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World Breastfeeding Week 1st - 7th August 2001

Breastfeeding in the Information Age

Pregnant women and new mothers are increasingly bombarded with commercial information about how to feed their babies - particularly advertising on the TV, in magazines, through the post and now on the Internet. But how are they to distinguish between promotion by artificial baby milk companies and sound, independent information? This question prompted the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) to choose the theme of "Breastfeeding in the Information Age" for this year's World Breastfeeding Week (WBW).

The goal of this year's WBW is to highlight factors which would enable women to make a better informed decision about how they feed their babies. For example, looking at:

  • the various forms and modes of communication used to protect, promote and support breastfeeding - including innovative ideas using braille and sign language;
  • how to promote and protect breastfeeding by implementing the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent relevant Resolutions;
  • the influence of the baby feeding industry and the weakening of breastfeeding cultures; and
  • the challenges often presented to mothers and health workers regarding issues such as contaminants in breastmilk and HIV transmission.
WBW has been endorsed by both UNICEF and WHO:
"How can we raise awareness, worldwide, that breastmilk is much more than just good short-term contribution and that breastfeeding is far too important - for babies, mothers and society as whole - to be considered just another feeding option."
Gro Harlem Brundtland, Director General, WHO

"We welcome the timeliness of the theme for World Breastfeeding Week 2001...Never has the need for accurate information about breastfeeding practices been more critical than in these times when the spread of HIV/AIDS threatens the lives of mothers and their young infants."
Carol Bellamy, Executive Director, UNICEF

Tessa Martyn, Health Campaigns Co-ordinator at Baby Milk Action, said:
"More and more research is being done which demonstrates the unique qualities of breastmilk. It is vital that this information gets to those who need it - mothers, health workers and policy makers. We are continually up against really big and powerful companies who invest a great deal of time and money promoting artificial baby milks. But even the 'best' of these are still a long way off the real thing. For example, unlike breastmilk, they don't contain any properties to help the baby╣s developing immune system."
Baby Milk Action works to secure an infant's right to the highest level of health, a woman's right to make an informed decision about infant feeding, and the right of everyone to healthcare facilities free from commercial pressures. A crucial way to do this would be for countries, including the UK, to implement and adhere to the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent relevant Resolutions.

For more information contact:

Tessa Martyn or Patti Rundall at Baby Milk Action, 23 St Andrews Street, Cambridge, CB2 3AX, tel: +44 1223 464420, fax: +44 1223 464417

Notes for editors:

  1. Baby Milk Action is a non-profit organisation which aims to save infant lives and to end the avoidable suffering caused by inappropriate infant feeding. Baby Milk Action works within the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) - a coalition of more than 150 citizen and health worker groups in more than 90 countries around the world. IBFAN works for better child health and nutrition through the promotion of breastfeeding and the elimination of irresponsible marketing of infants foods, bottles and teats.
  2. The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) is a global network of organisations and individuals who work to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. Email:
  3. The WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981, and has been added to and clarified since in subsequent Resolutions.
  4. The latest IBFAN report - Breaking the Rules 2001 - was launched in May this year at the World Health Assembly to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. The report cites Code violations by artificial baby milk companies, including promotion via the Internet. (The report can be purchased from Baby Milk Action's Virtual Shop).
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