April 2023

Thanks to Barbara Crowther for telling us that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld a case of Kendamil marketing which breached the code and conflated infant formula and follow on milks, as well as making inappropriate health claims. Well done to whoever reported this one to them 😊



UK Parliament debate on Lancet Breastfeeding series led by Alison Thewliss (SNP).

Research addresses power imbalances,  economic structures and the need for stronger maternity protections for all women

Webstream of the Lancet London Launch 8th February

Watch the Adjournment Debate 20th February led by Alison Thewliss (SNP) ( 20:08:30 – 20:30:50)

Read the Full Transcript HERE  

 Katie Pereira-Kotze (First Steps Nutrition Trust) Patti Rundall, Nigel Rollins (WHO) Alison Thewliss (SNP) and Helen Gray (LLL). House of Commons February 2023

The 2023 Lancet Series on Breastfeeding  at last tackled the power unbalances,  economic structures and global negotiations that go on behind the scenes,  but have a fundamental impact on infant and young child  feeding practices and women’s rights.  Do read the reports and watch the web-streamed  launch in London on the 8th February,  As the authors say breastfeeding is a collective responsibility, that should be effectively protected, promoted and supported at all levels.

ThLancet has had an important influence on national and global health policies and in 2003, in the second paper of its Child Survival Series, How many child deaths can we prevent this year? breastfeeding topped the list of interventions to prevent under-5 deaths. B2013after the launch of the Gates-funded public private initiative Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), the emphasis shifted to stunting and the need for micronutrient-based foods and supplements. Indeed 8 of the 10 recommended intervention packages involved products of some kind. Most worryingly the private sector was called on to generate ‘evidence about the positive and negative effects of private sector and market-led approaches to nutrition.    We have published newsletters,  reports and analyses about the risks of commercial involvement in health policy setting and the market-led approach to nutrition, for example:  Research, transparency and conflicts of interest,   When the SUN casts a Shadow and GAIN – a wolf in Sheep’s clothing?

Join Richard Horton, Editor in Chief of the Lancet and a panel of experts for a live event at the Royal Society of Medicine, as they unpack a new three-paper Lancet Series which explores how the value of breastfeeding is wasted by government and public health, and exploited by the formula milk industry.

  • How baby behaviours are misconstrued to undermine breastfeeding, but multi-sectoral interventions protect its health impacts
  • How the formula marketing ‘playbook’ targets parents, health professionals and politicians and undermines the health and rights of children and mothers
  • How power imbalances and political and economic structures determine feeding practices, women’s rights and health outcomes.

Authors call for breastfeeding to be a collective responsibility, that is effectively protected, promoted and supported at all levels.

GENEVA, 8th February 2023The formula milk industry’s marketing tactics are exploitative and urgent clampdowns are needed to tackle misleading claims and political interference, according to a new three-paper series published in The Lancet today. Industry influence – which includes lobbying against vital breastfeeding support measures – seriously jeopardizes the health and rights of women and children, the papers show.

“This new research highlights the vast economic and political power of the big formula milk companies, as well as serious public policy failures that prevent millions of women from breastfeeding their children,” said Professor Nigel Rollins, Scientist at WHO and author of a paper on formula milk marketing. “Actions are needed across different areas of society to better support mothers to breastfeed for as long as they want, alongside efforts to tackle exploitative formula milk marketing once and for all.”

Breastfeeding provides immense and irreplaceable benefits to babies and young children. It helps children survive and develop to their full potential, providing vast nutritional benefits, reducing infection risks and lowering rates of obesity and chronic diseases in later life. Yet, globally, only around 1 in 2 newborns are put to the breast within the first hour of life while fewer than half of infants under 6 months are exclusively breastfed, as per WHO recommendations.

Given the significant contributions of breastfeeding to people’s health, the Lancet series recommends much greater support for breastfeeding within healthcare and social protection systems – including guaranteeing sufficient paid maternity leave. Currently, around 650 million women lack adequate maternity protections, the papers note. Misleading marketing claims and strategic lobbying from the dairy and formula milk industries further add to the challenges parents face, by increasing anxiety around breastfeeding and infant care.

An exploitative marketing playbook

Triggered by The Baby Killer investigative report into Nestle’s marketing of formula milk in low and middle-income countries in the 1970s, the World Health Assembly developed the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (the Code) in 1981 and several subsequent resolutions. However, intensive marketing of infant formula continues largely unabated, with sales from these products now approaching US$ 55 billion a year.

The first paper in the Lancet series documents how misleading marketing claims directly exploit parental anxieties around normal infant behaviours, suggesting that commercial milk products alleviate fussiness or crying, for instance, that they help with colic, or prolong night-time sleep. The authors stress that, when mothers are appropriately supported, such parental concerns can be managed successfully with exclusive breastfeeding.

“The formula milk industry uses poor science to suggest, with little supporting evidence, that their products are solutions to common infant health and developmental challenges,” says Professor Linda Richter from the University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa. “This marketing technique clearly violates the 1981 Code, which says labels should not idealise the use of formula to sell more product.”

The series explains how formula milk marketing exploits the lack of support for breastfeeding by governments and society, while misusing gender politics to sell its products. This includes framing breastfeeding advocacy as a moralistic judgment, while presenting milk formula as a convenient and empowering solution for working mothers.

The series further draws attention to the power of the milk formula industry to influence national political decisions and interfere with international regulatory processes. In particular, the dairy and formula milk industries have established a network of unaccountable trade associations and front groups that lobby against policy measures to protect breastfeeding or control the quality of infant formula.

Society-wide changes needed

In addition to ending exploitative marketing tactics and industry influence, broader actions across workplaces, healthcare, governments, and communities are needed to effectively support women who want to breastfeed so that it becomes a collective societal responsibility, the authors state, rather than placing the onus on women.

In particular, the authors highlight the need to ensure women have adequate maternity protections assured by law, including paid maternity leave that aligns, at minimum, with the WHO-recommended duration of six months for exclusive breastfeeding. Maternity protections should further be extended to the millions of women working in the informal sector who are currently excluded from these benefits, the papers note.

Beyond parental leave, the authors call for formal recognition of the contribution of women’s unpaid care work to national development. Globally, women are estimated to perform three-quarters of all unpaid family care work – more than three times that of men. By some accounts, this contributes to around a third of a country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

“Given the immense benefits of breastfeeding to their families and national development, women who wish to breastfeed need to be much better supported so that they can meet their breastfeeding goals,” said Professor Rafael Pérez-Escamilla from the Yale School of Public Health. “A large expansion in health professional training on breastfeeding, as well as statutory paid maternity leave and other protections are vital.”

Expanding training for health workers on breastfeeding is critical, the papers state, so that they can offer skilled counselling to parents before and after birth.


The series launch is on Wednesday 8th February at 12:30 – 14:00 UK time. It will be livestreamed here.

The Series contains three papers:

  1. How baby behaviours are misconstrued to undermine breastfeeding, the extensive health benefits of which can be protected by sustained multi-sectoral interventions
  2. How the formula marketing ‘playbook’ targets parents, health professionals and politicians and undermines the health and rights of children and mothers.
  3. How power imbalances and political and economic structures determine feeding practices, women’s rights and health outcomes.

This series received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for the research but not to the authors for their time or writing. For a full list of researchers see the three papers.

The reports can be accessed here




Moderator: Kathriona Deveraux, award winning reporter, presenter, and broadcaster


  • Ms Kathriona Deveraux, Moderator

The Lancet

  • Mr Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief The Lancet

Series highlights and overview

  • Professor Nigel Rollins, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health and Ageing, WHO
  • Professor David McCoy, International Institute for Global Health, United Nations University

Panel discussion with Q&A

  • Professor Helen L. Ball, Durham University
  • Ms Katie Gilbert, Managing Director M&C Saatchi World Services
  • Dr Guddi Singh, Paediatric doctor, health campaigner and TV broadcaster
  • Mrs Alison Thewliss, Member of Parliament for Glasgow Central

Closing remarks

  • Professor Anthony Costello, Institute for Child Health


Speaker bios

Add your name to #EndExploitativeMarketing




More information:


Join the launch of the 2023 Lancet Breastfeeding Series onWednesday 08 February from 12h30-14h00 UK time(13h30-15h00 CET)


  • Virtually through the link below,


  • Attend in person at the Royal Society of Medicine, London (limited tickets available – available at



The Series ….

  • Examines individual and collective influences on infant feeding practices,
  • Advocates for improved support to women and families, and
  • Calls out the marketing practices and political power of the formula milk industry


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