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POSTGRADUATE MEDICAL JOURNAL. 1986; 62(724):93-6.Breastfeeding has been on the decline in the 3rd world for the past 20 years or so. Modernization has been blamed, yet in the industrialized nations of Sweden, Britain, and the US, women play significant roles in the labor force, are active in professional and public life, and in most Western nations the educated women and those from the professional and upper classes are most likely to breastfeed their babies. Regarding milk substitutes, many products unacceptable in the Western market are on sale in developing nations. In the absence of strong governmental controls, consumer pressure, and professional vigilance, bottle feeding is taken lightly with disasterous consequences. 3 main dangers have been identified: those arising from the nonavailability of protective substances of breast milk to the infant; those arising from the contamination of the feed in a highly polluted environment of poverty and ignorance of simple principles of hygiene; and those arising from overdilution of feeds on the account of the costs of the baby foods. Market forces and competition led the manufacturers of baby foods to stake their claims to the markets of the 3rd world, and almost all of them adopted undesirable promotional methods. The ensuing uproar led to an International Code of Ethics being adopted at the 33rd world Health Assembly under the auspices of the World Health Organization. Although the matter should have rested there, some manufacturers developed their own codes and have persuaded governments to adopt alternative codes. The present situation with regard to infant feeding in the 33rd world should be considered in the context of the international developments identified and also in light of several social and demographic processes. At the current rates of growth in population up to 80% of humanity will be living in the 3rd world by the end of the 20th century. The 2nd demographic phenomenon of social and political significance is the unprecedented increase in the growth of the urban population with national health and social services failing to respond adequately to the challenge of this growth. In many developing countries national planners and economists are beginning to look upon human milk as an important national resource, and the need for a network of services to ensure the nutrition and health of pregnant and lactating women is obvious and is recognized internationally. With regard to the question of adequacy of breast milk, there are many gaps in knowledge. Each community needs to be studied separately, and those involved in scientific research in 1 environment should resist the temptation of extrapolating the results to communities and societies with a different set of circumstances.