Breastfeeding is a crucial element of infant and child nutrition (IYCN). Increasing breastfeeding to near universal levels could prevent over 820,000 deaths of children under five each years. It provides children with a lifetime protection against a range of illnesses, and confers many health benefits on mothers.
That is why the WHO recommends that babies everywhere are breastfed exclusively for the first six months, at which point safe, appropriate complementary foods should be introduced to meet their evolving nutritional requirements. The WHO also notes that complementary foods should not be used as breast-milk subsititues (BMS), and infants and young children should continue to be breastfed until they are two or older.
Good infant and child nutrition is essential to achieving global nutrition goals, such as those set by the WHO for 2025 on reducing wasting and stunting, and other goals related to combatting growing levels of overweight and obesity and reducing deaths and illness from diet-related chronic diseases. It is also key to delivering SDG 2 (Ending hunger) and SDG 3 (Good health and well-being), which will in turn contribute to the achievement of many other SDGs.
Inappropriate marketing of BMS can undermine optimal IYCN. Other factors associated with lower levels of breastfeeding include rising rates of female participation in the labor force, urbanization, and increasing incomes and aspirations, which have encouraged the adoption of convenience-oriented lifestyles and made baby formula and prepared baby foods more desirable. In many countries, the caché of premium products is an important symbol of social status.
Since publication of the 2016 Global Index, there have been several notable developments relating to BMS marketing. For example, WHA resolution 69.9 was passed in May 2016. The resolution clarifies the scope of BMS covered by The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (The Code) and extends guidance on conflicts of interest. It also introduces new recommendations for marketing complementary foods and to deter cross-marketing.