The International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes

The New Zealand Breastfeeding Alliance (NZBA) retains the World Health Organisation (WHO) International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent World Health Assembly (WHA) resolutions (hereafter referred to as the Code) as the healthy policy framework for Baby Friendly Initiative (BFI) documents in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Growing concern about the aggressive marketing of breastmilk substitutes led to the implementation of the Code in May 1981 at the 34th World Health Assembly meeting. The Code works to protect and encourage breastfeeding, and to control inappropriate marketing practices to sell products for formula feeding.

The following bullets points highlight the standards expected in all Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) facilities regarding the use of breastmilk substitutes and/or infant formula:

  • the facility purchases infant formula for use
  • the price paid is a reasonable price (at least 80 percent of the retail price)
  • the facility manages the usage of infant formula to keep it to a minimum (ensuring a mother's own breastmilk is used whenever possible)
  • the facility keeps good records of the purchase price and usage of infant formula
  • the facility has a policy on formula company representatives visiting

The NZBA expects there to be rotation of infant formula products (every six months, for example). It is important to not continually use one brand of product as this sends a message to staff and those using the product that it is the product of preference. No facility should be seen to use only one brand unless there is a strong valid reason such as a bacterial contamination of other products.

Facilities need to avoid any acceptance of inducements from formula companies who may offer incentives to use their products.

The best sources of information about the International Code can be found on:

The Code in New Zealand Secretariat manages complaints about the International Code and the Code of Practice for Health Workers.  More information can be found on the Ministry of Health website.


Implementation Guide 

Guidelines for Materials

Sample of the International Code Policy

Code of Practice for Health Workers

Baby Business:  Is the milk formulae industry too powerful.  Round Table.

External Websites

The International Code