Breastfeeding is a human rights issue for babies and mothers and should be protected and promoted for the benefit of both, the organisation said in a statement slamming the multi-billion dollar gobal industry in infant formula.
The forceful promotion of products that compete with breastfeeding continues to undermine efforts to improve global breastfeeding rates, which have now been static for two decades, said Special Rapporteurs on the right to health and food, a Working Group on discrimination against women, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child.
“Marketing practices often negatively affect the choices women make on how to feed their infants in the best way possible, and can impede both babies and mothers from enjoying the many health benefits of breastfeeding," the organisation said, pointing out that corporations are under regulated and not properly held to account for their actions.
The £36 billion dollar baby milk industry, which is expected to increase in value to over £56 billion in the next three years, has been subject to harsh criticism since the 1970s, when Nestlé was first accused of pushing an inferior alternative to breast milk on mothers who did not know what was best for their babies. As a result of past scandals, a legal framework has been established which could be used to crackdown on the aggressive marketing of baby milk, the UN said, but most states are not taking advantage of the tools available to them to stop unethical corporate practices.
“Simply too few States have adopted the necessary stringent, comprehensive and enforceable legal measures,” the UN said. “We call on them to adopt such measures to protect babies and mothers from misleading marketing practices, and fully align with the recommendations contained in the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly resolutions, and new guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO).”
Aggressive marketing remains particularly harmful when it targets untapped markets in developing countries, the experts said.
The World Health Organisation has estimated that the lives of more than 820,000 children could be saved every year if all mothers followed its advice to start breastfeeding within an hour of birth, give only breast milk for the first six months, and continue breastfeeding until their children reach the age of two, alongside appropriate complementary foods. Breastfeeding protects against many childhood illnesses and has been found to improve the IQ of premature babies, as well as reducing the risk of breast cancer in mothers.
But despite the advice against bottle-feeding, only an estimated one in three infants under six months are exclusively breastfed globally. This rate has seen no improvement in the last two decades.
"Breastfeeding is a human rights issue for both the child and the mother," the UN said. "Children have the right to life, survival and development and to the highest attainable standard of health... Women have the right to accurate, unbiased information needed to make an informed choice about breastfeeding."
Breastfeeding in public controversies
Breastfeeding in public controversies
A woman has sparked a heated debate among parents after she revealed that she breastfeeds both her and her friend's son. Jessica Colletti, from Pennsylvania, said nursing Charlie Interrante's son “seemed like the natural thing to do” because she was already breastfeeding her son. Colletti told the Mama Bean parenting blog that she asked permission to nurse Interrante’s son when she began looking after him, after they met at a photoshoot for new mothers. Interrante agreed as her son had not taken to formula milk
New Hampshire State Rep. Josh Moore said on Facebook that men should be allowed to grab the nipples of breastfeeding mothers if the law banning women exposing their breasts did not pass
When Gemma Colley's photo of her son with fake tan on his fake after she breastfeed him went viral, she also saw that no parent is alone when they make a silly mistake. Over 100,000 people liked and 40,000 people shared Ms Colley’s photo of her son’s sleepy face with fake tan encircling his mouth and nose, after she posted it to the Unmumsy Mum Facebook page
A candid image of a mother breastfeeding her young child while using the toilet has divided parents online, as some argue it’s an honest depiction of parenthood, while others have labelled it “disgusting”
The exclusive Claridge’s hotel has been widely criticised for asking a woman to cover herself with a “ridiculous shroud” while breastfeeding her three-month-old daughter. Lousie Burns said she burst into tears when staff members at the five-star venue asked her to cover herself and her baby with an oversized napkin in order to avoid “causing offence” to other guests
An Australian café has been praised for sticking up for a breastfeeding mother after a customer told her to cover up. Jessica-Anne Allen, owner of Cheese and Biscuits Café in Queensland, Australia, has described how she was approached by a male customer in the café to complain that he was upset by a woman in the coffee shop breastfeeding her child nearby. The customer asked the café owner, 29, to tell the mother to cover up. When Mrs Allen refused to do so, he took matters into his own hands and challenged the woman himself. Staff at the café then asked the man to leave
A woman who claimed a Primark security guard had forcibly removed her child while she was breastfeeding has admitted to perverting the course of justice. Caroline Starmer sparked a series of headlines after claiming on Facebook that a store guard had taken her nine-month-old daughter Paige away from her. The mother from Leicester then repeated her claims in a number of interviews, before Primark denied the incident and handed CCTV over to the police to show there was no evidence to support the allegations. Appearing in Leicester Crown Court, she admitted the charge of perverting the course of justice by not telling the truth
Pope Francis has become an unlikely advocate for public breastfeeding, by encouraging mothers to feed their babies in the Sistine Chapel. During a ceremony in Vatican City on Sunday, the Pope baptised 32 babies and told their mothers: “If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice, because they are the most important people here”
Facebook has changed its community guidelines to allow users to post photos of breastfeeding. The change comes as the wide-ranging #FreeTheNipple online campaign has built pace in its attack against guidelines used by social media websites to regulate nudity – from photos of breastfeeding to topless photos post by singer Rihanna’s on her now defunct Instagram account. Facebook’s Community Standards, which outline what users are allowed to post, never included a outright ban on photos of breastfeeding
The manager of a public swimming pool at the Lux Park centre in Liskeardhas been forced to apologise after he told a mother to stop breastfeeding her son by the waterside. 23-year-old Rebecaa Hough of Torpoint, Cornwall, was feeding 10-month-old Max a few steps from the main pool, when the manager told her to carry on in the changing rooms in case the infant was sick into the water. She was also told that she should not to return for half an hour to ensure the milk was fully digested
A Conservative MP has claimed allowing women to breastfeed in the House of Commons chamber would expose politicians to “tabloid ridicule”. Sir Simon Burns, a former transport minister, spoke on what he called a “controversial subject” in a debate in making Westminster more family-friendly
As well as clamping down on inappropriate marketing, UN experts highlighted practical steps governments can take to reduce barriers to women exercising their rights and to promote, support and protect breastfeeding, such as paid maternity leave, safe workplace spaces for feeding or expressing and storing milk and better training for health workers.
Women who cannot or do not want to breastfeed must not be judged of condemned, the experts cautioned, but every woman should have the opportunity to make an informed decision based on accurate and unbiased information about what is best for them and their baby.
Access to good quality breast milk substitutes should be regulated, and affordable, they added.Reuse content