Why worry about code compliance?

Breastfeeding Babes are proud to be compliant with the Baby Friendly Initiative and the World Health Organisation’s International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. In short, as stated in the manifesto for our groups, “we do not accept funding, whether directly or indirectly, from formula milk companies. We do not use supplies or products from companies which manufacture or market formula milk.”

We have faced a few scenarios relating to this very recently, so thought it might be worth explaining our stance on such matters to you all. We have made the decision to no longer stock Lansinoh sachets at our groups after discovering that their parent company, Pigeon, is not BFI compliant (in fact, in 2004, the IBFAN Breaking the Rules monitoring report found Pigeon to be the worst of the bottle and teat companies profiled – you can find more details on the practises of Lansinoh/Pigeon here). We won a breastpump in a prize draw from the same company, but declined to accept it for the same reason. We were also asked to run a breastfeeding peer support group in a store that sells artificial milks, along with bottles etc. This would have given us a great opportunity to meet mums and promote our groups, as well as boosting the profile of breastfeeding within the store, BUT it would have meant compromising our principles.

Why is this important? Does it really matter if a company that manufactures or sells artificial milks wanted to give us some money or an opportunity to promote our group? Are we mad to refuse it when we operate with very little funding?

We already know that breastfeeding rates in this country are very low compared with the rest of the world. The proportion of babies being exclusively breastfed for 3 months (based on data collected between 2004 and 2012) was just 17% in the UK, compared to 35% in the USA and a whopping 95.8% in Hungary. Despite the promotion of infant formula being illegal since 1995 in this country, two thirds (60%) of mothers surveyed in 2005 said they had seen or heard advertising for infant formula in the past year. The marketing of ‘toddler’ or ‘follow-on’ milks (neither of which have any scientific proof of being beneficial – infant formula can be used until the baby is ready to move on to solids and cow’s milk) is so effective, that parents believe they have seen advertising for the same brands’ infant milks. Parents in this country are constantly being bombarded with promotion of not only artificial milks, but also bottles and other such bottle feeding paraphernalia. Even promotion of so called ‘breastfeeding aids’ (nipple shields, breast shells, pumps, creams etc) can be damaging as they set up expectations of pain, a need for aids or failure before breastfeeding has even started. So although some may believe that we are mad for not embracing every opportunity, whether in terms of items/funds to be gained, or publicity to be achieved, we believe that our role is protect every mother’s right to breastfeed, and her right to expect to breastfeed without problems or the need for aids. And we believe that any stand we can take to protect new families from the bombardment of advertising in this country is a stand worth taking.


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