This week has been designated as World Breastfeeding Week by The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). The theme chosen for this year is Breastfeeding: A Vital Emergency Response- Are you Ready?. Living in New England where *knocks on wood* natural disasters are rare or "minor" compared to the rest of the world, I never considered emergency preparedness in breastfeeding as an issue. Actually, I never "considered" it at all. But what if I was a mother in Siri Lanka after the tsunami of 2004 who has been nursing my child for 9 months. Being in a high stress situation, if I was given formula in a care package by a medical aid volunteer, and shown in a class how to use it, would I stop? Would I see using formula as an easier way deal with my situation?
This is where the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes or "The Code" comes into play. The Code was put together by the World Health Organization with the aim "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 breastmilk substitutes, when these are necessary, on the basis of adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution".
The Code is violated at almost every emergency situation, mostly due to lack of knowledge. Article 6.2 of the Code bans promotion of products within the health care system. This includes medical aid workers. It is seen as promoting formula over breastfeeding. Article 6.6 provides that donated supplies only be used or distributed for infants who have to be fed breastmilk substitutes. If The Code is followed and monitored, as a mother in Siri Lanka, I would never have been tempted to stop breast feeding.
This is why the WBW theme of Emergency Preparedness is so important. Getting out the knowledge that The Code exists, and ensuring that volunteers and health care workers are properly informed will give mothers the support they need to continue breastfeeding through a disaster situation.
The Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes does not pertain only to emergency situations. To read it in full visit The International Baby Food Action Network site where I got this info from.