Virginia Breastfeeding Coalition


International Code of Breastmilk Substitutes

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One of the tenets of the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative is that the marketing of breast-milk substitutes, including infant formula, discourages mothers from initiating and/or exclusively breastfeeding their infants. The International Code on Marketing Breast-milk Substitutes, adopted by the WHO in 1981, recommends restrictions on the marketing of breast-milk substitutes, infant feeding bottles, and teats. Hospitals and birthing centers wishing to attain Baby-Friendly designation must abide by the provisions of the International Code on Marketing Breast-milk Substitutes.

Significant provisions of this code prevent hospitals and birthing centers from accepting free or low-cost infant formula, providing free samples of infant formula to families, or advertising breast-milk substitutes. Provisions of the International Code on Marketing Breast-milk Substitutes require:

  1. No advertising of breast milk substitutes to families
  2. No free samples or supplies in the health care system.
  3. No promotion of products through health care facilities, including no free or low-cost formula.
  4. No contact between marketing personnel and mothers.
  5. No gifts or personal samples to health workers.
  6. No words or pictures idealizing artificial feeding, including pictures of infants, on the labels or product.
  7. Information to health workers should be scientific and factual only.
  8. All information on artificial feeding, including labels, should explain the benefits of breastfeeding and the costs and hazards associated with artificial feeding.
  9. Unsuitable products should not be promoted for babies.
  10. All products should be of high quality and take account of the climate and storage conditions of the country where they are used.

The entire International Code on Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes document is available in PDF download here.