Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Who's WHO?

Since taking my Medela Pump in Style apart yesterday (looking for mold and milk residue), I have not been able to stop obsessing over the issue of open-system pumps. I read a lot of comments about Medela not being compliant with WHO Code. Well, what is WHO code?  I didn't know.

First of all, WHO is the World Health Organization. In May 1980 at the 33rd World Health Assembly, WHO and UNICEF adopted an international code for the marketing of infant forumla and breast feeding substitutes.  The thirty-six page pdf file of the document can be found in its entireity at the WHO website. While well-intentioned and certainly important, WHO code is not law. Granted, any company wishing to promote itself as concerned with the health of its customers would want to comply. 

Medela is considered non-compliant with WHO code. 

Given the fact that mold issues have been found in some of Medela's open-system pumps, this really looks bad, but it's not the reason Medela was found non-compliant.  According to a 2009 position statement presented by Medela Chairman of the Board, Michael Larsson, the reason was that they marketed BPA free bottles and nipples. The full document and other position statements are available at Medela.com (Direct Link).

I am not siding with Medela. I am just trying to get the facts straight because, until yesterday, I did not know about any of this. It really opened my eyes because I am an educated woman living above the poverty line, and yet I have been completely ignorant. I use Medela products because they are what was recommended to me by my IBCLC. I thought I was being given the best information from a trustworthy source. After all of my reading and personal research, my view has changed. I still don't think Medela is the devil, though. I do still think that some lactivists go very far overboard on what they call advocacy. The way to promote breastfeeding is not to alienate mothers by shaming them for their choices. I think anyone who truly supports breastfeeding should start by actually being supportive. We could all stand to be a lot more supportive as a community.


  1. Yikes! I have a Medela pump packed away I was planning to use again for Charlie. I need to read about this - first I've heard!

  2. Which brand of pump is approved? I thought Medela was the best.

  3. I thought Medela pumps were the best too, until now. Hygeia pumps are closed-system pumps, which are more hygienic and can be used by multiple users. They are WHO Code compliant. Ameda makes closed-system pumps also, but they were bought out by Evenflo, which is not a WHO Code compliant company. None of the bottle, formula or baby food manufacturers are (to my knowledge), but that is because a big part of WHO Code involves not marketing artificial infant nutrition and paraphernalia. Medela got into trouble by marketing BPA Free bottles as part of a complete kit with their breastpumps. Well duh... if a mother is pumping that milk, she has to have a way to deliver it back to baby, right? It's pretty rediculous. From what I understand though, it reallky has a lot more to do with WHERE those things are marketed. To a lot of people, none of this really means much, but to lactivists, it's a pretty big deal. You know from experience how adamant some of them are that women should breastfeed (often ignoring individual circumstances). The point of my post is just to spread awareness that there are known issues with mold and milk contamination and that other brands are available (whether they are compliant or not). The important thing is for all moms to be able to provide safe milk to their babies, right? Right.

  4. Make sure you give it a thorough inspection before you use it again, Reba. :)