Breastfeeding in Refugee Camps: A Child and Maternal Right?


In recognition of the health benefits breastfeeding offers for both mother and child, breastfeeding has been acknowledged in various International Human Rights Law instruments. Furthermore, against the backdrop of aggressive formula milk marketing campaigns, significant soft law provisions contained within the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes 1981 regulate and control the promotion of breastmilk substitutes. Refugee camps, however, remain aligned with pre-code practice, as formula milk is often one of the first donations to arrive in camps. Mothers, who are still affected by historical formula marketing campaigns, receive formula milk and perceive its availability and distribution as an endorsement over breastfeeding. In this article, International Human Rights Law is analysed, within the framework of the principle of the best interests of the child, to determine if the choice to breastfeed should be protected as a human right and how the indiscriminate supply of formula milk interacts with this choice in refugee camps.