End Exploitative Marketing

LLLI Advocacy, Networking and Action Committee

This year, La Leche League International (LLLI) signed an open letter by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. It called for an end to exploitative marketing practices used by the US$55 billion formula milk industry.

In February 2022 the World Health Organization published the report, How marketing of formula milk influences our decisions on infant feeding. The report is extensive. It draws on the experiences of over 8,500 women and 300 healthcare professionals across eight countries.

The report condemns the unethical marketing techniques and dishonesty used by the milk formula industry. Manipulative industry techniques have a strong impact on parents’ and pregnant women’s choices about how to feed their babies.


Unethical techniques include the following:

  • online targeting
  • industry sponsored helplines
  • sponsored health conferences
  • promotions and free gifts to families
  • influencing training and making recommendations to healthcare workers.

A number of formula companies have membership in ‘nutrition councils’ in national governments. Unethical industry marketing influences mothers, parents, and families at a vulnerable time in their lives. Families are given inaccurate and incomplete information. Companies suggest to pregnant women and families that their products are as good as breastfeeding. They suggest that breastfeeding is more complicated than it really is.


Bad industry marketing practices must be stopped. We know that breastfeeding within the first hour of birth, followed by exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding for up to two years or beyond, offers a powerful defense against all forms of child malnutrition. Breastfeeding also offers protection to babies and young children from the worst effects of many common childhood illnesses. We know that not being supported to breastfeed can increase women’s risk of developing diabetes, obesity, and some forms of cancer. These are all health facts that local and national governments need to hear again and again. LLLI strongly supports Leaders and supporters to engage in collaborative action to advocate against unethical marketing and to protect breastfeeding in their countries. Read our Collaborative Action policy here.

If, like La Leche League International, you want to take part and sign the WHO/UNICEF open letter follow this link. You can sign on behalf of an organization, or as an individual.

If you would like to know more about LLLI advocacy or for ideas on how to advocate for change in your country, contact: actioncmte@llli.org.