02 Mar

Our dismay at report on marketing practices of formula companies

The Breastfeeding Network was dismayed to read the recent report ‘Don’t Push It’ from Save the Children, highlighting the marketing practices of formula milk companies around the world. The report looks at mainly practices in developing countries such as the Philippines and Myanmar where formula is aggressively marketed at healthcare professionals and families, and the cost of providing formula for a baby can make up a huge proportion of a family’s income. It also looks at the danger of making up formula safely in countries with limited access to sufficient, safe and affordable water and adequate sanitation.

The problem of aggressive marketing tactics is global, and while the report shows that those in developing countries suffer most, this isn’t just an issue in those countries, but also right here in the UK. We know that the families least likely to breastfeed are those living in the most deprived communities, and that the cost of formula is excessively high. Healthy Start vouchers are available, but if families have to use them to buy formula milk, they then can’t be used to buy other, healthy foods that all the family can access. The lack of a breastfeeding culture in the most economically deprived areas of the UK means that children born in those areas are subject to some of the worst health inequalities.

Baby Milk Action produce a report ‘Look at what they’re doing in the UK’ which highlights some of the ways in which marketing and claims of infant feeding products here in the UK cause parents and healthcare professionals to be misled. Conflicting ‘advice’ from commercial sources can cause confusion and anxiety amongst new parents eager to make the best choices for their children.

The Breastfeeding Network works to support all families and aims to target that support particularly in areas that have the lowest breastfeeding rates, which often are also the most economically deprived areas. By providing independent, unbiased, evidence based information for families, they are able to make their own informed choices about how they feed their babies.

We support the recommendations in the Save the Children report but we also urge the Government to consider better regulation and enforcement of current laws in the UK, as well as providing funding for good quality support for all families to ensure optimal health for all mothers and their babies.

Independent, unbiased information on formula milk products is available on the NHS Choices website and from First Steps Nutrition.

For independent, evidence based breastfeeding support and information, call the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 0300 100 0212.