Breastfeeding as a Human Right

Breastfeeding is a determinant of maternal and child morbidity and mortality. Global figures estimate that each year not breastfeeding can be attributed to 595,379 childhood deaths (age six to 59 months) and 98,243 maternal deaths. It is inadequate to recognise breastfeeding as inherent to the right to health and the right to food. I put the case forth that the right of the mother-child dyad to optimal health, nutrition, wellbeing, and life outcomes that breastfeeding confers contra breastmilk substitutes (BMS) satisfy criteria to qualify as a human right in international law. Consequently, breastfeeding should be formally recognised as a human right by the UN. The BMS industry employs aggressive and inappropriate marketing strategies that interfere with maternal/parental informed choice in infant and young child feeding decisions. I use the marketing strategies of the BMS industry as a case study to demonstrate the importance of protecting breastfeeding as a human right.