Should we regulate the way follow on milk is advertised?
When I recently heard of a petition to ban the advertising of follow on milk and breast milk substitutes to babies over six months, I initially thought it was Lactivist gone mad and a step too far from the pro breastfeeders.
Surely everyone has the right to make an informed choice about how they feed their baby? It’s personal preference isn’t it?
I couldn’t help but wonder if banning the advertising of follow on milks and formula was putting it in the same category as cigarettes? What next, will it have to be kept behind the counter and no longer available on the main supermarket shelves. Perhaps you could put the two together and people could ask for ‘20 B&H and a carton of your finest formula please.’
Parent Cath Jevon said; “My main beef with advertising formula is that it promotes the concept that breastfeeding is only for the first couple of months and then it’s portrayed as inadequate and you should be moving on.”
Lucie Mann, mum to two boys who were both breastfed added; “If you look at the TV adverts they portray a woman feeding on her own – she isn’t holding the baby in the correct position. When the adverts start to talk about follow on milk, the colours become brighter, the baby takes on a blue ‘ready break’ type hue and the whites of the eyes are enhanced to make them look bright and healthy. All of this gives the impression that your baby will be healthier if you use follow on milk.
“We are very lucky to have perceived choice in this country, but there really is no need for follow on milk. It was really only made when the ban of advertising formula came into place.”
Joining the debate is Corrine Suddes from Southampton; “Unfortunately, these giant companies are very astute in manipulating mothers to think ‘I’ve done this for six months, I’m weaning now so it doesn’t matter.’ Having researched it, there appears to be no strict guidelines and ingredients can change from batch to batch. It’s such a shame we can’t compete financially with these big companies to get the message across.”
Looking into this debate further, the call to action isn’t actually against the use of formula or bottle feeding parents, it’s not even about breastfeeding snobbery or Lactivist going too far. It’s actually about stopping the massive corporations playing on the vulnerability of parents and selling them a product which is not always necessary and doesn’t live up to its claims of being better for their health.
If you peruse the supermarket shelves you will find a plethora of follow on products starting at six months all the way up to two years plus. Where will it stop? Will they design a follow on milk for five year olds about to start school? As a parent guilted into buying a non essential product, how do you choose the best one for your baby, when you are bombarded with a wealth of mixed advertising messages from companies all struggling to get their share of the pie?
One group lobbying to stop the advertising of follow on milk and breast milk substitutes is Baby Milk Action. There slogan is, ‘Protecting Breastfeeding – Protecting babies fed on Formula’.
The non-profit organisation is far from anti-formula and is not trying to get formula banned; it wants tighter advertising controls and actually want to try and make it cheaper for mums to use without the massive mark up and ensure everyone has the right to accurate information about the products.
The latest success for Baby Milk Action is the cancellation of Wyeth’s SMA Baby Know How roadshows following protests.
Mike Brady, Campaign Coordinator told me; “Wyeth’s promotions of its SMA products benefit no-one but the company. Its advertising is misleading and does not provide objective information – the Advertising Standards Authority has upheld complaints in the past. It is designed to drive up prices by making idealising claims about formula, while those who purchase formula also end up funding the marketing campaigns. For example, Wyeth claims its SMA formula is the best, but that claim does not stand up to scrutiny. By law, all formula have to contain what is known to be necessary for infant nutrition. Unfortunately, companies are getting away with misleading promotion because the regulatory system in the UK is failing parents. It is shocking how little action is taken over company marketing, even when it is acknowledged they are breaking the marketing rules. It seems often that if they apologise after the event, that is the end of the matter.”
In 2009, the infant milk market in the UK was worth £263 million and had grown by 73% since 2004.
I can’t help but think though that if people choose to use a follow on milk then they will do so with or without the organisations advertising the products. Although at the moment there are mixed and perhaps incorrect messages, if we take it away, where will the people looking for information turn to? I have asked my health visitor before on advice of which formula I should choose and was told they had to be impartial and not recommend one particular product.
It seems a good compromise would be to not ban the adverts and instead make them adhere to stricter guidelines. Education is essential from an early age about feeding a baby and we must not forget, there are ladies out there who want to feed but can’t – where do they turn? Surely being a parent comes with enough guilt.Tagged in: advertising baby milk, breastfeeding, follow on milk, motherhood, parenting
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