International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN)
( 1998 , International )

...for its committed and effective campaigning in support of breastfeeding.

Our experience fuels our commitment to organise together in international solidarity to end the suffering caused by bottle-feeding.


The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) was the name taken by a small group of organisations and activists who came together in 1979 at the end of the WHO/UNICEF joint meeting on infant and young child feeding. The meeting had recommended an international code to regulate the marketing of infant formula and other breastmilk substitutes. The founding group consisted of six NGOs. Almost 40 years later, IBFAN has grown into a coalition of 273 citizen groups in 168 developing and industrialised nationsand is the oldest single issue network in the world.

Contact

IBFAN International Baby Food Action Network/GIFA
11 Ave de La Paix
1202 Geneva
SWITZERLAND

IBFAN/ICDC
P.O. Box 19
10700 Penang
MALAYSIA

IBFAN Codex Alimentarius Global Programme
INFACT Canada
520 Colborne Street
London, Ontario, N6B 2T5
CANADA
Baby Milk Action
34 Trumpington Street
Cambridge, CB2 1QY
UK

http://www.ibfan.org/
http://ibfan.org/our-global-network

Biography

The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) was the name taken by a small group of organisations and activists who came together in 1979 at the end of the WHO/UNICEF joint meeting on infant and young child feeding. The meeting had recommended an international code to regulate the marketing of infant formula and other breastmilk substitutes. The founding group consisted of six NGOs. Almost 40 years later, IBFAN has grown into a coalition of 273 citizen groups in 168 developing and industrialised nationsand is the oldest single issue network in the world.

Breastmilk is the most universally available and complete food resource. However, it has been under subtle and overt attack for at least 60 years by commercial interests. In 2018, WHO estimated that 820’000 child lives could be saved every year among children under 5 years if all children 0-23 months were optimally breastfed.

IBFAN brings together the non-governmental organisations which are addressing infant feeding and health and unites these organisations in a common aim: improving breastfeeding rates, reducing dependence on industrial artificial milk products, and protecting women’s and families’ freedom of choice based on full, unbiased information and support, free from commercial influences.

Key to this campaign is the regulation of marketing of infant feeding products, by means of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, which was adopted as a resolutio …

The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) was the name taken by a small group of organisations and activists who came together in 1979 at the end of the WHO/UNICEF joint meeting on infant and young child feeding. The meeting had recommended an international code to regulate the marketing of infant formula and other breastmilk substitutes. The founding group consisted of six NGOs. Almost 40 years later, IBFAN has grown into a coalition of 273 citizen groups in 168 developing and industrialised nationsand is the oldest single issue network in the world.

Breastmilk is the most universally available and complete food resource. However, it has been under subtle and overt attack for at least 60 years by commercial interests. In 2018, WHO estimated that 820’000 child lives could be saved every year among children under 5 years if all children 0-23 months were optimally breastfed.

IBFAN brings together the non-governmental organisations which are addressing infant feeding and health and unites these organisations in a common aim: improving breastfeeding rates, reducing dependence on industrial artificial milk products, and protecting women’s and families’ freedom of choice based on full, unbiased information and support, free from commercial influences.

Key to this campaign is the regulation of marketing of infant feeding products, by means of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, which was adopted as a resolution by the World Health Assembly in 1981. Since 1981 the issues covered in the Code have been clarified or extended by a series of subsequent resolutions of the World Health Assembly. In the face of the enormous power of the multinational companies which dominate the world infant baby food market, IBFAN has continued to find means to mobilise people effectively to press their governments for action, to undertake citizen monitoring of compliance with the recommendations of the World Health Assembly, and to stimulate self-reliance and effective action at the grassroots level.

IBFAN’s International Code Documentation Centre in Malaysia supports governments to draft laws to implement the International Code and organizes global monitoring surveys of industry marketing malpractices by citizen groups.

The Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding is a key resolution adopted by the World Health Assembly in 2002 to provide further policy support for breastfeeding in all areas. The World Breastfeeding Trends initiative, WBTi, was designed by IBFAN’s regional office for Asia as participative tool for countries to assess the state of policy and programmes and press governments to take action to bridge the gaps. To date, over 90 countries have completed and/or repeated their assessments of implementation of the Global Strategy.

Monitoring the International Code and pressing governments and industry to adopt it in full has thus remained a central and ongoing struggle for the network. IBFAN groups are supporting their governments and monitoring implementation of the global strategy in all countries. the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, BFHI; breastfeeding and human rights with focus on children’s and women’s rights; Codex Alimentarius Commission standards; maternity protection legislation; infant feeding and climate change; risks of contamination of breastmilk substitutes; infant feeding in emergencies; economic and environmental impacts of not breastfeeding.

IBFAN groups in more than 168 countries are working actively on one or more of these issues. These groups are organised into eight geographical and linguistic regions: Africa (English and Portuguese-speaking); Afrique (French-speaking); Asia; Arab World; Europe; Latin America and the Caribbean; North America and Oceania.

The coordinating offices for the eight regions are supported by IBFAN’s four global programme offices: the ICDC in Malaysia; Baby Milk Action in the United Kingdom; INFACT/Codex in Canada; GIFA, the Geneva Infant Feeding Association.

GIFA is IBFAN’s International liaison office based in Switzerland, representing the IBFAN network at the World Health Assembly and participating actively in all the main international processes related to Human Rights and public health (UN CRC, CESCR and CEDAW Committees, HRC IGWG on transnational corporations and human rights).

The publication Breastfeeding Briefs, covering news from the WHO, other UN Agencies and recent scientific research, is produced by IBFAN-GIFA and IBFAN Brasil.

The campaign for which IBFAN is best known is the international boycott of Nestlé for breaches of the International Code. Baby Milk Action, BMA, IBFAN’s group in the UK coordinates the boycott and company campaigns.

 
 

FAQ about IBFAN

asked in 2005,answered by Annelies Allain

1.  What is the most disturbing example of a breastmilk substitute and its effects on babies’ health?

In developing countries the formula fed baby has a 16 to 25 fold risk of dying of diarrhoeal disease and subsequent dehydration compared to breastfed infants. Following recent reports of potential intrinsic contamination with Enterobacter sakazakii or other pathogens, a baby fed with such powdered infant formula may develop meningitis, sepsis or necrotising enterocolitis. 4 infants died in Belgium, New Zealand and France recently and we can only guess at how many more died in developing countries where no analysis can be made of the formula.

2.  What do you blame multinational companies like Nestlé for?

Such companies promised to follow the International Code but do not abide by all its provisions. They exploit loopholes, develop new products and practices and lobby governments and WHO to weaken regulations. They use health and nutrition claims to entice more mothers to artificially feed their babies.

3.  What does breastfeeding have to do with ecology?

If more mothers breastfed, there would be less waste of packaging, feeding bottles, fuel to boil water and sterilize bottles; less medication to heal sick babies, less need for transportation to health centres, etc. Breastfeeding is the normal means to feed babies. It is a unique, natural renewable resource. It requires no sterilizing, packaging or transporting and is thus an ecologically sustainable activity.

4.  Your members are mainly women activists. Isn’t breastfeeding an issue that men should care about just as well?

Absolutely, many men are active in IBFAN, especially those working in health care systems. About one-third of our members and leaders are men.

5. Nestlé says it follows the Code. Why are you still boycotting the company?

Nestlé limits its marketing, as required under the Code, selectively in countries and with products only when it is forced to by law. It still aggressively promotes its infant formula, and other breastmilk substitutes, such as baby juices, teas and cereals where there are no laws or where the enforcement is weak. Nestlé claims the Code only applies in developing countries but the Code itself clearly says it is meant for all countries regardless of national measures taken to implement its provisions.

Nestlé claims the Code covers only infant formula but why would the Code be called Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes if it did not cover all substitutes? With 40% of global market share, Nestlé sets the marketing trends for all companies. As long as the market leader does not behave, we must continue to boycott. Nestlé is the company that works most extensively round the world to block and undermine efforts to implement the International Code and its subsequent, relevant WHO resolutions.

6. You have the Code; what else do you want …?

Meaningful breastfeeding protection legislation in all countries. Enforceable national measures that are in step with current marketing practices and will put an end to constant commercial pressures that undermine breastfeeding and mothers’ confidence. Broad social awareness that corporate accountability must be proven, not flouted as empty gestures. As well, social and cultural measures to ensure adequate maternity protection in the workplace and the return of breastfeeding as the cultural norm.

7. What effect has the Right Livelihood Award had on your work?

The Right Livelihood Award lifted our battle to a higher level by making more people aware of the issue, by publicly recognising our actions and thus giving small IBFAN groups more standing. We made copies of the Award and put a mention of it on our letterheads and newsletters. We are proud to be a recipient and in continuing our struggle with new vigor, we hope to make RLA proud of us as well.

Publications

  • Formula for Disaster: weighing the impact of formula feeding Vs breastfeeding on environment. Alison Linnecar, Arun Gupta, JP Dadhich and Nupur Bidla. BPNI / IBFAN Asia 2014. Download (pdf)
  • The Youngest Market: Baby Food Peddlers Undermine Breastfeeding. Annelies Allain & Yeong Joo Kean. Multinational Monitor. This article is based on the authors’ latest report “Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules 2007”.
  • Protecting Infant Health: the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. Lida Lhotska. Conference – Breastfeeding and Lactatation. Berlin, 16-17 April, 2004. Download (pdf)
  • Breaking the Rules, Stretching the Rules, 2004. Read the overview of this report. Download (pdf)
  • Milking Profits – How Nestlé puts sales ahead of infant health. Report published by The Network – Association for Rational Use of Medication in Pakistan (1999). Download (pdf)

More of IBFAN’s monitoring reports can be found on the website of IBFAN-ICDC.