Baby crying - Lancet Series on Breastfeeding summary

By Melissa Bartick, MD, MS, MPH, FABM and Marsha Walker, RN, IBCLC

The 2023 Lancet Series on Breastfeeding explores how the value of breastfeeding is wasted by governments and public health, and how the vulnerabilities of women and children are exploited by the commercial milk formula (CMF) industry.

The three-part series explores the strategies used to target vulnerable parents, reveals formula puffery claims made with little or no supporting evidence, exposes sophisticated digital marketing platforms, and discusses industry lobbying efforts to influence policy and weaken the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. Breastfeeding is the major competitor of infant formula. Analysis carried out in this Lancet series showed that for each additional kilogram of standard formula sold per child each year, breastfeeding was 1.9 percentage points lower. Recommendations are put forth to address the $55 billion industry that the formula marketing playbook so effectively supports.

The authors conclude that “marketing of CMF products should not be permitted,” noting “A framework convention, placing the rights of children and women at its heart, is needed to protect parents and communities from the commercial marketing of food products for and to children younger than 3 years old, including CMF marketing systems.” The authors also note the growth of CMF markets has occurred in part because of failure of governments and economic systems to recognize the value of breastfeeding and care work done by women, and to insufficiently invest in maternity protection.

Originally posted on the Ban the Bags website February 12, 2023

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