Breastmilk Should Be Counted in GDP

The Lancet calls for an end to infant formula marketing

Peggy O'Mara
9 min readFeb 21


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On February 7, 2023, the Lancet, a peer-reviewed medical journal founded in England in 1823, published a three-paper series on the predatory tactics of the commercial infant formula industry. The Lancet is to be commended for recommending an end to the marketing of infant formula.

For decades, the commercial milk formula industry has used underhand marketing strategies, designed to prey on parents’ fears and concerns, to turn the feeding of infants and young children into a multibillion-dollar business — generating revenues of about $55 billion each year.

The 2023 Lancet series highlights the UN’s International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, a set of consensus recommendations created in 1981 to prevent the inappropriate marketing of infant formula. Among its standards are:

  • No formula advertising to the public
  • No formula advertising promotion within health-care systems
  • No free formula samples to mothers, health-care workers or in health facilities

As of March 2016, 135 countries had at least some form of legal measure in place covering some provisions of the Code. This represents significant progress since 2011, when only 103 countries had relevant legal measures in place. A total of 39 countries have comprehensive legislation or other legal measures reflecting all or most provisions of the Code. An additional 31 countries have legal measures incorporating many provisions of the Code, and a further 65 countries have legal measures that contain a few provisions.

Forty-nine countries, including the US, have no measures in place. The US is one of just two UN member countries not to have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the only country not to have signed the Code. In fact, the US is a powerful force against its implementation.

The US undermines breastfeeding worldwide

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Peggy O'Mara

Peggy O’Mara is an award winning journalist. She was the Editor and Publisher of Mothering Magazine for over 30 years. Her focus is Family, Health, and Justice.