What started your breastfeeding campaigning career?
I am very privileged to work for Baby Milk Action as Campaigns and Networking Coordinator. It is one of the best jobs in the world, and one of the worst. The best because knowing what companies do on the ground and
behind the scenes, doesn’t just make me angry, it provides me with the information to help design and deliver campaigns to stop the corrupt practices of the baby food companies. It is one of the worst jobs because it brings home what people will do for greed.
What is Baby Milk Action?
Baby Milk Action is a non-profit organisation which aims to save lives and to end the avoidable suffering caused by inappropriate infant feeding. Baby Milk Action works within a global network to strengthen independent, transparent and effective controls on the marketing of the baby feeding industry.
The global network is called IBFAN (the International Baby Food Action Network) a network of over 200 citizens groups in more than 100 countries.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 1.5 million infants die around the world every year because they are not breastfed. Where water is unsafe a bottle-fed child is up to 25 times more likely to die as a result of diarrhoea than a breastfed child. That is why a marketing code was introduced in 1981 to regulate the marketing of breastmilk substitutes. Companies continue to violate its provisions.
Baby Milk Action is not anti-baby milk. Our work protects all mothers and infants from irresponsbile marketing.
What do you mean by “irresponsible marketing?”
Company promotion exploits the difficulties some mothers have with breastfeeding, presenting formula as the solution for ‘lack of milk’ or ‘hungrier babies’ when in reality very few mothers are physically unable to breastfeed, if they receive support when they experience problems. However, too often that support is lacking and the very real difficulties some mothers experience are not overcome. For example, if the infant is not correctly positioned, milk production is not stimulated, nipples can become cracked and mastitis can develop. Health workers need training and the patience to help, but themselves are the target of aggressive marketing by baby food companies.
- Support is needed for mothers who have difficulty breastfeeding.
- Formula, correctly labelled, and with the risks to health reduced as far as possible, needs to be available for when it is necessary.
- Mothers have the right to receive correct information free from commercial pressure.
This is what we are working for, but it is not the situation in many countries. During National Breastfeeding Awareness Week in the UK in 2004 the Department of Health published the results of its own survey with the title ‘Myths that stop mothers giving their infants the best start in life’ highlighting that 34% of mothers falsely believe that formula is the same or nearly the same as breastmilk. You have only to look at company materials and product labels to see how this and other ‘myths’ are propogated.
Tell me about the Nestlé Boycott
Our best known campaign is probably the Nestlé boycott. Nestlé is singled out for special attention because evidence shows it is the worst of the baby food companies. We monitor what is happening on the ground with our partners in the International Baby Food Action Network. You can see monitoring reports on our website.
The boycott is a great campaign. If you want to do something to stop this malpractice, you can. Stop buying Nestlé products. We focus on Nescafé, so if you cant give up the chocolate and cereals concentrate on that. But the more we can hit Nestlé profits the more likely it is to stop its aggressive marketing. Were not asking it to stop selling formula, just to market it responsibly. That means in accordance with marketing requirements adopted by the World Health Assembly, which is a United Nations organisation responsible for setting health policy. It is made up of the health ministries of the worlds governments.
How can I find out more?
- Read Mike Brady’s blog at
- Check out the Baby Milk Action website at
How can I help?
Become a member! Baby Milk Action is an independent non-profit organisation which aims to save infant lives and to end the avoidable suffering caused by inappropriate infant feeding. Without members they would not be able to operate. You can become a member of send a donation via the on-line Virtual Shop (the shop also gives details of how to join by mail, phone or fax).