Skip to main content

Table 1 Various international policy instruments (binding & non-binding)

From: Strengthening the human rights framework to protect breastfeeding: a focus on CEDAW

Year Policy instruments (binding & non-binding) Approach to breastfeeding
1919 (adopted by the International Labour Organization) Maternity Protection Convention No. 3 [binding] Provides for: maternity leave (six weeks prior to and six weeks after birth); cash and medical benefits; job protection while on maternity leave; and two half-hour nursing breaks during working hours.
1952 (revised by the International Labour Organization) Maternity Protection Convention No. 103 [binding] Provides for: at least 12 weeks of job-protected maternity leave; extension of leave for medical reasons; higher cash benefits through compulsory social insurance or public funds; and nursing breaks to be counted as working hours and paid.
1979 (adopted by the UN General Assembly) 1981 (Date in force) Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) [binding] Requires governments to: “ensure to women appropriate services in connection with pregnancy, confinement and the post-natal period…as well as adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation”.
1981 (adopted by the World Health Assembly) International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes [non-binding] Recommends restrictions on the marketing of breastmilk substitutes, such as infant formula, to ensure that mothers are not discouraged from breastfeeding.
1989 (adopted by the UN General Assembly) 1990 (Date in force) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) [binding] Requires governments to: “ensure that all segments of society, in particular parents and children, are informed, have access to education and are supported in the use of basic knowledge of child health and nutrition, and the advantages of breastfeeding”.
1990 (World Health Organization and UNICEF) Innocenti Declaration on the Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding in the 1990s: A Global Initiative. [non-binding] Outlines the need for the removal of obstacles to breastfeeding within the health system, the workplace and the wider community.
1991 (World Health Organization and UNICEF) Baby-friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). [non-binding] Outlines steps to protect, promote and support breastfeeding in hospital and maternity settings
1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (that came out of the Fourth World Conference on Women) [non-binding] Identifies a range of measures to protect breastfeeding.
1999 CEDAW Committee issued an interpretation (adopted as a general recommendation) of CEDAW’s requirements relating to Women and Health (Article 12) No mention of lactation/breastfeeding.
2000 (revised by the International Labour Organization) 2002 (Date in force) Maternity Protection Convention No. 183 (& Recommendation No. 191) [binding] Provides for: the right to one or more daily breaks or a daily reduction of hours of work to breastfeed; the number & duration of nursing breaks to be determined by national law and practice & paid as working hours.
- the possibility (if practical & employer is agreeable) of combining daily nursing breaks to allow reduced hours of work at the beginning or end of the working day (Rec No. 191).
- where practicable, the establishment of facilities for nursing under adequate hygienic conditions at or near the workplace (Rec No. 191).
2002 (endorsed by the World Health Assembly) World Health Organization/UNICEF Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding [non-binding] Outlines range of measures & operational targets for protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding.
2005 WHO/UNICEF Innocenti Declaration on the Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding [non-binding] Affirms the targets of: the 1990 Innocenti Declaration and the 2002 Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding.
2013 CRC Committee formulated a General Comment on the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health Requires State parties support: the global recommendation for 6 months exclusive breastfeeding alongside appropriate complementary foods preferably until two years of age; the baby-friendly hospital initiative; legislation based on the International Code on Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and relevant World Health Assembly resolutions, and requires that private companies comply with these. Also requires protection of breastfeeding in employment context, including compliance with the ILO’s Maternity protection Convention.
2013 CRC Committee formulated a General Comment on State obligations regarding the impact of the business sector on children’s rights Requires that businesses comply with the International Code on Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and relevant World Health Assembly resolutions and governments create employment conditions which facilitate breastfeeding.