PLEASE NOTE: This topic is for discussions about campaigns Mumsnet is running or may be planning to run. It's not the place for promoting other campaigns or petitions. If you do that here, we will either delete your thread or move it to a more appropriate place on our boards.

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.

I agree completely noble

I totally agree with efforts to force companies to stop their dodgy practices in the developing world.

But if this campaign is just about putting warnings on packages, I would also like to see an argument for why people think this will work and how the logistical problems re languages will be overcome. Otherwise I think all this time and energy could be better directed.

ArielThePiraticalMermaid Mon 18-Feb-13 12:01:26

To be honest, you can advise, cajole and encourage til the cows come home, but until this strange fixation with breasts as titillating (pardon the pun) and naughty objects in the UK and the USA alters, nothing will change.

ICBINEG Mon 18-Feb-13 12:03:26

I don't know that anyone has done the research to connect guilt over FF and PND. Whatever link there is (if any), I don't think it is likely to outweigh hundreds of thousands of babies dying.

So if sticking a warning label on formula saying using this product puts your baby at risk will genuinely cut the hundreds of thousands of deaths than I am afraid it is worth a few extra cases of PND in the 1st world.

There are other solutions to the FF guilt issue than trying to hide the facts about formula. Like for instance the fact that if you FFing in the 1st world you may well be doing the best thing for your baby and yourself. So what's to feel guilty about?
BF is best on average. There are any number of circumstances (again in the 1st world with access to clean water) that can make FF the best choice in individual cases.

The idea that we should let babies die rather than address FF guilt issues in a more straight forward way is frankly a little disgusting.

And actually I don't think warnings would increase the incidence of PND in the UK - it might just contribute further to the BF/FF discussion and possibly to more informed choices.

If I'd been unable to happily BF and chosen to FF instead I don't think I'd have felt any worse in my experience of early motherhood. If I'd seen warnings on baby-milk tins I'd have thought of the situation in developing countries.

'If you're too poor to feed yourself enough to breastfeed, you're too poor to buy formula.'

I don't want to go into a whole tangent on development economics but: it's entirely possible to be able to buy formula and still be malnourished, because nutrition is not just based on ability to buy but what is actually available to eat (which is the result of very complex dynamics).

Also you can be afflicted by malaria, HIV, etc no matter how much you eat.

What bothers me in these discussions is there seems to be a sort of inherent assumption that if it weren't for the formula companies, all these women in developing countries would be breastfeeding, which I think overlooks the many serious problems women might have that interfere with BF.

My own MIL was born in postwar Germany, her mother was so malnourished that she couldn't BF and my MIL was given goat's milk instead. She survived but her twin sister didn't.

Now, had my MIL been given dirty, diluted formula, she might not have survived either, which is why I totally support efforts to change what's happening. I just don't think it's as simple as package warnings, and changing what the companies are doing is not enough. We need serious change in people's overall lives.

Shagmundfreud Mon 18-Feb-13 12:23:05

"that if it weren't for the formula companies, all these women in developing countries would be breastfeeding, which I think overlooks the many serious problems women might have that interfere with BF"

But with respect, the vast majority WOULD be breastfeeding.

And if they're not breastfeeding because they have severe malnutrition or infectious illnesses that they can't afford to have treated, the likelihood is that they can't afford to buy or safely use formula either!

In countries where HIV is very widespread in many places they've stopped encouraging wholesale ff from birth for impoverished HIV+ mothers, and started to try to help them to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months and then stop altogether, as it's often the inclusion of formula in the diet of breastfed babies that results in the transmission of HIV.

"Like for instance the fact that if you FFing in the 1st world you may well be doing the best thing for your baby and yourself"

Well clearly the majority of UK mums do think that ff is 'best' for their baby and for themselves as the ^majority of babies over 6 weeks in the UK are fully FF!

duvet Mon 18-Feb-13 12:31:24

Support the campaign!
You only feel guilty if you feel you've done something wrong, if you couldnt breastfeed then why feel guilty, if you didnt want to, you wont give a shit anyway. A warning sign isnt to make someone feel guilty it's to warn them of the dangers. All this guilt crap is a crazy excuse to not support such a campaign, what about all the campaign's to not smack children, they dont stop because of making some women feel guilty who smacked their child once and regretted it, they feel guilt anyway you cant pussyfoot around. We're all responsible for our own feelingsultimately, should we blame others for making us 'feel guilty', sometimes we just need to look at the bigger picture.
Love this article
http://www.breastfeedingonline.com/guilt.html

ArielThePiraticalMermaid Mon 18-Feb-13 12:32:22

If I'd been unable to happily BF and chosen to FF instead I don't think I'd have felt any worse in my experience of early motherhood. If I'd seen warnings on baby-milk tins I'd have thought of the situation in developing countries.

You say that with the benefit of hindsight I think. The awful thing about depression is that you can't see the wood from the trees. And also, because you are able to distinguish like that, it doesn't mean everyone will.

duvet Mon 18-Feb-13 12:33:36
timeforgin Mon 18-Feb-13 12:37:44

Are we expected to believe that these companies use the same packaging for formula globally?? Surely not.

I would support a ban on advertising formula though. I will no doubt get a lot of abuse, but it is (all other things being equal) better for babies to be breastfed and formula is pushed on new mothers a lot.

I am ambivalent about the feelings of FF mothers - it is much more important to give the correct advice so babies are healthy.

While formula of course should be available to those for whom FF is on balance a better option (not for a second saying a woman with PND should tip herself over the edge with guilt for not being able to BF), BF for the first year should be the default and society should consider it as the 'norm' as opposed to the exception. As observed above, the differences in understanding about the benefits between educated vs. non educated groups is staggering. The key clearly lies in education.

I'd like to see a government ad campaign promoting breastfeeding - real mums (and some celebs no doubt for the masses) actually breastfeeding. Making it all totally normal and accessible to the pregnant 1st time mother who is nervous about it. It drives me crazy that in the ads for formula here, whenever you say the baby doing a 'fake' BF for two seconds, but then the rest of the ad is the baby with a bottle stuck in its mouth.

Wossname Mon 18-Feb-13 12:38:50

"If you couldnt breastfeed then why feel guilty, if you didnt want to, you wont give a shit anyway."

Plenty of women in the UK have many and varied reasons for using formula and the feelings about it can be quite complex. It's easy to dismiss as lack of education or lazyness but it's not right.

Anyway, I also would like to know how cancer-style warnings in English would have any impact in developing countries.

Well I don't know about it being with hindsight Ariel as I knew about the dangers of substitute baby milk in the developing world, and the Nestle boycott for example, before I had my own DC's - whilst a member of Third World First at Uni in the early 80's IIRC.

Sadly it has all been going on that long - and only getting worse from what I can see. sad

Time for a change ?

< ever hopeful x >

Forgetfulmog Mon 18-Feb-13 12:47:43

Definately support this

thezebrawearspurple Mon 18-Feb-13 12:51:30

Putting cigarette style warnings on formula packs in Europe won't help people in developing countries. The problems with formula in countries with little access to clean water and high poverty rates are not comparable with the West. Formula feeding in Europe is safe and a lifesaver for many babies, it's offensive and ridiculous to put false claims of danger on the packaging under the pretence of saving poor babies in the developing world.

Why not do something that will actually save lives, provide clean water, medical care and the resources necessary locally in these areas to help women breastfeed and help with alternatives where that is impossible.

"And if they're not breastfeeding because they have severe malnutrition or infectious illnesses that they can't afford to have treated, the likelihood is that they can't afford to buy or safely use formula either!"

Again, sorry, but that's not how it works. There are diseases for which there are no effective treatments, or where you can afford treatment but it means taking medicines which are not safe for BF.

By no means am I saying that every single woman using formula is sick or malnourished, I'm just saying that some women would be wanting to use formula no matter what the companies did. Changing what the companies do is only one aspect of the problem.

MorrisZapp Mon 18-Feb-13 12:54:46

I don't have time to read the report just now but will try to later. I don't understand the point here though - are we saying that to save babies lives in eg Indonesia, we have to have cancer style warnings, written in English, on formula packaging in the UK?

Sorry if I have misunderstood but I don't see what the benefit of this would be. Presumably the people in need of the warnings do not read English.

I absolutely would not support any campaign to have warnings put on formula in the UK, in fact I'd oppose it quite vigourously. 'Women who chose ff don't give a shit' - I realise this is an extreme comment amongst other much more rational ones on this thread but what the fucking fuck.

Don't give a shit? I haven't got the strength or time just now to answer that one, maybe somebody else will. I daresay this thread will move quickly.

I've signed.

I can't believe Nestle are still pulling this shit. I'm 40, but I can still remember the whole Nestle scandal going on when I was at school, as my mum had my brother when I was 12, and BF, and was really up on all this kind of stuff.

Shocking.

Shagmundfreud Mon 18-Feb-13 12:55:14

"Plenty of women in the UK have many and varied reasons for using formula"

As I said - the majority of mums with babies over 6 weeks in the UK feel that ff is best for them and their baby.

I agree that the reasons are 'many and varied'. I just wonder why mums in other countries have much lower fall-out rates from bf than we do, given that their lives, their breasts and their babies can't be that dissimilar to ours...... (and before anyone comes on saying that UK mums are more likely to have to go back to work and hence stop bf, this is not the reason given by the vast majority of those who stop bf at 6 weeks or before. In fact in the UK the mothers who are most likely to work are also those most likely to breastfeed, and to breastfeed longest, and the mothers who have never worked and who are least likely to work after having a baby have the lowest rates of initiation and continuation of breastfeeding).

And it seems to me that women in developing countries often want what women in the West have - freedom, privilege, money. If we all formula feed our babies, it's no surprise that they see ff as desirable if the majority of mothers in the west are choosing this for their babies.

Velve Mon 18-Feb-13 12:58:42

Yes, please support this.

I would suppor the campaign to publise, shame and fight for change of aggressive marketing techniques in underdeveloped countries, absolutely. As a reluctant formula feeder one thing that concerned me was that I was basically supporting an unethical product, and I never got to the bottom of wehther any of the companies had a cleaner conscience than the others - Hipp, maybe? Am still using Cow & Gate here, so my money is still pouring into the industry, and that makes me really uncomfortable.

Less sure about warnings on packets, presumably literacy rates are low among many of the mothers for whom this is most critical, and hence the influence of the midwives and clinics is so important. I think the focus really has to be there, and getting countries with laws against advertising/promoting formula to actually implement them.

I very much agree thezebra

I would LOVE to see MN get behind some of the Clean Water campaigns. It's a huge issue that would have follow-on impact in this particular area.

More people are killed by lack of clean water every year than war.

Nearly 2 million people, the vast majority children, die every year just from diarrhea and cholera.

There are so many practical things you can do in this area, building wells, giving out water filters, designing new technologies -- and going after corporations that pollute and poison the environment and kill people.

I know this might seem like a tangential comment, but I think there is a zero-sum issue to consider, namely that MN can't go around supporting everything and must prioritise. I would personally like to see more tangible projects and campaigns be supported.

I do support encouraging people to go after the formula companies but I personally don't believe these packet warnings will make a huge difference to the overall aim and there are more effective things to consider.

tiktok Mon 18-Feb-13 13:09:27

Just to correct some misinfo: the law in Indonesia about mothers having to breastfeed to 6 mths or they break the law is not about prosecuting mothers. It makes it an offence to prevent a mother from bf to 6 mths - the law is ineffective by all accounts, but it is not targetted at mothers but at systems and structures and individuals that would stop her bf.

Of course there will be situations where desperately malnourished, sick or diseased mothers are unable to breastfeed or breastfeed fully - no one is saying they should be denied formula. The campaign is about unethical marketing which removes choice and which endangers the health of babies. Any mother whose baby needs formula in Indonesia (or anywhere else) should be able to have it at a fair price that does not cripple the family finances.

weegiemum Mon 18-Feb-13 13:10:52

I decided I would plan to bf years before I got married and had my own dc. I was a member of baby milk action at uni, before I even met my now-dh (we were 18 and 19 when we met).

I had pnd even though I bf all 3 dc. I've clocked up 4y7m of bfing! I'd really nasty pnd, was on medication for years (in fact I've just passed the point of being 18 months medication-free and my oldest dd is 13!). Breastfeeding was the one thing that made me feel good about my parenting. A label really wouldn't have made me feel worse. I was beating myself up already about all the things I did wrong.

CloudsAndTrees Mon 18-Feb-13 13:12:05

I support this campaign wholeheartedly, but I don't think it goes far enough.

I can understand why Nestlé and Danone are targeted, and I can understand why developing countries are being targeted, but (unless I'm mistaken), Nestlé and Danone are not the only companies that make formula milk, and developing countries are not the only places where mothers are uneducated about breastfeeding.

I fully support the warnings on packaging, and I think all brands of formula should be basic and contain only factual, scientifically provable information. Babies in all corners of the planet suffer from drinking incorrectly made formula, and while in the UK the biggest effect is unlikely to be more than a couple of runny nappies, that is still far far more important that sparing the feelings of an adult who for whatever reason is using formula.

I think the campaign would be more effective if it was targeted world wide, and was targeted at all brands. It would have the effect of uniting mothers of babies all over the globe, and give mothers in the developed world the opportunity to lend their support to mothers in the developing world. Babies are babies wherever they come from, and they and their mothers deserve the same support from organisations like the WHO, Save the Children, and companies that provide formula.

It unbelieveably selfish for people to say that the feelings of ff mothers should be spared when we are talking about the health of babies, including their own!

somewherewest Mon 18-Feb-13 13:13:19

I absolutely would not support any campaign to have warnings put on formula in the UK, in fact I'd oppose it quite vigourously

Agree.

I'm always surprised by statements on mn about mothers coming under pressure to FF. That may be some people's experience, but it has absolutely not been mine (and I say this as the first person in their family to breastfeed since the 1930s). I've found it to be entirely the opposite.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now