read the latest newscodewatch: meet the code-breakersread the latest Boycott news, and join the Nestlé boycottjoin Baby Milk Actionvisit the Resource Centresearch our growing databaselinks to breastfeeding resourcescontact Baby Milk Action

ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN - global campaign in support of a woman's right to breastfeed

Baby Milk Action action asks supporters to back the global petition

Press release 9 February 2009

A new global campaign was launched today in India and 30 other countries, including the UK. The ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN: Support Women to Breastfeed brings together people from all over the world to take action ranging from signing petitions demanding support for women to breastfeed on the website to individual actions such as pledging to support at least one woman for breastfeeding.

Mike Brady, Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action, which is promoting the campaign to its members and supporters, said:

"It is very appropriate that this campaign is launched today in India as this is a country which has been at the forefront of tackling aggressive marketing of breastmilk substitutes and has seen the benefit, but breastfeeding rates remain too low and infant mortality rates too high. Mothers everywhere deserve our support. Here in the UK, 9 out of 10 mothers who stopped breastfeeding before their child was 6 weeks old said they wanted to breastfeed for longer."

The petition addresses the following message to all world leaders :

As citizens, we call for a stop to commercial interference in infant nutrition, the strict implementation of the International Code for Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and ensuring support for women to breastfeed. We urge you to create/implement legislation that restricts infant milk manufacturers from promoting their products as breastmilk substitutes/baby foods, to have a budgeted plan of action to promote and support women for optimal breastfeeding and to ensure breastfeeding friendly workplaces with adequate nursing breaks in the public and private sector so that working women are not forced to abandon breastfeeding.

Baby Milk Action and its partners in the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) monitor the baby food industry around the world and work for implementation of the International Code and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly (WHA) in legislation. Where legislation has been introduced and is monitored and enforced, aggressive marketing is being stopped, but many countries still do not have legislation in place. Companies are called on to abide by the marketing requirements independently of government measures (under Article 11.3), but do not. Consumer campaigns, such as the Nestlé boycott, can force some changes, but would be unnecessary if political leaders implemented and enforced the marketing requirements.

The World Health Organisation's Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, adopted by the WHA in 2002, calls for implementation of the Code and Resolutions and other action to provide support to mothers. According to UNICEF:

"Improved breastfeeding practices and reduction of artificial feeding could save an estimated 1.5 million children a year."

The global launch took place on 9 February in India, as the extracts from the IBFAN-Asia press release below explain:

This issue assumes great importance given India’s track record on infant mortality, which is 57 deaths per 1000 live births according to National Family Health Survey 3 (NFHS 3); that is more than one in 18 children dies within the first year of life. This is even starker in rural areas. NFHS 3 data shows that in 2001-05, the infant mortality rate was 50 percent higher in rural areas (62 deaths per 1,000 births) than in urban areas (42 deaths per 1,000 births).

Realizing the urgency of the issue, Shri Mani Shankar Aiyar, the Minister for Panchayati Raj (community institutions), extended his commitment to the issue. He offered to involve the Panchayat Raj Institutions in the entire process of motivating women and educating concerned stakeholders to facilitate women to adopt consistent breastfeeding practices. “Today when we talk about the importance of breastfeeding for infant survival, we are backed by solid scientific evidence to prove its necessity and efficacy,” he stated.

Despite the irrefutable evidence about breastfeeding, it is clear that out of 135 million children born annually only 64 million begin breastfeeding within an hour. The women need support to adopt and sustain the practice of breastfeeding. Several factors affect women's ability to breastfeed successfully: traditions, myths, status in the family and society, work load, confidence in her body and sexuality, economic needs, labour laws, domestic and workplace violence and harassment, availability of support services, advertising by commercial baby food manufacturers, and so on.

Speaking about the challenges faced by the poor and socially marginalized women in doing consistent breastfeeding, Dr. Arun Gupta, Regional Coordinator IBFAN Asia and National Coordinator BPNI stressed on the multi-sectoral and multiple levels of support women need to carry out optimal breastfeeding practices – from skilled counselling to proactive health systems to effective implementation of maternity entitlements, mother and child friendly communities and workplaces and quick and efficient implementation of the International Code for Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes – the IMS Act in India.

The CAMPAIGN, initiated by International Baby Food Action Network – Asia, (IBFAN-Asia) is a global response to the preventable tragedies like one which happened last year in which 300,000 infants, several of them under one year of age, developing incurable kidney disease as a result of consuming contaminated infant formula in China. Such catastrophes could be prevented if women are supported to breastfeed their babies. Whether it contains melamine or not, there is growing evidence that the powdered formula is not a sterile product and there could be intrinsic contamination with lethal pathogenic microorganisms like E. Sakazakii and Salmonella which may lead to life threatening illness in neonates. Products of companies such as Nestle and Mead Johnson have had to be recalled from across the world because of such contamination. The WHO has taken it seriously and issued some guidelines, which are available at Irrespective of contamination, there is enough evidence that no infant formula can match breastmilk as the best food for babies. Further, dangers of infant formula are well known and suggest that women be supported overwhelmingly to be able to provide optimal care to their children effectively.

The first petition of the Campaign is addressed to world leaders and demands that they ensure that International Code for Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes is strictly enforced, that workplaces be made women and child friendly by providing adequate nursing breaks and well-run crèches, and that countries set aside budgets for protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding. The petition can be accessed at the CAMPAIGN website:

The CAMPAIGN is being actively supported by IBFAN partner organisations such as World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action.

For more information please contact –


Dr. Arun Gupta – 989976306
Radha Holla – 9810617188
Dr. Dadhich - 9873926751.

Patti Rundall: Tel: +44 7786 523493 or
Mike Brady: Tel: +44 20 3239 9222

Notes for editors

  1. For pictures see 

  2. Nestlé is the target of the boycott as independent monitoring finds it is responsible for more violations the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions than any other company.

  3. Baby Milk Action is a not-for-profit organisation and the UK member of the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN). It is funded by membership fees, merchandise sales and donations, along with grants from development organisations and charitable trusts. IBFAN consists of more than 200 citizens' groups in over 100 countries.

  4. The UK has breastfeeding rates amongst the lowest in the industrialised world. Despite government commitments to improve breastfeeding rates there has been little change, with initiation rates of just 76%, meaning a quarter of infants receive no breastmilk at all. Breastfeeding rates then decline rapidly as the promotion exposed in the monitoring reports Baby Milk Action produces for the Baby Feeding Law Group monitoring project. Marketing practices undermine breastfeeding and encourages mothers to use formula. In the UK few infants are breastfed at 6 months. Government figures show just 48% are breastfed at 6 WEEKS. According to government figures, 90% of mothers who stopped breastfeeding at 6 weeks said they wanted to breastfeed for longer, as did 40% of mothers who breastfed for 6 months.

  5. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has called on various governments to do more to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. In October 2008 it reported on the UK Government, stating (paragraphs 58 and 59):

    The Committee, while appreciating the progress made in recent years in the promotion and support of breastfeeding in the State party, it is concerned that implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes continues to be inadequate and that aggressive promotion of breastmilk substitutes remains common.

    The Committee recommends that the State party implement fully the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. The State party should also further promote baby-friendly hospitals and encourage that breastfeeding is included in nursery training.



press index