e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA)

Regulation of marketing breast-milk substitutes

The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes is a set of recommendations to regulate the marketing of breast-milk substitutes, feeding bottles and teats. The Code aims 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 breast-milk substitutes, when these are necessary, on the basis of adequate information and through appropriate marketing and distribution".

The Code was formulated in response to the realization that poor infant feeding practices were negatively affecting the growth, health and development of children, and were a major cause of mortality in infants and young children. The Code is complemented by a series of subsequent resolutions that further clarify and define its provisions.

The Code advocates that infants be breastfed. If they are not breastfed the Code also advocates that infants be fed safely on the best available nutritional alternative. Breast-milk substitutes should be available when needed, but not be promoted.

Implementation of the Code is the responsibility of governments, who can adopt legislation, regulations or measures such as national policies. Cooperation from food manufacturers and distributors, health-care professionals, nongovernmental organizations and consumer organizations is essential in implementation of the Code and in protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding.

WHO recommendations

One of the nine operational targets of the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding is to take action to give effect to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent relevant resolutions of the World Health Assembly.

WHO documents

WHO documents

GRC-approved guidelines

Status: not currently available

Other guidance documents


Clinical trials

Last update:

24 August 2016 17:01 CEST

Category 1 intervention

Recommendations or other forms of guidance have been adopted or endorsed by the World Health Assembly

Biological, behavioural and contextual rationale

Essential Nutrition Actions

This is an Essential Nutrition Action targeting the first 1000 days of life.

Global targets

Implementation of this intervention may contribute to the achievement of the following targets:

Global nutrition targets

Target 5: Increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in first 6 months up to at least 50%