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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.

dreamingbohemian Mon 18-Feb-13 13:13:52

I agree with that tiktok.

Can you elaborate why you think this particular move would improve things in Indonesia? Because it seems the problem there is not marketing in the sense of the packaging, but the arrangements with midwives. How would a big warning label change anything, realistically?

Wossname Mon 18-Feb-13 13:19:32

I wont support a campaign to add warnings to formula in the UK but would definitely support a campaign to limit disgusting business practices in developing countries. They're 2 seperate issues though arent they?

MNHQ, I often see Justine saying that the purpose of mn is to make parents lives easier, how does supporting a campaign to put guilt-inducing warning on formula in the UK make life easier for new mothers?

ICBINEG Mon 18-Feb-13 13:20:19

It is easy for people to cite guilt over formula feeding as contributary to PND but I have not seen any medical evidence to back this up.

Another BFing PND sufferer here to say that there is plenty to beat yourself up about even when the feeding isn't an issue.

My guess would be that PND causes feelings of guilt over FFing rather than the other way around. But if anyone has evidence to the contrary (actual medical evidence not anecdotes) then I will happy to change my POV.

Chislemum Mon 18-Feb-13 13:25:31

not sure about a ban on advertising.... formula is not harmful (even though it is not ideal). Wondering how you can you legally justify a ban on advertising in the UK? Think of the tobacco discussion. One thing to support this campaign (which I think all mothers will once they know all the facts), quite another to ban advertising altogether in a free democratic society.

Wossname Mon 18-Feb-13 13:25:52

Well, anecdotally ICBINEG, I didnt have pnd but did feel like shit about using formula, having failed at the first hurdle. I know other woman have felt the same.

CloudsAndTrees Mon 18-Feb-13 13:25:53

Why would it induce guilt in mothers who genuinely couldn't breastfeed? I don't see that it would.

It might make mothers who chose to ff feel guilty, but it wouldn't for mothers who honestly couldn't bf.

I didn't want to give my baby antibiotics, but when he got an infection and needed them I didn't feel guilty or as if it was my fault that my baby had to ingest something less than ideal. It couldn't have been prevented and I was lucky that we have access to what my baby needed to continue to thrive. It's exactly the same thing.

Mothers all over the world need better support to breastfeed successfully. They don't need to effectively be told that its fine if they don't even try. Because that's what is happening at the moment, feelings of mothers are being put ahead of the health of babies because its the mothers that spend the money. And it's equally as wrong whether its in the UK, or Indonesia.

Chislemum Mon 18-Feb-13 13:29:07

@ICBINEG I think your guess is also anecdotal, no? Feeling sad and guilty over having to stop BF does not equal PND. Do you have evidence that PND causes feelings of guilt over FFing? I never had PND and still felt very sad when having to stop BFing and soldiered on much longer than doctors advised. I was sad as I felt that BFing would have been better for my baby. But we digress....

Chislemum Mon 18-Feb-13 13:31:42

@CloudsAndTrees I did feel guilty and reading these labels would make it worse. But you have a point, health info needs to come first. I just assume that by now everyone knows that BF is best, as there is so much info available.

Wossname Mon 18-Feb-13 13:32:24

I'm not sure why it's ok to make a woman feel guilty if she chose to ff, rather than had to.

JakeBullet Mon 18-Feb-13 13:32:57

I was a bit uneasy when I read the suggestion but having mulled it over agree with it in principle. It's not the case that formula feeding does not harm babies, it can and does cause many issues with regard to preparation. Many of the cases of infant gastroenteritis admitted to hospital are related to FF for example.

I am a failed breast feeder and bottle fed DS from an early age as he just had no coordination (later in he was diagnosed with autism and dyspraxia). I have no regrets about FF and in fact would go as far as to say I welcomed it after a disastrous time trying and failing to BF.

I do worry about parents being made to feel guilty though, fact is that for a small number of babies breasts feeding just doesn't work. It's bad enough without having to read further stuff on tins, perhaps though it needs to clarify that it may harm your baby IF advice regarding preparation etc is not followed.

MorrisZapp Mon 18-Feb-13 13:36:51

So your guess wins unless we can provide evidence, not anecdote, to the contrary.

How does that work then, icbineg?

All I have is anecdote. It's all any of us have unless we work in the field. If anecdote (which elsewhere on MN is called women's shared experience and usually quite valued) is useless then why have this discussion at all. Just leave it to the people who make decisions, they know more than we do.

We can all keep our uninformed beaks out, can't we.

CloudsAndTrees Mon 18-Feb-13 13:38:12

I do see where you are coming from, but motherhood is impossible to experience without feelings of guilt over something anyway. I bfed, but I felt guilty if I didn't manage to eat healthy enough in a day, I felt guilty that I had taken prescription drugs before I knew I was pregnant, I felt guilty that I didn't have as much patience with my crying baby, or as clean a house as I thought I should.

I don't think everyone does know that breast is best, and sometimes if they do, they don't know why. They don't know what difference it can actually make, because babies do thrive and develop well on correctly made formula.

There is no way to prevent new mothers from feeling guilty, but there is a way to prevent babies tummies being harmed. Babies in this country are as important as babies in developing countries, which is why I'd support the campaign going much further, and becoming a global campaign, not just a campaign aimed at the developing world.

Chislemum Mon 18-Feb-13 13:41:12

@CloudsAndTrees I already conceded that I take your point. smile

dreamingbohemian Mon 18-Feb-13 13:41:28

ICBINEG apparently a number of researchers have found associations between formula feeding and PND:

But as in many areas of this debate, it's difficult to separate correlation and causation.

I guess for me it comes down to: how many women (in the UK) would be swayed by these warnings to BF instead of FF? Honestly, I don't think a lot. Women are already bombarded with information about BF at every step of the way. If they still choose to FF, I think campaigners should consider that there are limits to warnings and information, clearly something else is going on.

On the other hand, how many women who FF will be negatively affected by the warnings? I think a lot. Yes it's anecdotal but many women on the boards have talked about the guilt induced by constant warnings about formula.

I sense that some people's response to this is: well they should feel guilty if they choose to FF.

I think that's massively uncharitable and unsupportive, in a context where formula feeding at the individual level is unlikely to actually cause any harm to babies. So no, I don't support such warnings in the UK. Campaigners are always talking about 'supporting' -- so be supportive, don't make women feel like they're giving their baby a pack of Camels every time they go to feed. You can reduce the appeal of marketing without comparing formula to poison.

TheDeadlyDonkey Mon 18-Feb-13 13:44:58

I remember reading that more mothers breastfeeding would save the nhs millions.
If this is true, then it shows that breastfeeding is not just a developing world issue.
A campaign like this is important for this country too.

MorrisZapp Mon 18-Feb-13 13:45:01

No that's not good enough, sorry. The guilt I felt over FF can't be compared to the guilt I felt over getting drunk before my BFP, not knowing how to bath DS, and occasionally forgetting his name.

FF guilt is completely different. Do you see ten page bunfights on here because somebody didn't eat an ideal diet when bf? No, because nobody has an opinion on mothers lifestyles at that level.

Bf/ FF is another matter entirely, as evidenced by this and countless other threads on the subject.

CloudsAndTrees Mon 18-Feb-13 13:46:39

Chislemum, I know! I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bang on!

I was just trying to make the point that all Mums feel guilty about something. smile

Floweryhat Mon 18-Feb-13 13:48:44

I agree with supporting this campaign.

CloudsAndTrees Mon 18-Feb-13 13:51:03

I sense that some people's response to this is: well they should feel guilty if they choose to FF

If this is how my posts have come across, then I'm sorry. That is not how I intended it. Not sure if that was aimed at me or not though.

What I meant is that mothers feeling guilt about something is nowhere near a good enough reason not to have warnings on formula packaging, partly because mothers are going to feel guilty about something anyway, and partly because an adult feeling guilt is completely insignificant compared to a baby's health.

MorrisZapp Mon 18-Feb-13 13:54:03

There are quite a few posts stating that mothers who could not BF should not feel guilty, the implication being that those who chose FF should feel guilty. One poster said that those mothers didn't give a shit, although I'm sure she didn't speak for the majority.

Chislemum Mon 18-Feb-13 13:55:12

TheDeadlyDonkey saving money for the NHS should not and never be an argument in this context.

MorrisZapp Mon 18-Feb-13 13:55:49

I'm not convinced there was any risk to my baby's health caused by FF. But I have medical evidence of the risk to mine of bf in the form of anti depressants.

cleanandclothed Mon 18-Feb-13 13:55:59

Why is the campaign aimed at formula companies? Wouldn't it be better to campaign to ask governments to show more teeth upholding codes of practice, and for plain packaging and no advertising or soft marketing?

dreamingbohemian Mon 18-Feb-13 13:59:56

Yes, exactly Morris

Just to clarify -- I'm not saying BF shouldn't be encouraged because of the guilt issue, obviously BF is best and it's fine to encourage that. But I think adopting warnings that are the same in size and type as cigarette warnings is crossing the line.

It's like on the BF/FF threads -- it's fine to extol BF all you want, but when a poster says something like 'FF is poison' nearly everyone will tell them to stop, because it's going too far.

Chislemum Mon 18-Feb-13 14:00:19

@MorrisZapp I feel like you about the no risk but take the point that mixing the formula incorrectly can harm a baby's health. I still maintain that a ban on advertising would legally be difficult as FF per se is not prima facie harmful. Indeed, one might argue that most things can be harmful if done incorrectly.....

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