We ask the British Medical Journal to end advertising for breastmilk substitute products.
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The British Medical Journal holds a position of influence in both society and the medical profession in the UK and globally. The UK has some of the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world, and 90% of mothers who wish to breastfeed stop before they wanted. Part of the jigsaw puzzle is the lack of training for doctors around breastfeeding and normal infant behaviour. Dr Chris van Tulleken wrote in December 2018 in the BMJ on the links between formula funding of medical education and the overdiagnosis of cow milk protein allergy (https://www.bmj.com/content/363/bmj.k5056 which can lead to women stopping breastfeeding before they wished.
The accompanying editorial by Dr Fiona Godlee asked for views on the acceptance of advertising revenue from the manufacturers of infant formula (https://www.bmj.com/content/363/bmj.k5146 The BMJ is now reviewing its policies on accepting advertising for these products, and she is asking for feedback. We’ve never launched a petition before, but this seemed like the moment to get one going!
If you agree that by accepting this money, the BMJ is endorsing the claims of these companies and influencing doctors with misperceptions around infant feeding, please sign this petition. Mothers need better support than this.
While we understand the significant burden refusing this funding would place on the BMJ in terms of the loss of £200,000 revenue, the BMJ has a responsibility to the public health of babies and mothers globally. By simply stopping advertising from companies that break the WHO Code on the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes in print and online materials, the BMJ would send a strong message to doctors, other journals and industry around the imperative for safeguarding breastfeeding.
The Human Milk Foundation is a new charity, which aims to help more babies receive human milk – preferably from their own mother, but where this is not possible, from screened donors via a human milk bank.
I am Dr Natalie Shenker, a doctor, scientist and mother. Like many doctors, I only became aware of the difficulties new mothers can face breastfeeding their babies in the UK after having my own. I also know what the impact of not being breastfed can have on our health, both through my own family and my research at Imperial College. I cofounded the Hearts Milk Bank, part of the Human Milk Foundation, which provides donor milk to hospital neonatal intensive care units and to families in the community where breastfeeding is impossible or taking time to establish. I also wrote the BMJ Editorial in August 2018 on the resurgent influence of big formula (https://www.bmj.com/content/362/bmj.k3577). Thank you for reading and please contact us on email@example.com if you would like to discuss further.
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