The preparation and dissemination of policy statements are necessary but insufficient to prevent the inappropriate use of infant-feeding products in emergencies. The widespread failure of humanitarian agencies operating in the Balkan crisis to act in accordance with international policies and recommendations provides a recent example of the failure to translate infant-feeding policies into practice. This article explores the underlying reasons behind the failures which include: (1) the weak institutionalisation of policies; (2) the massive quantities of unsolicited donations of infant-feeding products: (3) the absence of monitoring systems; (4) inadequate co-ordination mechanisms; (5) the high costs of correcting mistakes; and (6) the cumulative effects of poor practice. Efforts to uphold best practice during the crisis are also documented. Finally, the article identifies actions that could be undertaken in advance of and during future emergencies to enhance the application of infant feeding policies in emergencies.