Is the world health organization crossing the line?

Merry - posted on 09/30/2011 ( 18 moms have responded )




In this list the WHO uses words that if *I* use in a debate I get yelled at and scolded by offended moms who think I'm demonizing formula by calling it 'artificial feeding' or that are outraged that I use words like hazards of not breastfeeding. Or risks of formula feeding.
Is the WHO being insensitive in using these words? Or is it only rude if i say it true but too blunt? Should it be more gently stated so not to upset mothers who didn't breastfeed?

In 1981 the World Health Organization developed a code of marketing breast milk substitutes to protect infant health:

Summary of the International Code on Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes

1. No advertising of breast milk substitutes to families.
2. No free samples or supplies in the health care system.
3. No promotion of products through health care facilities, including no free or low-cost formula.
4. No contact between marketing personnel and mothers.
5. No gifts or personal samples to health workers.
6. No words or pictures idealizing artificial feeding, including pictures of infants, on the labels or the product.
7. Information to health workers should be scientific and factual only.
8. All information on artificial feeding, including labels, should explain the benefits of breastfeeding and the costs and hazards associated with artificial feeding.
9. Unsuitable products should not be promoted for babies.
10. All products should be of high quality and take account of the climate and storage conditions of the country where they are used.


Mary - posted on 10/01/2011




Laura, I think the big difference here is that the WHO is a large, international organization that is publishing scientifically study-based findings and recommendations for the population at large. Their intent is to provide unbiased information for public consumption based on research. This is vastly different from having a personal conversation with an individual mother, where emotions do need to be taken into account.

The language you would use in any type of professional communique should differ from that used in an informal conversation with a specific person. So while the terms "artificial feeding" and "bottle/formula feeding" may technically be interchangeable, they do have the tendency to be interpreted differently when used in a personal interaction.

Perhaps a clearer example would be this: Technically and medically, it is appropriate to refer to a large person as "obese". However, if a (good) doctor is speaking with his patient about their weight, they will be much more apt to use word such as "overweight" because of much more negative connotation that the word obese seems to possess.

Sara - posted on 09/30/2011




Well, and as the WORLD Health Organization, they have to support breastfeeding over bottlefeeding since there are many underdeveloped countries that don't have a safe water supply. Of course, they're recommendations are going to be for breast feeding over bottle feeding to encompass the geographical scope of their recommendations.

Stifler's - posted on 09/30/2011




No. I formula fed both my children and I have no problem with this code. Breast IS best, but sometimes your breast don't work it's just something you have to get over and use formula. I'd never advocate for someone to not try to breastfeed because 'bottle feeding is better'.

Karla - posted on 09/30/2011




I don't have any problem with the WHO code of marketing infant formula. It might be good to keep in mind that this code is directed to corporations that manufacture and market infant formula around the world. This came out after many difficulties with false advertising and misinformation. After experiences with moms in third world countries who could not speak English being sold on the “benefits of formula,” given samples, and then left to fend for themselves and their baby. They were stuck without the knowledge or funds to understand which products are intended for infants, how to mix formula, how to properly clean bottles, and without the income to buy the product. For mothers in these countries it is phenomenally better to breastfeed.

I attended a speech in which the speaker/health care provider worked in various African nations and told of a mother confusing "Milk of Magnesia" with formula -- She could only read the word "Milk"

So you can see the dilemma faced by the World Health Organization.

You may want to note that one way the formula manufacturers got around these directives was to develop "Toddler Milk." They can advertise that without stepping on the WHO codes, or so they think.

So perhaps if one uses these words in a debate involving mothers in first world countries who (for any number of reasons) are feeding their healthy babies with formula then one might be met with resistance and defensiveness. On the other hand if one were to debate the merits or drawbacks of the marketing of formula world wide, then this WHO list would more likely be fully understood and supported.

[deleted account]

I would hazard a guess that what WHO characterizes as the "hazards associated with artificial feeding" are not the same as what you call the hazards of not breastfeeding. I don't think anyone disagrees that breast milk is the ideal food for babies, but not everyone can breast feed and formula is an adequate substitute.

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MeMe - Raises Her Hand (-_-) (Mommy Of A Toddler And Teen) - posted on 05/23/2012




Oh FFS Kellie, get a grip! What bullshit! I have breastfed my 1st for 16 months, my 2nd I only got to 3 months because of medical issues. My son is just as healthy as my daughter. You know what? I WAS formula fed. I am totally pro-breastfeeding BUT I completely understand the need for formula and would not ever dis it. It is obvious you have never had an issue with your milk. You cannot make such accusations if you have never been in the situation. And never say never. I never thought I would ever have to use formula but I did!

Also, in regards to formula being #4 on the list, yeah that's bullshit too. Since 1,2 and 3 ARE breastmilk! DUH! Not everyone can find a donor, if they cannot breastfeed. Formula is 2nd best and it IS way damn better than giving them something else, if you cannot or do not want to breastfeed. Formula has come a long way. Many kids were raised on formula, you wouldn't know the difference

Why are people so offended if they know they have done all the right things? I know i would take no offense to someone letting me know that formula is bad.

Yeah, I call bullshit! If you had to use it and someone was as offensive as you are being, you would be defending yourself.

The WHO supports formula feeding, as well. They promote breast because it is best and we all know that. Just some people can't or don't, which is their choice and they should not be judged!

This thread needs to be closed too, it is soooo old!

[deleted account]

Laura,i don't think you should have to worry about anyone elses feelings....especially if you are debating a topic like this.

If someone is on here and they are sensitive because they couldn't breast feed,thinks they couldn't breast feed,lost their milk,never got any milk,gave up for one of the many reasons i hear constantly like sore nipples or mastitis.....well they should go to another debate that is not so close to home for them...simple as that !!!

Formula of course is an accepted and an OK subsitute if is number 4 (which is last on the list)...I personally don't think it is a good substitute and i would be absolutely devastated if i had needed to give my baby even a taste of the stuff...i am very anti formula and i am very happy that i don't need to use it.

For people that must use it...they should know it is not particularly good for their baby but they should also know that if they did their best to breast feed that there was just no choice and they have to accept it and hope that their baby grows up healthy which apparently most do.

Why are people so offended if they know they have done all the right things? I know i would take no offense to someone letting me know that formula is wouldn't be anything i wasn't already aware of and i'd have no reason to feel any guilt (although i may be upset or disappointed) because i would know that i would have done absolutely everything possible to succeed (which i have done with both babies and succeeded both times)...i am sure enough of myself to not give a toss what anyone thinks especially if all they are doing is stating the truth.

[deleted account]

I think #7 should be a given in all cases but it isn't. I do have some doubts on the immunity factor in breastmilk beyond a certain age myself. I think we accept too many "alternative" methods that have no backing to them.

I guess the hazards of artificial feeding would most likely be a reference to water quality and why it's important not to dilute it in order to make it last longer. #10 falls into this as well. I know that some formular manufacturers have been selling formula to areas where there is inadequate storage capacity and that caused infant death from spoilage.

When I was small, our church was part of a huge boycott against Nestle over their formula marketing in 3rd world nations.

Sal - posted on 10/01/2011




i was watching an add for formula (not new born but later stage) and did notice that it firstly said that nothing is as good as breast milk...

i think that in aus most of these things are followed through, i have never been given free samples, it is NEVER low cost, and never did a health care professional promote formula, and this last point is probally the only one i have an issue with, i now know why they didn;t and i think that maybe they should sometimes, when the mum and bub aren't getting it together the extra stress of having to fight to get help to switch to formula isn't going to help....ohhh and it isn't artificial feeding, you are really feeding them, and it is not artifical formula, just artifical breast milk.....

Ez - posted on 09/30/2011




I used formula after fighting a losing battle with my supply issues (severe post-partum anemia), and I have no problem with the wording. Formula *is* artificial milk. A bottle *is* an artificial way of feeding a baby. There doesn't need to be judgement attached to those statements. It's just fact.

Just as an added note, Australia already has adopted most of these rules. It is illegal to advertise formula and there are no samples or promo products.

Jaime - posted on 09/30/2011




I'm aware of what is in formula, I'm aware that breast milk is the number 1 choice of all health professionals and I'm aware that the WHO recognizes that as well. I'm also aware that formula is an acceptable alternative to breast milk, but that it lacks a lot of the natural nutrients and vital antibodies created in breast milk. It's not a perfect product, but it has its own benefits. Laura, if you can recognize these same things, then you shouldn't have any problems debating such a topic. Whatever trouble you think you've gotten into, I'm willing to bet that you've likely misinterpreted a comment (as is the true nature of CoMs debates that are controversial and discussed by emotional women).

Lady Heather - posted on 09/30/2011




The WHO is trying to deal with issues in countries where the hazards of formula feeding are quite a bit more pressing than they are here. I don't blame them for the words they use because they are fighting a necessary fight.

I think there is not much point in using such terminology with a mum who is already months into formula feeding though. It can be quite hurtful to those who really wanted to breastfeed and when you're past the point of no return it's not like knowing about the "hazards" is going to help. So in a way you do have to know your audience. If you are only going to hurt by using those words, why use them?

It's hard to say what's offensive or too blunt or whatever if you don't know what the actual context is. I have had people try and school me on the "risks" as I'm sitting there feeding a 6 month old child. Yes, that is offensive. It is also a waste of your time. And I will always say that breast is best and breast is my preference and sure - do whatever you can to make it work for you. But sometimes honesty can be too brutal and having been on the receiving end of it I can understand that.

April - posted on 09/30/2011




personally, i don't think the words are too harsh. the opposite of nature's milk would be man made milk (which is a synonym for artificial. hazards of not breastfeeding, i also don't have a problem with because there can be hazards for anything. for heroin addicts, their breast milk is hazardous and even fatal to their babies. thus, there can be hazards of breastfeeding too. it's just semantics and no one should get upset. these days everyone's feelings are hurt all the time. everyone's offended when it comes to motherhood.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 09/30/2011




Ok, so I just read up on WHO....much more recent info than 1981. Yes they do support BF, but they also support formula being fed when it is necessary. It seems to me like they want to make the best formula possible available and are doing research to do just that. They recognize that there are certain reasons for women NOT to breastfeed, like mothers who have diseases that can be passed to their infant.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 09/30/2011




And really, truly and was the immature approach "poor me I can't say this but they can" approach you took that rubbed me the wrong way.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 09/30/2011




Also, I see this is 1981....I am sure formula has improved leaps and bounds since then.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 09/30/2011




I think your personal words at the beginning are a bit harsh and unnecessary. But if a women is going to breastfeed or formula feed, this list is not going to be the determining factor.

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