Australia’s failure to protect, promote, support breastfeeding

Many will have seen the recent hoohaa about the actions of the  USA’s Department of Health and Human Services at a recent World Health Assembly meeting in Europe.

Ecuador introduced a resolution that was far from earth shattering or even controversial BUT …. The US were keen to amend it in order to soften messages about the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding and to block measures to restrict the inappropriate promotion of foods for infant and young children- the kind of products that impact adversely on breastfeeding.

It is an open secret that the US has not been a big supporter of global approaches to breastfeeding advocacy.  In 1981 when the WHO Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was passed, the US vote was the ONE and ONLY nation to vote against it.

Dr Jen Thomas posted an informative piece on the US history in this regard here 

In our work with the Australian WBTi assessment we were able to examine the Australian government’s commitment to upholding the WHO Code.

Australia scored 1.5/10 on this Indicator.

Our piece on the topic was published yesterday for health media organisation CROAKEY (1st degree relative of the iconic CRIKEY).  It is here for your interest.

In it we explain the current Australian system for regulation of the infant formula industry and how this falls desperately short of best practice.

If you are a breastfeeding advocate you might already be aware of APMAIF and the MAIF agreement.  For many of us it has been a point of frustration that marketing of infant formula has remained rampant in Australia despite all the whoops and hollers about how much WE LOVE BREASTFEEDING.

There has also been little sense of how things could be changed.

The WBTi process gives us direction for how change might occur.  It certainly lets us know what the gold standard is for breastfeeding protection:

all articles of the Code must be made into law

This is the introduction to Indicator 3:

Key questions: Is the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent WHA resolution in effect and implemented? Has any new action been taken to give effect to the provisions of the Code?

The “Innocenti Declaration” calls for all governments to take action to implement all the articles of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and the subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions.

The aim of the Code is to contribute to the provision of safe and adequate nutrition for infants, by the protection and promotion of breastfeeding, and by ensuring the proper use of breastmilk substitutes, when these are necessary, on the basis of adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution.
Nations are supposed to enact legislation as a follow-up to the International Code. Several relevant subsequent World Health Assembly resolutions, which strengthen the International Code have been adopted since then and have the same status as the Code and should also be considered. The Global Strategy for infant and young child feeding calls for heightened action on this target. According to WHO 162 out of 191 Member States have taken action to give effect to it but the ICDC’s report brings out the fact that only 32 countries have so far brought national legislation that fully covers the Code.
A report by WHO (2013) “Country implementation of the international code of marketing of breastmilk substitutes: status report 2011″ has also highlighted dismal status of the global implementation of the International Code.
The Code has been reaffirmed by the World Health Assembly several times while undertaking resolutions regarding various issues related with infant and young child nutrition.

Watch this space for change to occur.


Image: Amadori. CART.



One thought on “Australia’s failure to protect, promote, support breastfeeding

  1. Thanks for summary. I remain aghast as a member of the ‘global community’ of human beings that this continues to be at issue. The ongoing commodification of what and how we feed our infants is simply appalling.


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