Tuesday, August 4, 2015
The World Health Organization (WHO) calls breastfeeding "optimal" and goes on to say in the Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding policy, "Only under exceptional circumstances can a mother’s milk be considered unsuitable for her infant... Infants who are not breastfed, for whatever reason, should receive special attention from the health and social welfare system since they constitute a risk group. "
The International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes provides detailed information on protecting and promoting infant and young child feeding.  Feeding recommendations, the benefits of breastmilk and risks of alternative feeding methods are outlined, as well as specific rules of the Code.
"American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reaffirms its recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby's life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby." (1)
Breastmilk is scientifically proven to be superior and in an ideal world all children would be breastfed.  Many people believe that infant formula is just as good as breastmilk.  I want to discuss today whether or not baby formula marketing has influenced our point of view.

Have you ever noticed all the online ads there are for baby formula?  A quick check on three popular parenting forums produced the results I expected.
I just clicked on a story on the bump and there it was.
I did a search on Cafemom with the keyword "baby" and bam, there it was.
Babycenter was the best at hiding their formula ads, I had to click around the site but then it bombarded me with not only one ad but THREE on one page.  
Have you ever Googled the word BREASTFEEDING?  Or searched the keyword on Yahoo, Bing, etc? Why is a formula manufacturer the top hit?  It seems anywhere online you'll see formula ads.  
Formula manufacturers know there is money to be made for every single mother who experiences a breastfeeding challenge.  Infant food profits $50 BILLION globally per year, according to THIS article. Womenshealth.org says a child on formula will cost a family well over $1500 annually. (2) I personally calculated if your child takes 6 six ounce bottles a day for a whole year, it will cost $2384 for a total of 149 twelve ounce cans at 16 dollars each.  It can be easy to look past the costs when formula manufacturers have made formula appear easier, more convenient, They also market their products through hospitals, birthing centers as well as store registries.  These free products and coupons absolutely have an effect on a mother's confidence in their ability to breastfeed. There's evidence that hospitals that provide these freebies ends up leading mothers to a shorter duration and less exclusivity of breastfeeding. (3)  Think about it- if a person is on a diet, you wouldn't expect them to have junk food in the cabinets or a person that is trying to quit smoking probably shouldn't have a cigarette pack "just in case."  Is your healthcare provider implying you're not good enough?  Are they setting you up to fail? 
This marketing influence may be showing up in worldly breastfeeding rates.  According to UNICEF, only 39% of infants globally are exclusively breastfeeding (breastmilk only) between 0-5 months of age (source HERE pdf).  
Why is this a concern?  Lower breastfeeding rates equal more health problems.  "Health outcomes in developed countries differ substantially for mothers and infants who formula feed compared with those who breastfeed. For infants, not being breastfed is associated with an increased incidence of infectious morbidity, as well as elevated risks of childhood obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome. For mothers, failure to breastfeed is associated with an increased incidence of premenopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer, retained gestational weight gain, type 2 diabetes, myocardial infarction, and the metabolic syndrome." (4)  
Consumers deserve honesty in advertising. Formula companies should be more responsible by providing more truthful representation. How could they do this?  
Easy answer.  If they would just follow the WHO Code (see it here- PDF).  Specifically:
a) End marketing in prenatal settings.  No pregnancy magazines, websites, OB/GYN offices, etc. Studies have shown women who have had formula product promotions in prenatal settings were more likely to cease breastfeeding before hospital discharge.  (5)  Eliminating samples in healthcare settings may encourage the mother who is experiencing challenges breastfeeding to seek out a lactation consultant, rather than opting to use that instant supplement solution they've been given by their doctor.  See #2 & #3 in pic above.
 b)  Quit the campaigns relating formula to breastmilk ie the saying- Closer than ever to breastmilk. "In 2005 UNICEF UK and the National Childbirth Trust released the results of a MORI poll that showed 60% of mothers claimed to have seen infant formula advertising and a third said it had idealized artificial infant feeding." (6) See #8 in pic above.
c)  Stop promoting "advice" or "support" towards breastfeeding moms.  If breastfeeding concerns arise from their consumers, they should be directed to an IBCLC. Formula manufacturers  need to remember they are a formula business not a breastfeeding business. 
Let's look once more at the Global Strategy of Infant and Young Child Feeding (PDF) from the World Health Organization:
"18. The vast majority of mothers can and should breastfeed, just as the vast majority of infants can and should be breastfed. Only under exceptional circumstances can a mother’s milk be considered unsuitable for her infant. For those few health situations where infants cannot, or should not, be breastfed, the choice of the best alternative – expressed breast milk from an infant’s own mother, breast milk from a healthy wet-nurse or a human-milk bank, or a breast-milk substitute fed with a cup, which is a safer method than a feeding bottle and teat – depends on individual circumstances."
Basically, they're saying the order of which is most appropriate is as follows:
•direct breastfeeding from mother
•expressed milk from mother
•donor milk
•breastmilk substitute fed with cup
Taking away the choice to use formula is not at all what this is about.  I think most people grasp the fact that breastfeeding is the ideal answer for infant nutrition.  If you have made an informed decision to use formula, nobody should shame you for that choice.  However, these companies thrive on their profit and we need to focus on protecting women and babies from their predatory marketing because it most likely is altering our perception.   
If you are using breastmilk substitutes, check out the supplementing information on Kellymom
All formula sold in the United States has standards set for manufacturing processes and the FDA conducts yearly collections, analyzing formula samples from every manufacturer. (7)  It must contain the minimum recommended amount and not more than the maximum recommended amount of nutrients that an infant needs to thrive. (8)  If you are going to use baby formula, please make sure you know how to safely prepare it. Download the PDF instructions on how to prepare powdered infant formula straight from the World Health Organization HERE

(1) AAP Reaffirms Breastfeeding Guidelines, 2012
(2)  Why Breastfeeding is Important, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
(3) Effect of Maternity-Care Practices on Breastfeeding, AAP, 2008
(4) The Risks of Not Breastfeeding for Mothers and Infants, Alison Stuebe, 2009
(5)  Office prenatal formula advertising and it's effect on breast-feeding patterns, Howard C, 2000
(6)  UK Government called on to stand up to the EU Commission and protect infants from baby food company marketing, 2006
(7)  FDA Takes Final Step on Infant Formula Protections, 2014
(8)  CFR - Code of Federal Regulations Title 21, 2014

1 comment:

  1. My daughter had a c-section with a BP spike that was very bad. Combine the 2 with all the meds they had to give her during the stay & after because the BP problem continued there was no way there was going to be any breastfeeding. I did notice that since this was the case that the nurses were not interested in seeing how they were feeding the baby or anything. I still think that even with breast feeding Moms they should be sent home with basic formula set just in case. Many that are BF dont even think that need a bottle in the house the first few days. What happens if they get sick & cant BF. Someone may be out at 2am looking for supplies. At the OB she was given a packet of info & in it was a coupon to be used at the hospital for a packback diaper bag with supplies from one of the formula MFGs. Guess what the hospital says we dont give out anything. So my point is they are denying NON BF moms help also. All the nurses cared about was the swaddle which the baby hated & pushed out of as soon as the nurse did it. They should send home those goodies bags with all new Moms either way for the just in case & yes it happens when they get home that Mom gets sick & cant BF & baby needs some help so please dont say it cant.

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