WHO international code
Recognising the benefits of breastfeeding
Breastfeeding has a range of well-recognised benefits to both mother and child. Recognising the benefits and observing that rates and duration of breastfeeding have historically been lower than ideal, the World Health Organization (WHO) and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) convened a landmark meeting on infant and young child feeding with representatives of governments, agencies of the United Nations system, non-governmental organisations, the infant-food industry, and experts in related disciplines. In 1981, a series of recommendations was adopted, including the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (the International Code) (WHO 1981).
Putting the code into effect
The WHO urged all Member States to take action to give effect to the International Code's principles and aim, as appropriate to their social and legislative framework. Action included adopting national legislation, regulations or other suitable measures to put the International Code into effect, involving all stakeholder groups in the International Code’s implementation, and monitoring compliance with the International Code. The International Code aims to contribute to the provision of safe and adequate nutrition for infants by:
- protecting and promoting breastfeeding
- ensuring the proper use of breast-milk substitutes, when these are necessary, on the basis of adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution.
Protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding
The Ministry of Health is committed to protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding. As well as the International Code, several other international documents encourage the Ministry’s commitment, including:
- Innocenti Declaration on the Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding (WHO and UNICEF 1990)
- Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding (WHO 2003)
- Innocenti Declaration 2005: On infant and young child feeding (WHO 2005).
Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding
The Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding reaffirms the International Code’s ongoing importance, and asks governments to implement and monitor existing measures to give effect to the International Code and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly resolutions and, where appropriate, to strengthen them or adopt new measures. For details about the strategy’s implementation in New Zealand, see Stewart (2006).
Providing information and advice
The Ministry has taken action to give effect to the International Code’s principles and aim and subsequent relevant World Health Assembly resolutions, as appropriate to New Zealand’s social and legislative framework.
The International Code, Article 6.1, states that health authorities should give appropriate information and advice to health workers about their responsibilities under the International Code. Implementing and Monitoring the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes in New Zealand: The Code in New Zealand is one such action.
In this section
- The International Code is the foundation for the New Zealand Health Workers’ Code and INC Code of Practice. This page includes a copy of the code, and describes its key points. Read more
- The World Health Organization has prepared answers to frequently asked questions about the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. These questions and answers are reproduced on this page. Read more