Infant Formula Marketing – Why You Don’t See It In Australia

Infant Formula Marketing - Why You Don't See It In Australia

Leading health organisations recommend that babies be breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months of life.

Exclusive breastfeeding means a baby receives only breastmilk. No other liquids or solids are given, not even water.

Thereafter, it’s recommended that solids be introduced around 6 months, and for breastfeeding to continue for at least one year, or as long as the mother and child desire.

These recommendations stem from the overwhelming scientific evidence about the importance of breastfeeding for the health of mothers and their children.

Governments aim to make policies that protect and promote breastfeeding, while ensuring the proper use of formula, when necessary. Part of this involves making sure formula is marketed and distributed in appropriate ways.

If you live in Australia, you might ask why you see advertising for toddler formula, but not for baby formula.

To answer this question, I need to take you through 4 points that cover some history and definitions.

History And Definitions Of Infant Formula Marketing

Here are some key facts and health organisations who play an important role with regards to formula marketing for infants:

#1: The World Health Organization

The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialised agency of the United Nations that is concerned with international public health.

#2: The World Health Assembly

The World Health Assembly (WHA) is the supreme decision-making body for WHO. It generally meets in Geneva, in May each year, and the meeting is also attended by delegations from all member countries.  Its main function is to determine the policies of WHO.

#3: The International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes

In 1981, 118 countries at the WHA voted overwhelmingly in favour of adopting the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes, or the WHO Code for short.

The WHO Code is an international health policy framework for breastfeeding promotion. It was developed as a global public health strategy, and recommends restrictions on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes (e.g. baby and toddler formula), and bottles and teats, to ensure mothers are not discouraged from breastfeeding and, if substitutes are required, they are used safely.

A number of subsequent WHA resolutions have further clarified, or extended, certain provisions of the WHO Code. For WHO Code implementation, both Code and WHA resolutions relevant to the Code are equally relevant.

Companies are only subject to legal sanctions for failing to abide by the WHO Code where it has been incorporated into legislation.

The 2016 status report shows that 135 of the 194 member countries have in place some form of legal measure related to the WHO Code, but that only 39 countries have laws that enact all recommendations of the WHO Code.

#4: Marketing in Australia: Manufacturers and Importers Agreement

The Marketing in Australia of Infant Formulas: Manufacturers and Importers (MAIF) agreement is Australia’s response to the WHO code.

Now, we’ll get back to the question.

Why is baby formula, but not toddler formula, typically seen advertised in Australia?

The MAIF agreement, unlike the WHO code, only covers baby formula – that is, formula marketed for children up to one year of age. Toddler formula falls outside the scope of the MAIF agreement, and therefore has no restrictions placed upon it.

Additionally, the MAIF agreement doesn’t cover the marketing of bottles and teats, which is why they can also be marketed freely.

So, what can you do if you see baby formula being advertised in Australia?

You can lodge a complaint through the Department of Health. The complaint will then be assessed as being ‘in breach’ or ‘not in breach’ by the St James Ethic Centre, an independent not-for-profit organisation.

Although the MAIF agreement only applies to those Australian manufacturers and importers of baby formula who are signatories to it, you can still lodge a complaint about any breaches, regardless of the company involved.

Australia certainly has a long way to go in terms of the regulation of formula marketing. Implementing the WHO Code in full would be a lot more effective in helping to improve breastfeeding rates, and normalising the  breastfeeding of toddlers and even older children.

Where Does BellyBelly Stand On Formula Advertising?

BellyBelly does not accept infant or toddler formula advertising. If you happen to see a formula advertisement on BellyBelly’s website, please let us know via email at and include the link of the ad. Due to the fact that BellyBelly has a worldwide audience, sometimes brands we aren’t aware of slip through and we are unable to see them. This is because the ads display in relevant countries, and there is no approval process for what is considered to be an everyday product.

In Australia, formula companies also use a range of URLs to promote their products, and keeping up can be tricky. However, it’s very simple for us to block these ads once we have the links. We appreciate your understanding.

For more information, you might be interested in reading the following BellyBelly articles:



Renee Kam is a mother of two daughters, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.

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