The WHO Code

Rumble Tuff believes in the Who Code. We understand the importance of breastfeeding, and the multitude of benefits for both the mother and the baby. We have developed our products and our marketing strategies in order to stay in compliance with the Who Code.

The WHO Code, short for World Health Organization’s International Code of the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, was adopted in 1981 by the World Health Organization and UNICEF. It is left to the government of each participating country to decide if they want to enforce the Who Code and to lay down the laws and regulations as they see fit.

The Who Code was proposed in response to growing concern about the decline in breastfed babies and the health risks associated with formula feeding. Studies have shown that babies who are breastfed exclusively for six months, then breastfed with appropriate weaning foods for an additional six to eighteen months have better health, higher intelligence, and lower risk for many disease and allergies.

Many companies that make and sell baby formula have aggressive marketing strategies that undermine a mother’s desire and ability to breastfeed her baby. They work closely with hospitals and healthcare workers to get free samples of their formula into the hands of new mothers, often offering the hospitals and healthcare workers benefits for promoting their products. Aggressive advertising campaigns can mask the truth beneath of web of false promises and claims.

Research has shown a steady decline of breastfeeding in countries with these aggressive marketing campaigns. Formula companies are greatly benefitted by spreading a lot of misinformation about breastfeeding versus formula feeding, and they have no reason to share the information found by legitimate scientific studies.

Breastfeeding is a natural course of action for a mother and child. It provides time for them to develop a strong bond with one another. There is nothing that needs to be purchased by a new mother in order for her to breastfeed her child. She does not need to purchase special food, health supplements, or feeding equipment. In short, there is no company profit in encouraging mothers to breastfeed.

The Who Code isn’t in place to eliminate baby formula or artificial feeding; it is there to limit the harm from aggressive marketing campaigns. Under the Who Code, there is absolutely no advertising of breast milk substitutes to the public, no free samples to mothers, and no promoting products in healthcare facilities. It does not allow for any gifts or personal samples to be given to healthcare workers, and absolutely no mothercraft nurses provided by formula companies. It also restricts what can and cannot be placed on the label of a breast milk substitute. It restricts the type of wording that can be used, with no allowance for pictures or text that idealize artificial feeding, and requires that warning labels must be included in a format that is easy to read and easy to understand.

Why You Should Understand the WHO Code

When the Who Code was first proposed in May of 1981 to the World Health Assembly, 118 members voted for it, 3 were absent, and 1 voted against. This matters because the United States is the only one to vote against the Who Code.

Today in the United States, the Who Code is entirely voluntary. There are no legal consequences for any company who operates in violation of the code.

This means that the information you, as a new mother, are given is probably skewed in favor of a company hoping to make profit through you. In addition to your responsibilities as a mother, you need to determine which information is accurate and correct, and which is false advertising, and what is truly best for you and your baby.

However, there are many US companies who choose to operate in compliance with the Who Code. There is also a growing trend of baby-friendly hospitals, who also operate in compliance with the Who Code.

If your goal is to breastfeed your baby for as long as you feel is appropriate, surround yourself with people who support your decision, find resources to help you learn how to be successful, and stay away from people and companies who will try to steer you in a direction you feel is wrong. There are people and companies throughout the country who strive to help you meet your breastfeeding goals.

The Who Code

  1. No advertising of breast milk substitutes to families.
  2. No free samples or supplies in the health care system.
  3. No promotion of products through health care facilities, including free or low-cost formula.
  4. No contact between marketing personnel and new mothers.
  5. No gifts or personal samples to health workers.
  6. No words or pictures idealizing artificial feeding, including pictures of infants, on the labels or the product.
  7. Information to health workers should be scientific and factual only.
  8. All information on artificial feeding, including labels, should explain the benefits of breastfeeding and the costs and hazards associated with artificial feeding.
  9. Unsuitable products should not be promoted for babies.
  10. All products should be of high quality and take account of the climate and storage conditions of the country where they are used.