What is IBFAN?
The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) is a global network of public
interest groups working to reduce infant and young child morbidity and mortality.
IBFAN aims to improve the health and well-being of babies and young children, their mothers and their families through the protection, promotion and support of optimal infant feeding practices*, and to eliminate commercial pressure to bottle feed.
IBFAN’s main objective is to achieve universal implementation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes and subsequent, relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly and to encourage all appropriate parties to abide by them.
How did IBFAN start?
IBFAN grew out of the need to respond to the world-wide decline in breastfeeding and the recognition of the dangers of increased use of artificial milks for infant feeding. In developing countries there was growing alarm at the increasing rate of avoidable malnutrition, disease and infant deaths because mothers in poor communities were abandoning breastfeeding and were often unable to afford sufficient quantities of breastmilk substitutes. Mothers often could not read the preparation instructions, obtain clean water, and sterilize bottles and teats.
The manufacturers of infant food products have played a major role in the decline of breastfeeding. International criticism by consumer groups and health professionals of this industry’s marketing and promotional role in the rise of artificial feeding and its consequences led to the Joint WHO/UNICEF Meeting on Infant and Young Child Feeding in 1979. At this meeting the need to control the marketing of infant formula and related products was recognized and led to the recommendation for an international code. This landmark Code was adopted in 1981 by the World Health Assembly with only the USA voting against it.
The International Code was recommended to be implemented in its entirety as a minimum requirement for national legislation in developing and industrialized countries alike. However, malnutrition, disease and death associated with artificial feeding continue. WHO and UNICEF estimate that 1.5 million infants continue to die annually because they are not breastfed. Marketing practices undermining breastfeeding persist in many parts of the world as the industry flouts its responsibilities as required by the International Code.
IBFAN advocates for and assists in this process of implementation and monitoring of the International Code and subsequent, relevant World Health Assembly Resolutions. These related Resolutions were adopted to clarify the International Code in the light of new products and marketing practices invented by the baby food industry since the adoption of the Code in 1981.
At present, over 90 of the 131 countries with IBFAN contacts (either groups or individuals) have IBFAN groups or breastfeeding groups actively working on IBFAN issues. Some countries have several IBFAN groups, each, in its own style, working on different aspects of the infant feeding issue. These groups range from breastfeeding advocacy groups to consumer groups, health professionals' associations and women’s groups.
IBFAN, not a hierarchical organization, is a network of independent, autonomous groups, working together to achieve agreed objectives, and capable of rapid response to external pressures.
Co-ordinating and communication are essential for success; the IBFAN Co-ordinating Council (IBCoCo) sets general policy guidelines for the whole network and individual members raise funds and carry out their programs within these general guidelines.
Each IBFAN region defines its own co-ordinating structure to best fit its specific needs. Regional Co-ordinating Offices work to strengthen their capacity to provide the basic regional policy framework and to co-ordinate the activities of IBFAN members.
*“Optimal infant feeding practices” -- Exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months, followed by sustained breastfeeding, with the timely addition of appropriate and locally-produced complementary foods for two years and beyond.
IBFAN’s Seven Principles
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