By Jedida Barasa

Breastfeeding is vital to a child’s lifelong nutrition, health and wellbeing. It reduces expenditures for families, health facilities and governments by protecting children from infections, malnutrition thus saving lives.

Breastfeeding also supports emotional bonding between mothers and babies along with other mental health benefits. The International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes (the Code) was launched in 1981, as a landmark policy designed to stop commercial interests from damaging breastfeeding rates and endangering the health and nutrition of the world’s youngest inhabitants.

The 40th anniversary of the adoption of the Code is an opportunity to mark the significant progress made in protecting and promoting the incomparable benefits of breastfeeding and a reminder of the work to be done.

However, despite the progress made only 25 countries have implemented substantially aligned measures with the Code. In the event of Covid-19 last year, some baby food marketers took advantage of the pandemic by invoking fears that breastfeeding could transmit Covid-19.

Both the UNICEF and WHO guidance is clear, mothers suspected or known to have Covid-19 should continue breastfeeding. Together we must take the 40th anniversary milestone as an opportunity to celebrate the progress made and call to boldly protect breastfeeding as the best start in life, for every child.