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Save the Children's new report on marketing practices of formula-milk companies: what do you think?

(599 Posts)
RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 18-Feb-13 09:55:34

As some of you may have seen from press coverage over the weekend and this morning, Save the Children is today launching a report into the marketing practices of formula milk manufacturers.

The report focuses specifically on marketing in developing countries - where a lack of good sanitation and public health awareness can make formula-feeding precarious - and on the importance of colostrum to a baby's long-term health. You can read more about the campaign and see the petition here.

We've been asked to get behind this campaign - and as ever, in these situations, we need to know what you think!

Is this something MNers would like us to support? As many of you will know, we have long refused advertising from Nestle and its majority-owned subsidiaries. Save the Children's report is also critical of Danone, the second-largest formula manufacturer.

We'd be really interested to hear your views.

gimmecakeandcandy Mon 18-Feb-13 11:07:04

Yes yes and yes!

MsInterpret Mon 18-Feb-13 11:07:37

Support the campaign - great article by Zoe Williams - but also not sure about the warnings on packets.

MaxineQuordlepleen Mon 18-Feb-13 11:12:57

Yes, please do.

ToastandFineWine Mon 18-Feb-13 11:17:48

I would support this campaign.
However, I think it should be based on scientifically non-emotive research. If a mother has limited nutrition, is exhausted and struggling to raise other children I am not sure that breastfeeding is an option or that the child will be adequately fed.
I have EBF, ff and combined and I think we are so lucky to have the choice and to know that our children will all be healthy. I developing countries this is not the case and forceful marketing and lack of education make the situation worse.

RowanMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 18-Feb-13 11:18:46

Thanks very much all - please keep it coming

Our Bloggers Network is featuring a post about this today, with some more links and info.

firstpost Mon 18-Feb-13 11:21:23

Yes to the campaign. As others have said I am not sure about the warnings on packets. It's not great to stigmatise ff mothers, and to compare to cigarette advertising. Cigarettes serve no purpose other than killing the user whereas formula is essential to keep babies alive when breastfeeding hasnt worked out.

We are very lucky to have many choices Toast - and access to clean water and kitchens. As well as much more accurate information about the benefits of breast-feeding so that we can make (largely) informed choices.

I think if we can keep the focus on the situation for mothers and babies in developing countries in this discussion that would be a really good thing - and could make a real difference to baby's lives around the world. sad

cleanandclothed Mon 18-Feb-13 11:26:29

Re the cigarette warnings - how do we then ensure companies (like Nestlé and Danone) that also make non-baby milk products don't push those instead (getting them placed next to the formula for example). Yes we need to help people carry on breastfeeding, so if you can stop the initial purchase before there is truly a need that is great. But if a mother has stopped breastfeeding then formula is safer than non-formula milk (I presume?)

ICBINEG Mon 18-Feb-13 11:29:56

hmm I am on the fence about the packaging. I guess in the UK by the time you handle the package the chances are the decision is made already and hence there is no point banging on about the risks of formula.

However if they are marketing via free samples and midwives then your first exposure to the product may well be actually seeing a packet, and at a time when you are still making the decision to BF or not. Under those circumstances it does make sense to put the risks on the packet.

Okay so I am off the fence. Putting the risks on packets for newborns does make perfect sense.

Also Toast you said the campaign should be based on "scientifically non-emotive research" ...

Well the statistics quoted in the excellent first link (Guardian article by Zoe Williams) are perfectly accurate and scientific - but they aren't "non-emotive" because many children and babies are dying. sad

Halfling Mon 18-Feb-13 11:33:29

Yes I totally support this. I have witnessed the same thing in India, where the hospital nurses and paediatricians are paid commissions by the FF companies to encourage FF.

weegiemum Mon 18-Feb-13 11:35:17

Please support this. I've met women in Central America whose babies died due to aggressive formula advertising. I used small amounts of formula but mainly breastfed. I think "ff mums feelings" are very much a first world problem which pale into insignificance compared to actual children dying elsewhere in the world. I already boycott nestle, and will also be boycotting Danone from now on.

And Icbineg I think one strong reason given for putting large warnings on all baby-milk packaging (except for breast milk !) is that it could well be exported to developing countries ? I think it's a very good idea, even if it takes a bit of getting used to. Again we need to recognise the seriousness of the situation, and think beyond the comforts of our own lives and kitchens !

AbsintheMinded Mon 18-Feb-13 11:36:32

Yes this would be a good one to support.

The money nestle and others spend on their aggressive marketing could make a big difference on the price of formula.

Curtsey Mon 18-Feb-13 11:37:18

Yes MN of course you should support this. In this instance it's a total non-brainer. This is stuff that was being talked about when I was a little girl. Can't believe it's still going on. I cannot understand/believe how huge corporations are willing to play fast and loose with babies' lives like this. Formula absolutely, absolutely has its place and I've given it to my baby countless times (albeit from a carton as I didn't trust my sleep-deprived brain to make it up safely). But this is just such a pointless waste of human life. How do the formula companies sleep at night?

I do agree with cleanandclothed that the authorities are going to have to be very smart and committed about this, though, so that people don't turn to other products that aren't meant for young babies at all.

WaitingForPancakeDay Mon 18-Feb-13 11:37:32

It makes me ridiculously sad that we place babies into such danger. How are these companies that sell formula allowed to pedal such dangerous practises? How can they sleep at night knowing that they are contributing to the terrible illnesses, deaths and pain of young babies. I am all for a campaign. I would like the CEO or whatever its called of these conglomerates to actually state why they think it is acceptable to push their wares to medical professionals and why they are selling powdered formula to areas where there is no sanitation or facilities to use the formula in a safe manner. If someone HAS to use formula having tried everything to get breastfeeding working then all that should be available is ready made and ready bottled and it should not cost the earth.

We should be promoting breast feeding, support and wet nursing. It is criminal to knowingly pedal powered formula to countries with inadequate resources to have it safely administered. The levels of gastroenteritus in the developed world from poor use of formula are bad enough.

Even on this forum there are mothers advising others to ignore the instructions and make bottles in advance....

threepiecesuite Mon 18-Feb-13 11:40:59

I FFed from birth, had no interest in breastfeeding at all, yet I wholeheartedly support this campaign.

However, cigarette-style warnings on packets - absolutely not. The tiny positive impact it would have would be superceded by rates of PND rocketing. I'm confident in my choices but seeing "you should have breastfed, you selfish ol' cow" or words to that effect on the tin would even push me over the edge.

Shagmundfreud Mon 18-Feb-13 11:41:57

"As well as much more accurate information about the benefits of breast-feeding so that we can make (largely) informed choices."

If only. In the 2005 UK Infant Feeding Survey, nearly a third of mothers under 20 were unable to name a single specific benefit associated with breastfeeding. Of mothers who'd never worked, 45% were unable to name a single benefit of breastfeeding. 95% of professional women were able to name a health benefit of breastfeeding.

If social class, age and education have such a massive influence on your choice of feeding method, you really have to ask yourself how true it is that in the UK women are able to make a 'free choice' to breastfeed or not.

ArielThePiraticalMermaid Mon 18-Feb-13 11:46:40

Women in the UK know breast is best. They are told everywhere.

Using the cigarette packet analogy disturbs me - it implies that formula feeding is as bad as cancer-causing cigarettes, when of course it isn't.

That's my opinion.

No, I don't think you should support this campaign. Sorry in advance for the long post.

It's interesting to see people saying they support the campaign but don't like the idea of the packet warnings, because unless I'm confused the entire point of the petition is to call on companies to institute cigarette-style warnings.

I agree with the petition completely until that last part about the warnings.

If you want to negate formula marketing, then institute blank packaging with appropriately sized and worded cautions. I would totally agree with that. I don't agree with the current proposal for these reasons:

1. In developed countries where there is already sufficient information , this serves no purpose except to infuse guilt and even confusion amongst women who don't breastfeed, for whatever reason.

And I'm sort of appalled to see people casually dismiss the feelings of mothers given that guilt and a feeling of being a 'bad mum' contribute easily to PND, which I hope we all agree is a serious problem.

2. It's disingenuous to say that you need the warnings in Europe because the boxes are exported to the developing world. Are warnings in Polish really going to be understood in an Indonesian village? Please.

3. Yes conditions in the developing world are horrible and I totally support forcing formula companies to comply with the spirit as well as the letter of the law. As I said, I agree with the petition wholeheartedly until the last paragraph.

But everyone seems to be ignoring the context in Indonesia which is that women are forced to breastfeed for six months unless there is a medical reason not to. Um, do we agree with this? Do we really think women should be forced to breastfeed? And isn't it possible that this strict law, with only a medical exclusion, is a great contributor to companies targeting midwives? Because only medical professionals can allow women to use formula.

Poor women in Indonesia are often malnourished or diseased themselves, which yes can interfere with breastfeeding. I don't think the answer to this is to ban formula feeding, which only creates a dodgy system that the companies and midwives will game, as we see.

In sum, I think a big campaign for cigarette-style warnings is a distraction from bigger issues. I don't particularly have anything against it but I would rather see MN throw its weight behind a campaign to improve the overall nutrition and health and education of poor women in the developing world, which I think would do far more to increase breastfeeding than a written warning they may not even be able to read.

Fair enough Shagmund - but that's why I put the "largely" in, because I know things here are far from ideal. But I guess I was just comparing my own experience with someone like Fifi in the article.

At least in this country there are some restrictions on what the FF companies can say ?

And as I said I'd like to see the thread focus on the campaign and the situation in developing countries if possible because it is so very serious, although I know other issues, such as breast-feeding rates in the UK, are also very important.

EauRouge Mon 18-Feb-13 11:53:38

I'm in two minds about the cigarette style warning labels, I think it's very dependant on what they say. As another poster said, it's not like you can just quit feeding your baby and relactation is a long process that not every woman wants to go through.

However, it would be nice to see clearer instructions on how to make up formula more safely and why- this message is not getting through for whatever reason, there are so many mums that are making it up with cold water and thinking it's safe because the water has been boiled. If that's what was on the warning labels then I think that would be a good idea.

waterrat Mon 18-Feb-13 11:54:13

Please give every support you can to this campaign.

I would really urge anyone on this thread, whatever their opinion, to read the actual report as well, it is very well researched.

I think women in the west - ie. the UK - need to put aside their feelings about being 'lectured ' 'judged' etc - and accept that warnings on packages, bans on advertising etc are there to protect babies worldwide. Although - good point above - once a woman has lost her milk supply - how fair is it to keep reminding her that formula is an inferior substance?

Better support/ midwives who are not allowed to work for formula companies/ a complete ban on advertising - in scandanavian countries you are not allowed to leave hospital until your milk comes in! what a great idea.

Women here in the UK are in a culture where nobody is ever seeing breastfeeding up close until they have a baby - we simply are losing the art and the common understanding. ITs sad that we need 'lactation consultants' - for most of human history we would have just seen other women breastfeed/ had women around who knew how to check the latch/ solve any problem.

And - we all need to accept the truth that it is not just about clean water - breastmilk is an incredible substance that science cannot copy completely. It is better for babies than formula. and that is true in the UK as well as in the developing world.

There are countries, such as the Scandanavian countries that have almost 100 per cent breastfeeding rates. So it is clear that many of the women in the UK who 'can't BF' have not had the correct support.

The formula companies want to make money - that is how capitalism works. And to do that, they need to convince women that breast feeding is not always possible, and convince them to abandon it.

noblegiraffe Mon 18-Feb-13 11:55:48

I am confused as to what the campaign is about. I absolutely support petitioning Danone and co to stop their underhand marketing tactics in the developing world, but this simply seems to be petitioning them to change formula packaging, which is not the same thing. It's not clear to me that changing the packaging would make much difference if midwives are being bribed to peddle the stuff.
Also, changing the packaging in Europe, not because formula is a problem in Europe but in case European formula gets shipped to the developing world doesn't make sense because presumably the warning would be in the wrong language and so people in the developing world wouldn't read it anyway, while European mothers would get annoyed about being preached to.

I would love to have more of an explanation as to why this tactic would be thought to be more effective than boycotting and shaming Danone etc into stopping these marketing practices.

Shagmundfreud Mon 18-Feb-13 11:58:51

"Women in the UK know breast is best. They are told everywhere"

Well according the this particular survey - which is done by the government every 5 years and involves around 8000 mums (I think) there are large numbers of women who may theoretically know that 'breast is best' but in reality have no idea why. And these women tend to be the poorest, the youngest and the least educated mothers in the UK.

dreaming - given that so many babies in developing countries DIE from the unsafe use of formula, I think that's more of a threat to mothers' mental health in that country than possible feelings of inadequacy about not breastfeeding.

"Poor women in Indonesia are often malnourished or diseased themselves, which yes can interfere with breastfeeding"

If you're too poor to feed yourself enough to breastfeed, you're too poor to buy formula. In developing countries where food is cheap it costs more to ff a baby than it does to provide a very basic diet for an adult which will allow for breastfeeding.

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