If you’ve been in the world of infant feeding for a bit you’ve likely heard of The Code – aka the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. Many know it exists, but don’t know much about what it is or why it matters. Some simplified resources exist, like this one from our C.A.R.E.-Code Ally Kellymom, or our own Code resource section, but still many are overwhelmed by the large amount of information in this US Constitution-esque document. Due to the official nature of the document, translation of why it matters to the average person has been slightly complex; and part of why we’ve created this snazzy infographic to help!
The simplest way to break down the Code is this: The Code was created partially in response to the predatory marketing tactics of Nestle in the 70’s in areas of the world where switching to formula without an adequate supply of the product or clean water had devastating impacts. It was created to protect parents and babies from this predatory marketing, so that they may be free to make informed decisions and be supported in them. Best for Babes believes that ALL parents have a right to make informed feeding decisions and achieve their personal goals, whether that is to breastfeed, pump, feed donor milk, or infant formula or some combination thereof (see our CREDO) and predatory marketing interferes with our ability to make informed decisions. (If you don’t believe marketing affects your decisions, or that you are are “too smart to be influenced by marketing” look at the mind-boggling sales numbers generated by the most successful marketing campaigns)
So what is it?
The Code is a living document created in the early 80’s by the World Health Organization and UNICEF. Within it there are 11 articles outlining the roles of manufacturers, retailers, other companies, healthcare professionals, and governments with regards to marketing of breastmilk substitutes to parents. The Code is not directed at parents who use these products, but instead solely focused on protecting them from predatory marketing. This document is revisited frequently and within it are amendments to reflect the change in times as the world has progressed.
In a nutshell, why does it matter?
To avoid a TL;DR* scenario here’s the best one-liner to take away from this whole post:
The Code protects parents and babies.
It’s that simple. Some have argued that it’s antiquated and no longer needed. This is simply untrue. If we look at the breastfeeding rates of countries that have implemented The Code in their legislation we see a drastic rise in
breastfeeding rates. Sadly, the US is one of 6 countries that has made little to no effort to implement the Code in legislation.
If you haven’t noticed, there’s not a lot of marketing done for breastfeeding as there’s not a ton of money to be made from it; there is in the sense that governments would benefit financially to the tune of billions annually if breastfeeding were the norm, but there’s not a large corporate profit to be made from exclusive breastfeeding like there is with breastmilk substitutes.
The point is this: If you want to breastfeed you should be supported and empowered to meet your goals. The Code helps to ensure your government protects you from aggressive marketing, your clinicians support you, and companies focus on making quality products with ethical advertising.
So how can I tell who is Code compliant?!
Great question. One that needs its own blog post. Stay tuned!
*TL;DR = Too long; didn’t read. Which, of course, if you’re reading this you likely did read and now you know more internet lingo!