Plumeting Breastfeeding Rates in Mexico: A Broken Code?


The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have long advocated for the practice of breastfeeding, a practice that if done optimally, can potentially prevent 800,00 deaths annually among children under age five. Breastfeeding is especially important in countries like Mexico, who have the highest infant mortality rate among the world’s largest 40 economies, where millions live in extreme poverty, and where in many areas family health is threatened by dirty water. However, despite these factors, Mexican mothers are turning to infant formula as their choice of infant nutrition.untitled

What experts are calling a PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS , only one in seven mothers are exclusively breastfeeding in the first six months, making Mexico the country in Latin America with nearly the lowest level of breastfeeding.

Over 30 years ago, at the thirty-third World Health Assembly, in response to a global decline in breastfeeding, a joint UNICEF and WHO consensus was reached recommending creation of an international code of marketing of breast-milk substitutes, as promotion of manufactured breast-milk substitutes was identified as a significant factor influencing prevalence and duration of breastfeeding. Over thirty years after endorsement of the code, only 37 out of 199 countries have laws in place reflecting all code recommendations, Mexico is not one of these. Experts highlight one major failure as lack of enforcing the international code, as the country allows formula companies to self regulate.


nidocalendarbtr04smEvidence has proven that direct industry influence and marketing techniques influence decisions. If Mexican mothers continue to be inundated with biased and inaccurate information, they will continue to choose formula over breastfeeding.

Mexico must focus its efforts on successful implementation of the code, this is critical in supporting proper infant feeding and Millenium Development Goal 4 attainment.



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7 Responses to “Plumeting Breastfeeding Rates in Mexico: A Broken Code?”

  1. megbattle Says:

    Thanks for sharing about this important issue. You mentioned that proper national policies to promote breastfeeding are not in place, but I am also curious what the most significant barriers to breastfeeding are at an individual or community level. Do women know that breastfeeding could be a better option for them and their babies, but choose to use formula because of time or embarrassment? Or do they believe (like many women that I met in rural Cambodia) that feeding their newborns formula from developed countries represent a way of treating their babies well?

    • gomezkar Says:

      I actually did my ecological model assignment on this particular issue and in the case of Mexico there were significant health behavior issues identified at all levels. In regards to your specific questions I believe they are influenced by the advertising and then when they are in the hospitals, according to my research the healthcare staff do not provide the support and guidance. They also have a very high C-section rate which poses more challenges in the immediate post-partum period, typically they want to have the baby latch on in the first hour of life which becomes challenging if the women is recovering from surgery and the healthcare staff do not advocate for that first latch. I do believe that there is the perception that formula feeding is symbolic of higher social class and that breastfeeding more symbolic of poverty. I think it is lack of education and support during pregnancy, immediately after and in the post-partum period. The UNICEF & WHO Planning Guide for National Implementation of the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, identify the priority level as the policy level. Although all levels need intervention, evidence states that creation of policies and programs that protect, promote and support breastfeeding is the first important step. The rise in exclusive breastfeeding rates in Brazil and Columbia are attributed to the presence of these policies.

  2. ferialadha Says:

    A very important topic – lack of exclusive breastfeeding is an issue in many countries around the world. From what I have read it seems that industry influence does play a major role and women use baby-formula instead. However, to change mothers’ opinions it will be necessary to educate mothers on the importance of exclusive breastfeeding. Furthermore, sharing stories of mothers who have performed exclusive breastfeeding and have seen healthy growth of their children would be an encouraging way to convince mothers to try their best to breastfeed their children. Another issue is that some mothers end up having to go back work and therefore may not have a long enough maternity leave in order to continue breastfeeding their child – the government will have to step in to change maternity and paternity leave laws in workplaces. I have a question regarding if women in Mexico believe that breastfeeding is actually bad – women in Nigeria have cultural beliefs that newborns should be given water not milk and therefore they tend not to practice exclusive breastfeeding. Are their certain cultural beliefs in Mexico?

    • gomezkar Says:

      I agree with of your comments! I have not read about the belief that breastfeeding is “bad” per se. I think more common is the association with social class. if not educated throughout pregnancy and without support in the critical post partum period they may be easily influenced by advertisements and what they see on billboards. Many levels must be targeted but political commitment, goal setting and policy development is a are imminent priorities and critical first steps.

  3. hdroppert Says:

    This is a really interesting issue especially given class issues likely at play in Mexico. I know that in other developing countries, Nido and other milk supplements/replacements are relatively expensive (or at least an extra cost) thus can be indicative of class and economic classification. This adds a deeper element that could make it challenging to convince women to transition to breastfeeding. Also as the GDP rises in Mexico, women may use these new economic opportunities to purchase “higher class” or more expensive items and these milk products may be a part of this package.

  4. mgiraldo2014 Says:

    It is well known the benefits of breastfeeding for children and mothers as well. Clearly, strategies oriented to increase breastfeeding rates differ regarding the target population. While in poor communities mainly from developing countries, breastfeeding is frequently a live saving strategy, for population in middle/high income countries no breastfeeding has more subtle consequences.
    It has been amply demonstrated that increased rates of breastfeeding are related with decreased rates of infant mortality in impoverished populations. One of the most cost effective strategies takes place under the umbrella of the primary care community interventions programs. Active participation from community members is essential to be successful in breastfeeding programs.
    In comparison, programs oriented to increase breastfeeding rates in middle/high income populations require different approaches. Some of these are: education and promotion of breastfeeding from health care professionals, allow mothers and babies to stay together 24 hours a day, establishment of breastfeeding support groups, and allow breastfeeding at the work place. Additionally, the influence of the media in promoting artificial infant formulas should be counteracted with mass media messages about the benefits of breastfeeding for both babies and mothers

  5. De mamás y de mamacitas - Criando Creando Says:

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