It must come as a surprise to many that Nigeria regulates something like breast feeding alternatives but there is indeed a legislation that promotes the importance of breast feeding and regulates the production of one of its alternatives popularly known as ‘baby formula’.
Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that breastfeeding should begin within the first hour of birth and continued exclusively for the first 6 months of life; followed by the introduction of nutritionally adequate and safe complimentary (solid) foods at 6 months together with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond, there may be situations were breast feeding is not possible such as the death of the mother, sickness of the mother, low milk supply, or when the mother is exposed to treatments or medication harmful to the infant. One of the more popular breast milk substitutes is baby formula made from cow milk and processed with vitamins, minerals and other materials and made suitable for infants.
The Marketing (Breast Milk Substitute) Act is aimed at promoting optimal infant and young child feeding from the uncontrolled marketing of breast milk substitutes by baby food manufacturers. It was adopted in Nigeria in 1986, amended in 1990, 1999 and again in 2005 from the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes.
The Act contains 15 sections and succinctly covers the subject matter of production, advertisement of breast milk substitutes and penalties for contravention; in a nutshell this is what the law provides;
Section 1 requires that all breast milk substitutes must be registered with the appropriate authority, bonus samples are not to be given to any individual or health facility in the name of promotion.

  • Section 3 provides that all such products must include the following inscription “Breast milk is the best food for the child as it prevents diarrhea, chest pain and other diseases”, such a container must also include necessary information like expiry date, name of the seller, manufacturer and directions of use.
  • Sections 4 and 5 state that there must be no claim or suggestion by such a substitute stating that such a substitute is equivalent to or better than breastfeeding.
  • Section 6 and 7makes it the duty of every governmental and non-governmental institutions concerned with the provision of health care services to take steps to protect and promote breast feeding and prohibit them from promoting breast milk substitutes or other products of such nature in accordance to Section 7.
  • Section 11 states the penalties for contravening any of the provisions of the Act is punishable with a fine or imprisonment of a term of not more than 2 years or both fine and imprisonment. Further penalties imposed include the forfeiture of formula, label or containers, such products will become properties of the Federal Government of Nigeria.
    There you have it, the Baby Formula Act, protecting infant nutrition in Nigeria since 1990.

Esther Ajayi
Legal Associate
O & P Solicitors