World Breastfeeding Week: WHO and UNICEF warn about exploitative marketing of baby formula milk in Viet Nam

02 August 2023
Breastfeeding provides children the best start in life. It is a baby’s best source of nutrition, bolstering brain development with lifelong benefits for and baby.
UNICEF Viet Nam\Truong Viet Hung
Breastfeeding provides children the best start in life. It is a baby’s best source of nutrition, bolstering brain development with lifelong benefits for and baby.

Ha Noi, 1st August 2023 -- Misleading claims made by infant formula milk marketing, both globally and in Viet Nam are undermining breastfeeding, a practice that brings lifelong health benefits to babies and young children, say the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) during World Breastfeeding Week (1-7 August).

A recent WHO global report[1] has revealed misleading formula milk marketing strategies in Viet Nam, which often include scientifically unsubstantiated claims such as that formula milk can enhance a child’s height, weight or brain development. Misleading marketing claims exacerbate the challenges parents face, by increasing anxiety around breastfeeding and infant care.

Formula milk is often presented as a convenient and empowering solution to mothers returning to work. However, WHO and UNICEF emphasize that  women should not feel compelled to choose between breastfeeding their children and pursuing their jobs, echoing the theme of World Breastfeeding Week in 2023, which is Let’s make breastfeeding and work, work!”

WHO Viet Nam Country Representative Dr Angela Pratt said: “Formula milk marketing in Viet Nam, as in other countries, exploits the lack of support for breastfeeding by presenting formula milk as a solution for working mothers. The true solution is to end misleading marketing tactics and industry influence for good. At the same time, workplaces, health-care workers and communities should support women – including working mothers – who want to and can breastfeed.”

UNICEF Viet Nam Representative Ms Rana Flowers said: “Breastfeeding protects infants against life-threatening infections, supports healthy brain development, and prevents chronic childhood and maternal illness - all contributing to reduced health costs.  In addition to calling for an end to exploitative marketing tactics by a number of formula milk companies, UNICEF actively works with companies who honour women’s rights and introduce conditions that allow women to work while continuing to breastfeed.  UNICEF and WHO will continue to work with the Government and all partners to support women, empowering them to make the best choice for themselves and their families.”

Misleading marketing breaches Viet Nam’s 2014 Decree 100 on nutritional products for young children, feeding bottles and teats, and pacifiers, which is based on WHO’s International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. The Decree aims to restrict the promotion of formula for infants under 24 months and requires proper labelling, information, education and advertising.

Over the last few years, many countries have strengthened their safeguards against inappropriate marketing of breast-milk substitutes.  WHO and UNICEF urge Viet Nam to strengthen its law on advertisement in 2024 to protect babies and mothers. To support this effort, WHO, UNICEF and civil society partner organizations have developed a variety of tools to advocate for the implementation of the International Code, measure the extent of formula milk marketing, evaluate existing laws, develop monitoring systems and reinforce the enforcement of the Code, while also working to improve parents’ access to unbiased information on infant feeding and nutrition, free from commercial influence.

WHO and UNICEF call for all sectors to prioritize and strengthen their support for breastfeeding, including creating a supportive breastfeeding environment for all working mothers, ensuring sufficient paid leave to all working parents and making increased investments in breastfeeding support policies and programme.


👉 Join us to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week 2023 from 10.30 to 11.15 am, 7th August 2023  via the UNICEF Facebook page and WHO Facebook page   

For further information, please contact:

  • Ms Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong, UNICEF Viet Nam; Tel: 024.38500.225; +84.904.154.678; Email:
  • Ms Tran Thi Loan, WHO Viet Nam; Tel: 024.3.8500.295; +84.915.413.814; Email:

[1] Multi-country study examining the impact of marketing of breast-milk substitutes on infant feeding decisions and practices. Download the report here 

Media contacts

Ms Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong
Advocacy and Communications Specialist
Tel: +84 (024) 38500225
Tel: +84 (0)904154678


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