General Election, 2020

Baby Feeding Law Group Ireland (BFLGI) is an alliance of organisations and individuals working together to protect infant, young child and maternal health by ending marketing practices that commercialise infant feeding, mislead consumers and threaten breastfeeding.

In advance of the upcoming general election, BFLGI is interested in political parties’ proposed measures for strengthening legislation relevant to infant feeding. It appears that only four parties have made a comment in their manifestos that is directly related to infant feeding, though some parties have included comments on maternity/parental leave.

  • The Green Party have stated that they aim to improve “the long term immunity and health of the population of Ireland by increasing support, protection and promotion of breastfeeding in maternity, paediatric and community health care settings” and to “create family friendly policies within all structures of local government to provide access to maternity and paternity leave, affordable childcare and breastfeeding facilities to all participants.”
  • The Labour Party have stated that they “will support the development of services for breastfeeding mothers to both encourage and support mothers to breastfeed, with the aim of increasing the currently low rate of breastfeeding in Ireland.” The Labour Party also published a breastfeeding policy in 2017.
  • Fine Gael state that they support “the target of a 2% annual increase in the number of new mothers’ breastfeeding in maternity hospitals and primary care centres, with support from increased access to lactation specialists and public health nurses.” They have also said that they “will prioritise areas of social disadvantage and where there are low breastfeeding rates. For those wishing to extend breastfeeding beyond six months, Fine Gael supports the extension of paid breastfeeding/lactation breaks or paid reduction in working hours for breastfeeding mothers from 26 weeks to 104 weeks.”
  • The Social Democrats state that “investing in public health nursing will also allow for a much sharper focus on breast-feeding. We are keen to take a number of measures to support breastfeeding by ensuring maternity services are properly resourced to support new mothers, by extending entitlement to breaks to breast-feeding mothers, by requiring large workplaces to provide breast-feeding rooms and a small fridge for breast-feeding mothers who wish to pump, and by establishing a breast-milk bank in the Republic.”
  • Fianna Fáil have stated that they will “expand Maternity leave to 30 weeks” and “protect the first 14 weeks of leave as core maternity leave and 4 weeks as core paternity leave and allow parents to share the remainder of paid and unpaid leave as they choose.” BFLGI has concerns about the impact this proposal may have on the HSE’s recommendation that infants are exclusively breastfed for approximately the first 6 months.
  • Sinn Féin have said that one of their priorities is to deliver “an additional 26 weeks of maternity (or paternity) leave to enable a parent to be with their child for its first year of its life.”

To our knowledge, other parties have not mentioned infant feeding in their manifestos.

Could party representatives please comment or clarify where they stand on legislation relevant to infant feeding?

Breastfeeding welcome everywhere

bfgli 2

STATEMENT FROM  BABY FEEDING LAW GROUP IRELAND

Breastfeeding welcome here? No thanks – Breastfeeding welcome everywhere!

Leading health advocate organisation denounces Danone’s attempt to make breastfeeding appear a niche activity. The Baby Feeding Law Group Ireland (BFLGI) is dismayed to see infant formula company Danone distribute “breastfeeding welcome here” signs to cafés and restaurants in Ireland.

Mothers are legally entitled to breastfeed in any public place in Ireland. This campaign is merely a marketing ploy aimed at creating brand loyalty for Danone products. Breastfeeding is welcome everywhere in Ireland; it is the law. Signage, from a commercial company involved in the production and distribution of infant formula, suggesting that breastfeeding is only welcome in some places is unnecessary. To do so implies that breastfeeding is less acceptable in public places than feeding with a bottle of artificial baby milk.

All mothers need to know that breastfeeding is normal and that they have a legal right to breastfeed, free from harassment, in any public place in Ireland. Women and their families can complain if a business owner fails to protect this right. The campaign could result in some mothers feeling that they are not allowed to breastfeed in premises that do not display the sticker. Similarly business owners may believe that protecting breastfeeding mothers is optional.

Infant feeding in Ireland

Ireland has one of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world while the global baby formula business is estimated to be worth $45 billion per year. Formula producers invest heavily in marketing tactics including the cynical embracing of breastfeeding and courting of health professionals.

Unbiased information

The World Health Organization (WHO) and HSE Breastfeeding Policy state that parents should receive infant feeding information from commercial-free sources. Support for breastfeeding should come from healthcare workers who should themselves receive unbiased education on infant feeding. Mary Higgins, Chairperson of BFLGI concludes: “We want to ensure that all parents have access to accurate information on infant feeding free from commercial influence. BFLGI does not accept that showing stickers in café windows is supportive of parents who are breastfeeding but instead provides a marketing opportunity for Danone.”

Statement  endorsed by IBFAN Ireland and Ethical Sponsorship Ireland

Boilerplate

The Baby Feeding Law Group Ireland is an affiliate group made up of professional and voluntary organisations with an interest in infant and young child feeding.

Danone continues to market its follow-on milks and growing-up milks in contravention of the WHO code on the marketing of breast milk substitutes. The World Health Organisation has stated that milks aimed at older babies are unnecessary products.

Formula manufacturers consistently imply that their products are just as good as breast milk by clever use of branding, advertising, sponsorship of events and by celebrity and professional endorsements. It is neither appropriate nor helpful for parents to be targeted by industry in this way and it is contrary to WHO guidelines.

Expectant and new mothers are asked to consider carefully why Danone, a global producer of infant formula brands, has decided to initiate this campaign and to reflect on the purpose of its wider First 1000 Days campaign. The First Thousand Days concept began from the research work of UK epidemiologist, David Barker who, three decades ago, identified the importance of nutrition during pregnancy and early childhood.   Many organisations worldwide, both altruistic and commercial, have utilised the 1000 days concept.

Mothers are legally entitled to breastfeed in any public place in Ireland.

Human rights and equality law http://www.ihrec.ie/your-rights/

www.hse.ie/eng/services/publications/Children/How_to_prepare_your_baby's_bottle_feed.pd

Information on infant milks www.firststepsnutrition.org

Follow-on milks http://www.babymilkaction.org/archives/704 

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2816%2930599- 2/fulltext

https://www.savethechildren.nl/Uploaded_files/Publicaties/Superfood-for- Babies-Africa-

Impact of formula marketing on breastfeeding

http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(15)01044- 2/fulltext

WHO Code on the marketing of breast milk substitutes

http://www.who.int/nutrition/publications/infantfeeding/9241541601/en/