Don't Push It

Why the formula milk industry must clean up its act

Breastfeeding saves lives. It’s estimated that 823,000 child deaths could be prevented each year in low and middle-income countries if breastfeeding were adopted at close-to-universal levels.

But the health and lives of millions of vulnerable children are at risk from the rapid growth of the market for baby milk formula. 

Our new report, Don’t Push It, looks at the aggressive marketing activities of six global formula milk companies – RB, Abbott, Kraft Heinz, FrieslandCampina, Danone and Nestlé – that together own more than 50% of the market in breast-milk substitutes.

The report looks at the scale and impact of these marketing activities.

The market for infant formula and follow-on milk formulas is growing at eight times the pace of the global population.

By 2019 that market will be worth more than $70 billion. This is in spite of an international set of guidelines, adopted nearly 40 years ago by the World Health Assembly, designed to protect babies’ health.

Much of the growth of the formula milk industry stems from powerful marketing campaigns, and in some parts of the world, offer gifts to health care workers as incentives to distribute formula, that lead mothers to limit breastfeeding, or even abandon it completely in favour of formula milk.

 

Download a summary of the report here.

 

Leslie started using formula because she didn’t think she had enough breastmilk and saw ‘Bonna’ formula (owned by Nestle) on a TV commercial. She said she struggles to afford formula and wishes she could breastfeed. Leslie attended a Save the Children seminar on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life at Bagong Barrio Lying In & Health Center, Caloocan, Manila.

Leslie started using formula because she didn’t think she had enough breastmilk and saw ‘Bonna’ formula (owned by Nestle) on a TV commercial. She said she struggles to afford formula and wishes she could breastfeed. Leslie attended a Save the Children seminar on the first 1,000 days of a child’s life at Bagong Barrio Lying In & Health Center, Caloocan, Manila.

What does the report call for?

Don't Push It sets out recommendations for urgently required change, with the aim of benefitting millions of children and mothers’ health.

The time has come for companies to play by the rules and put children’s health before their bottom line. That's why we're calling on the industry to publicly commit to upholding the established international Code and create a 'race to the top' to ensure millions of children get the healthiest start in life.

We're also calling on investors to support companies to increase compliance and hold them to account, and on governments to protect breastfeeding by incorporating the Code in full into domestic law.

What do the companies have to say?

In advance of publication we shared our findings and recommendations with each of the formula milk companies named in the report, giving them the right to reply. We stand by the content of our report and welcome their responses:

Save the Children’s response to the replies we have received.

Find out more