This post has been copied from Makes Mom Happy, who, in an effort to spread the word, has allowed other bloggers to repost her article. It is truly shocking. I have posted some of her article here. If you would like to read the entire article, click the link at the end of this post. Thanks to Amy for writing this.
You may have just read my review of the Medela sleep bra. It’s a great sleep bra, probably my favorite of the ones I have in that particular style. But I have to be honest with you all and tell you that I have some major problems with Medela as a company. I’m doing a separate post on this, partially because my issues with Medela go well beyond any product they make, and partially because this issue is big enough to merit its own post.
The World Health Organization is the public-health related branch of the United Nations. In 1981, it adopted The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes (produced by the International Baby Food Action Network, IBFAN). Basically, this code was developed to give breastfeeding a fighting chance against the constant onslaught of formula marketing. Breastfeeding doesn’t have millions of dollars behind it to create the kind of ad campaigns formula companies engage in, let alone all that goes on behind the scenes with donated products and sponsorships.
A lot of money stands to be made by the people behind the artificial baby milk. And formula companies profiting at the rates they do indicates a significant reduction in the amount of breastfed babies.
Think of “baby,” and I’m sure the image of a bottle isn’t too far behind. Over the course of history, breastfeeding has become a secondary image and thought behind the omnipresent image of the happy mother feeding her baby from a bottle. That has a lot to do with the massive advertising and marketing campaigns by the formula makers. And despite almost thirty years of the WHO Code being in place, endorsed by 118 countries throughout the world, they’re still at it.
Why? Because no one is monitoring or enforcing the Code. Here are a few excerpts from the Code, quoted directly:
“Health workers should not give samples of infant formula to pregnant women, mothers of infants and young children, or members of their families.” (Article 7.4)
“Health workers should not give samples of infant formula to pregnant women, mothers of infants and young children, or members of their families.” (Article 5.1)
“Manufacturers and distributors should not provide, directly or indirectly, to pregnant women, mothers or members of their families, samples of products within the scope of this Code.” (Article 5.2)
“Manufacturers and distributors should not distribute to pregnant women or mothers of infants and young children any gifts of articles or utensils which may promote the use of breastmilk substitutes or bottle feeding.” (Article 5.4)
Basically, the point is to limit the reach of the formula companies’ marketing and advertising campaigns, in order to give breastfeeding a fighting chance against them. I don’t know about you, but I left the hospital with my diaper bag supplied by Enfamil, filled with samples of actual formula. I even received free cans of formula in the mail!
Of course, given that no one is monitoring or enforcing the Code, it’s no surprise that the formula companies are doing whatever they damn well please in the way of their marketing. The idea of the WHO Code is all well and good, but without enforcement, it might as well not exist. More and more information, imagery, and actual products related to formula reach the hands of healthcare professionals and parents. This is happening all the time and is virtually ignored.
Parents need to be educated about breastfeeding and its artificial substitutes, so that they can make informed decisions about it. They also need proper support systems, both at the family and institutional levels. Without these, dropping the statement “breast is best” in the lap of a new mom isn’t doing anything but making her feel guilty when she fails to breastfeed. That’s not accomplishing anything positive.
Granted, there are organizations emerging like Best for Babes, who are trying to fight the good fight and get the word out. But it’s a David and Goliath battle, no doubt.
Luckily, there are responsible companies out there. Take Hygeia and Ameda, both makers of breastpumps, for example. Hygeia actually goes as far as to inform the public, via their website, that they respect the WHO Code and even have a WHO Code officer on their staff to ensure that they’re always in compliance. Now that is commitment.
Ameda, another pump maker, was recently acquired by Evenflo. You probably know Evenflo as a bottle maker, one who was in violation of the WHO Code. Due to its acquisition of Ameda and its commitment to breastfeeding, they state on their website that they’re becoming the first WHO-compliant baby bottle maker. I’m hoping they follow through on that change and I wish there were more companies out there like Hygeia and Ameda.
Unfortunately, there are also companies like Medela out there. Medela makes the famed Pump in Style breastpump. It’s incredibly popular and so many moms swear by it. In fact, when I went to research and purchase a pump, I could scarcely find a review of anything but Medela products.
Medela is a huge, worldwide company with a budget to fit its stature. And they’re also blatantly violating the WHO Code. Not on a single-incident basis, but perpetually. They even have a statement on their website acknowledging their violation of the Code and taking the position that they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
Isn’t this crazy? To learn more shocking facts about Medela products and practices, please read the rest of this article.