my city is always looking for donations of formula so my friends and I all decided to donate our samples to give people who actually need the product, but can’t really afford it access.

    1. Giving the samples away to foodbanks is a good idea, as long as the women who get them are already bottle-feeding formula to their children. It’s tricky because if they get it before giving birth, receiving the formula sample is not helping at all, it plays the same role (undermining the confidence a mother has in her ability to breastfeed) as with anybody else, in fact a little bit worse because lower income mothers are even more likely to formula-feed than others.

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