Breastfeeding Medicine

Physicians blogging about breastfeeding

The First 1000 Days

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The Annual ABM Meeting in Chicago this year was amazing–truly one of the best. Kudos to the conference planners, staff, and faculty.  I was particularly interested in 1000 Days: The Window of Opportunity by Lucy Martinez Sullivan, MBA.  Some of you may be familiar with this organization, but since I wasn’t, let me give you a bit of background.  1,000 Days

is a partnership between governments, the private sector and civil society organizations which promotes targeted action and investment to improve nutrition for mothers and children in the 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s 2nd birthday when better nutrition can have a life-changing impact on a child’s future and help break the cycle of poverty…The partnership serves as a platform to encourage investment and strengthen policies to improve early nutrition in the developing world in alignment with the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Framework, an approach that seeks to coordinate and accelerate international efforts to combat undernutrition.

It really is amazing that this organization is bringing together so many different types of organizations from all over the world to fight malnutrition and undernutrition.  It makes sense that Ms. Sullivan came to speak to a room full of lactation specialists, right?  It makes perfect sense since breastmilk is the normal nutrition for a baby/infant/toddler–and gives that child the best chance of survival.  Nutrition from breastmilk is important for all babies, but especially vital for those born in developing countries since this can mean the difference between life and death.

Most of you are very familiar with the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. The Code was developed as a global public health strategy to restrict the marketing of breastmilk substitutes, which include infant formula, to ensure that mothers are not discouraged from breastfeeding.  This was in response to the Nestle Boycott of 1977.  Nestle was using aggressive marketing to promote formula feeding to those in underdeveloped countries–causing the death of many infants.  In fact, UNICEF estimates that a formula-fed child living in unhygienic conditions is 6-25 times more likely to die of dysentery and 4 times more like to die of pneumonia than a child who is breastfed.

Unfortunately, despite the efforts of WHO, UNICEF, WABA, IBFAN, and others, babies in developing countries are still receiving formula and subsequently dying.  WHY you ask? You may be shocked, but Nestle has not stopped its devious practices that lead to fatalities–infant deaths that could have been PREVENTED.

So when I heard Ms. Sullivan speak in Chicago, I thought–wow, this is a perfect time to hold Nestle and other formula companies accountable!!! The 1000 Days initiative has the power and the pull to get these major players (Heads of state, Civil and Private organizations) together to tackle the problem of poor nutrition in 3rd world countries.  Even Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is a supporter!!!

During our Q&A, I asked/mentioned, that shouldn’t this be the time to make these organizations aware of WHO code violators in the poorest of countries? This is not a corporate issue, nor a political issue, it is a moral and ethical issue.  We can prevent infant death.  For a child to have the best chance of survival for the first 1000 days, isn’t breastmilk the answer? This is the most logical, the most cost-effective, and the safest way to start tackling this problem.   Call me simple, call me naive–but I think this, in my opinion, should be one of the issues, if not the first issue for this organization to pursue.

It’s simply not enough to have governments issuing laws that women must breastfeed for a certain period of time…it may help, but that doesn’t get to the crux of the problem.  Nestle, and other companies like it, must be removed–their personnel, their products, and their marketing, period. Certain countries are making steps in this direction; however, powerful companies have and will work around or prevent must of this legislation from happening.

It’s unclear as to whether Ms. Sullivan and her colleagues at 1000 Days are aware of the atrocities committed by Nestle 30+ years ago.  I hope that somehow, international organizations, including ABM, have the opportunity to work with 1000 Days and their partners on a policy which prevents formula corporations from harming the youngest and most vulnerable citizens of these countries with the greatest need.  Now is the time to get together and effect change on a global scale.

Natasha K. Sriraman is a general pediatrician and a professor of Pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters/Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, VA.

Posts on this blog reflect the opinions of individual ABM members, not the organization as a whole.

Written by NKSriraman

November 5, 2012 at 8:52 am

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  1. […] maternal and child health. In addition to IBFAN and the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, Natasha K. Sriraman has written about the organization 1000 Days for the Academy of Breastfeeding Me….  With a goal of improving life by improving maternal and infant nutrition in the first 1000 days […]

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