Online public consultation: draft guidance on regulatory measures aimed at restricting digital marketing of breast-milk substitutes

Deadline of submission: 17 September 2023

 WHO Guidance on digital marketing of breast-milk substitutes

IBFAN response

Baby Milk Action Digital 17.9

(the draft guidance is HERE.

IBFAN  warmly welcomes this draft Guidance that contains many important safeguards and acknowledges the need to address a constantly evolving market with strong sections on cross-border marketing and exports.   The following are suggestions of how the Guidance could be further strengthened to help governments future-proof  national safeguards and prevent the Guidance endorsing harmful practices by default

The Guidelines:

  • should stress the need for safeguards regarding Products for Emergencies, including a prohibition of inappropriate promotion of products marketed for emergency situations or malnutrition, in line with WHA 55.25 (Para 23 Rec 3.2) and Operational Guidance for Infant and Young Child Feeding in emergencies.
  • Mention Bottles, Teats and Foods for Infants and Young Children more clearly  to offset their omission in the Title and Purpose (Para 1);
  • Refer to ‘Designated Products’ to encourage and empower legislators to include products that are not mentioned in the scope of the Code but when inappropriately marketed can undermine optimal maternal and child health; for example, pacifiers, breastpumps and ultra-processed products and formulas for pregnant and lactating mothers and children beyond 36 months (Para 6, 25 and Rec 4)
  • Expand the list of definitions (Para 10 Terminology)
  • Strengthen Recommendation 1.2 to prohibit labelling, packshots and packaging of designated products and Include safeguards to protect privacy and prevent inappropriate marketing via QR codes or other digital labelling schemes. (Para 14)
  • prohibit financial or other incentives to professionals, health workers or their associations (Para 16 Rec 1.4)
  • Include a specific prohibition of the commercialization of products made through freeze-drying, cloning or industrial processing of breastmilk
  • Require monitoring, enforcement and proportionality of fines to be protected from commercial influence (Para 26 Rec 5, Para 30, Rec 8)
  • We strongly support Recommendations 9, that address cross border marketing.
  • Member States should be required to report back every two years on progress in the implementation of this guidance to the WHO DG and the World Health Assembly . (Rec 11)

Background and context

The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, including subsequent relevant resolutions (the Code), aims to contribute to the provision of safe and adequate nutrition for infants, by the protection and promotion of breastfeeding, and by ensuring the proper use of breast-milk substitutes, when these are necessary, on the basis of adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution1.In November 2020, the Seventy-third World Health Assembly requested in resolution WHA73.26 that the Director-General review current evidence and prepare a comprehensive report to understand the scope and impact of digital marketing strategies for the promotion of BMS to the Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly in 2022.This report found that breast-milk substitutes are routinely promoted across a wide range of online channels and social media platforms and that the use of digital marketing strategies dramatically increases the reach and impact of breast-milk substitutes promotions.The Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly requested that the Director General develop guidance for Member States on regulatory measures aimed at restricting the digital marketing of breast-milk substitutes, so as to ensure that existing and new regulations designed to implement the Code adequately address digital marketing practices for the Seventy-seventh World Health Assembly in 2024.Digital marketing technologies have created new marketing tools that are powerfully persuasive, extremely cost effective and often not easily recognizable as breast-milk substitutes promotions.Digital marketing is not always easily recognisable as advertising or promotion and can deliver breast-milk substitutes promotions covertly. It also involves a broader range of actors than those involved in traditional marketing practices. Applying the Code to digital environments requires the development of specific regulatory mechanisms, coordination across a broader set of government bodies, and the establishment of specific legal duties on the range of entities involved in the digital marketing value chain.The WHO Secretariat convened a Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to provide technical, legal, policy, and implementation advice and expertise to inform the development of the draft Guidance to Member States on regulatory measures aimed at restricting the digital marketing of breast-milk substitutes.The draft guidance is available, here.

Objective of the consultation

The purpose of this online, open, public consultation is to gather feedback from diverse stakeholders on the draft Guidance to Member States on regulatory measures aimed at restricting the digital marketing of breast-milk substitutes.

General guidance on providing comments

Download and review the draft guidance. Compose your responses to each section using your preferred word processor or text editing software and paste your responses into the online form.

Submissions cannot be made anonymously. You will be required to provide valid responses to questions that ask your full name, your organizational affiliation (if any), your role (job title), your country of residence, your personal email address OR your organizational email address (if submitting on behalf of an organization) in order to make a submission. Submissions that are not accompanied by valid responses to these questions may not be accepted for consideration.

All comments will be carefully reviewed and a summary will be presented to WHO’s Technical Advisory Group who for consideration. A full list of comments received will be published on the WHO website. (Personal email addresses will NOT be published.) WHO will prepare a summary report that describes themes raised in consultation submissions and decisions taken in response to these themes. Specific responses to individual comments will not be provided.

Comments on the Draft Guidance must be submitted by 11:59 on Sunday, 17th September 2023, Central European Time (GMT/UHC +1). The consultation will close at 00h00m on Monday 18th September 2023, Central European Time (GMT/UHC+1).


Please direct questions regarding this consultation by email to, using the subject line: Digital Marketing BMS.


Put responses into the online form.

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