40 Years of the WHO Code

May 2021 was a momentous month for infant feeding in Ireland. 

BFLGI partnered with UNICEF Ireland to mark the 40th anniversary of the WHO Code with a social media campaign that explored the issues of protecting infant feeding from industry influence.

  • In support of that campaign, BFLGI member Aoibhinn Ní Shuilleabháin explained the need for greater breastfeeding support and legislation of the WHO Code on Today with Claire Byrne on RTE Radio 1
  • The predatory marketing tactics of Cow&Gate towards new mothers made the front page of Sunday Times and highlighted the deep need for greater industry regulation. 
  • BFLGI joined the international infant feeding advocacy community for an online Global Breastfeeding Collective conference on May 21st to mark the 40th anniversary. Watch the conference HERE.

These short videos were shown during the Global Breastfeeding Collective conference and are powerful reminders of why the protection of infant feeding from industry influence is vital: 

Other positive developments in May 2021 included:

  • The welcome announcement of €1.58m funding for 24 additional lactation consultants in Ireland’s maternity units. BFLGI looks forward to seeing these posts filled as they will provide much needed specialised support for women who want to breastfeed. Read more HERE.
  • BFLGI also welcomed discussion about inadequate breastfeeding support at the Joint Oireachtas Health Committee with Cuidiu and Bainne Beatha presenting ‘on-the-ground’ perspectives of breastfeeding mothers. Watch back HERE.
  • BFLGI was very pleased with the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland’s and the Irish College of General Practitioners commitment to greater breastfeeding education of physicians and meetings, conferences and study days free of breastmilk substitute sponsorship.
  • BFLGI provided supporting information to assist Social Democrat Jennifer Whitmore in submitting a comprehensive  Dáil Motion calling on the government to support breastfeeding by fully funding and implementing the Breastfeeding Action Plan, as well as legislating for the WHO Code. Read the Motion HERE.
  • BFLGI and Bainne Beatha met with the National Women’s Council of Ireland to discuss the necessity for the full funding and implementation of the National Breastfeeding Action Plan alongside strengthened legislation to protect women and infants from predatory marketing tactics of the baby food industry. 
  • BFLGI member Mary Bird participated in The Breastfeeding Podcast hosted by the admins on a Facebook-based breastfeeding support group to discuss the 40th anniversary of the Code.

Unfortunately, despite these positive steps forward in May, the month of June started with disappointment at the appointment of a senior executive of infant formula company Danone to the public health promotion agency Safefood.

While not a direct breach of the Code, BFLGI UK explains why links with formula industry personnel and health personnel are problematic:

The WHO Code was created four decades ago in recognition that infant nutrition is so important that the normal business rules of advertising and marketing can not apply. BFLGI works to protect all infants, their parents, and health workers from inappropriate marketing of breastmilk substitutes, and to support breastfeeding. Irish legislation to enact the WHO Code and protect all babies regardless of how they are fed is long overdue.