La Leche League GB supports the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions (referred to together as “the Code”).1 In all our work, from supporting mothers and families in local communities, online and in our national educational events for Leaders, healthcare professionals and members, we carefully check the compliance of all our partners and sponsors. LLLGB is affiliated with La Leche League International.
LLLGB does not work with violators of the International Code. We do not permit sponsorship by or accept funding from companies which violate the International Code. In addition, LLLGB does not take funding from any company which makes money from the cessation of breastfeeding. We carry out due diligence to the best of our ability to ensure compliance with these policies.
We are members of the Baby Feeding Law Group, and we support the World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative and UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.
What is the International WHO Code?
In 1981, the World Health Assembly in Geneva adopted The World Health Organisation/UNICEF International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. This document was produced as a global health strategy, intended to set out minimum standards for the marketing of infant formula, bottles, teats, and any foods that replace human milk. This includes breastmilk substitutes and complementary foods which are marketed or represented as suitable for partial or total replacement of breastmilk.
The International Code, frequently referred to as the WHO Code, aims to protect, promote and support breastfeeding through regulating the inappropriate marketing and promotion of breastmilk substitutes and some related products. The Code does not ban the sale or use of these products, it simply sets out a framework to control their promotion.
The Code says that these items should not be advertised or promoted. It also addresses the quality, availability and information concerning the use of breastmilk substitutes, the labelling of these items and the claims made. The key point is that they should not be marketed to undermine breastfeeding.
The Code and resolutions make it clear that companies that produce the products covered under the Code should not create conflicts of interest for health workers, or in health systems, or provide financial incentives.
The Code was not intended to prevent a woman’s choice in how she feeds her baby. Its aim is to ensure that all parents and caregivers have access to objective, accurate and complete information about feeding practices, which is free from commercial influence. The Code is regularly clarified and extended at World Health Assemblies.
Important clarifications were made in 2016:
- manufacturers may not advertise or promote any milk drinks labelled as suitable for infants and young children under the age of 36 months.
- food and beverages can be marketed for infants and young children aged 6-36 months, but only if they meet standards in line with national dietary guidelines (particularly with regard to sugar and salt).
- companies that produce foods for babies and young children should not sponsor health professional and scientific meetings.
- health workers should not allow companies to sponsor meetings and should avoid conflicts of interest.
La Leche League GB supports the International WHO Code
La Leche League GB is among many organisations which have policies to support the Code and do not take sponsorship or funding from companies which are not compliant with the Code, or work with them. In addition, La Leche League GB does not receive funding from any company making profits from the cessation of breastfeeding.
This allows LLLGB to:
- ensure the LLL message is not diluted.
- prevent LLL being influenced by Code violators.
- avoid giving credibility to companies by associating our name with theirs.
We are members of the Baby Feeding Law Group
The Baby Feeding Law Group (BFLG) is made up of leading UK healthcare professional and mother support organisations working in infant feeding / infant and maternal health, and working together to strengthen UK laws in line with UN recommendations, specifically the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes.
For more information about LLLGB’s Ethical Policy: LLLGB Ethical Policy
This article was originally written by Anna Burbidge. Updated May 2021 by Helen Gray, Cheryl Inwood and Rachel O’Leary