Why Having A WHO Code Compliant Fair? - All About Baby Fair 2019 -

It’s going to be a busy summer!  With the Friends of Breastfeeding All About Baby Fair 2019 coming up in only a little over two weeks, event season has begun here at Southeast Doula Care and I can’t wait!

The All About Baby Fair is Ireland’s biggest WHO Code compliant fair and a fabulous family event surrounding all things pregnancy, birth, baby and parenting.

WHO Code?  What WHO Code?

The Code is an international framework for breastfeeding promotion and short for the World Health Organisation’s “International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes”.  It was originally adopted at the World Health Assembly in Geneva in 1981 with the aim to protect breastfeeding and therefore all mothers and babies through a variety of measures, one of them being aggressive marketing on behalf of companies who produce formula products.  Aggressive and unethical marketing often undermines breastfeeding and leads to unachieved breastfeeding goals.  The WHO recommends “Exclusive breastfeeding […] up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond”, therefore no advertisement of stage 1 infant formula is permitted.

I’m formula feeding, that doesn’t apply to me, I hear you say?  No, it does! 

If you know me, you know that I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding but that doesn’t mean there is ANY reason to shame parents who do not breastfeed or make them feel guilty.  And the Code doesn’t do that either.

“The aim of this Code is 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.” — Article 1 of the Code

The Code intention is to set a minimum standard and it aims to protect ALL mothers, whether they are breastfeeding, formula feeding or a combination of both.  It doesn’t only include the above mentioned unethical marketing, it also aims to ensure that breastmilk substitutes are produced safely and meet strict quality standards.  The label on infant formula products is also required to include clear preparation instructions to ensure that your baby receives the correct amount of nutrients.  This Code is in no way directed at parents, its purpose is to ensure that ALL parents receive evidence based, unbiased and correct information around the type of infant feeding they choose.

In March, Channel 4 broadcast a documentary that revealed that companies are, by law, held to a certain standard set out in the European Food Agency Guidelines: Ingredients and composition must follow certain minimum and maximum levels which make all formulas nutritionally equivalent.  While there might be a slight difference in composition and a few added extras, these extras are not nutritionally required and of no scientifically proven use.  What’s different is the marketing budget, the popularity and ultimately the price.

So, why do we need a WHO Code compliant fair?

Surely, if the Code includes formula feeding, that doesn’t even matter?  After all, we don’t live in a developing country and it’s the parents’ choice how they feed the baby?  Sadly, the Code is not enforceable by law and one way that companies market themselves best is through events and sponsorship.  For a relatively small sum of money, companies are able to gain large exposure via newspapers, social media and word of mouth.   Brand recognition and awareness is improved, often without it even being noticed by fair goers, and sales increased.  The companies’ logos are on everything related to the event, from the ticket to the mats on the floor, and subtly make people feel like they’ve always known the brands - thus subconsciously influencing parents and watering down their ability to make an unbiased decision.  And this is taking away your fundamental right to evidence based information, regardless of your personal choices.

Having a baby event that aims to only include businesses that are WHO Code compliant means that you are getting unbiased, factual and agenda-free information about all the things you would like to know about pregnancy, birth, baby and parenting.

Have you booked your ticket yet?  Come along for a fun day out in the Royal Marine Hotel, Dun Laoghaire on Sunday, 30th June 2019!  If you are there on the day, come to say hello.  I’d love to see you!