Still, the advocates believe that in poor countries a vast number of young mothers urgently need help from the international community. Too often, they argue, many of these women find themselves caught in a cross fire of slick arguments that they do not understand. Says Edward Baer of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility in New York:
"There is simply too much danger of women in developing countries being enticed by infant-formula advertizing to abandon breast-feeding, of the high cost of formula resulting in poor women diluting it to nutritionally dangerous levels, or of powdered formula being mixed with polluted water."
The number of malnourished babies in the world has reached the 300 million mark, estimates Dr. Michael Latham, director of the Program on International Nutrition at Cornell University. Bottle-feeding is directly related to the main illnesses associated with that malnutrition, he believes.
To help turn the tide, the WHO code would urge governments to prohibit both the promotion of breast-milk substitutes to the general public and the distribution of free formula samples to pregnant women.
The code doesm recognize the need for infant formula to be available in case a mother is unable to breast-feed. But it urges that formula-company employees should not try to educate mothers, should not be given bonuses or quotas for sale of breast-milk substitutes, and that health care facilities not be used to promote or advertize of infant formula.
The code also urges that infant formula labels provide information about the correct use of products in a way that will not discourage breast-feeding.