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Why advertising formula milk is illegal and why what Milupa is doing is wrong

118 replies

mears · 24/08/2005 09:44

I thought it might be a good idea to explain why the promotion of 'breast milk substitutes' is such a problem as many mumsnetters believe it is an attack on bottle feeding mums. It is not.

this site has loads of info which explains it better than me

Also have a read at Tiktok's posts of explanation.

One of the best things to have happened since advertising was banned is that all information about bottle feeding comes from the dietitians in our hospital. It is factual advice that is given. Not claims of milk being the closest thing to breast milk ever.

We no longer have breastfeeding information leaflets that are produced by formula companies being given to women. The language was negative and the pictures were of poorly positioned babies with miserable looking mums.

We als stopped giving breast feeding women home free tins of baby milk powder "just in case" they did not have enough milk.

All this undermined the woman who chose to breastfeed before she got out the door.

There is absolutely no problem with women choosing to bottle feed when they make informed decisions.

I will post my other link on this thread too about 'guilt' and the role of advertising.
Please research this topic thoroughly before just deciding that this is just business and mumsnet needs the money.

I urge mumsnet to seek other means of revenue.

OP posts:
milkymouth · 24/08/2005 14:54

The Guardian ran an article last week about the spurious claims made by cosmetic firms and how they operate,which is basically to run the ads and then see if people complain.
Another David and Goliath scenario.

Someone recently posted a link to a formula ad that fell foul of the law a few years ago. Birmingham Trading Standards took them on and won. The fine ran into tens of thousands.

QueenOfQuotes · 24/08/2005 14:55

"Aptamil is an upmarket brand. I think it might even be more expensive than the others. They were certainly targeting upmarket mothers, rather than all mothers."

oooo - that must be why I'd never really heard of it before - I'm too common for it

caligula · 24/08/2005 14:57

The ITVA vet TV ads before they're aired, but ASA is for posters and print ads and only after.

I can't remember who vets internet ads. Is it the ASA?

JoolsToo · 24/08/2005 14:58

where's your capital 'C' gone? have you been incognito?

snafu · 24/08/2005 15:00

The HV suggested it, milkymouth. The HV who had seen me through the first couple of weeks of breastfeeding after an awful, confidence-sapping experience on the postnatal ward, and who knew exactly how committed I was to continuing. I trusted her and I thought she was telling me that for the best. Ironically, the only reason I didn't follow her advice was because I knew damn well I'd be on a hiding to nothing asking my then-dh to take over feeds at night so i might as well just carry on bfing anyway [insert rueful smile here]

I could not disagree more with the idea that a mother who chooses to breastfeed will always breastfeed and not be swayed by any influence. I considered myself educated and aware and set on exclusive bf-ing. But I was still taken in by 'expert opinion' telling me I should supplement for my own health and sanity. It's purely by dint of circumstances that I didn't do so.

caligula · 24/08/2005 15:20

ooh ain't you observant Jools. Incognito I have been.

Must agree with Snafu here. This whole sneering tone of "if you're intelligent you won't be swayed" is just so simplistic and offensive and dismissive of the real experience of how distressing it is to be have problems with bf which become insurmountable because of lack of support.

In your HV's defence, Snafu, she probably genuinely believed that she was giving you the best advice she could. And in fact, from her pov, she probably was, because she probably didn't know any better.

bosscat · 24/08/2005 15:25

I don't think the tone was sneering at all. I had b/f problems myself, I might have been swayed by a professional telling me something but not by an advert. Aren't most women intelligent? Why is it sneering to attribute common sense to women? Should we assume all women need protecting? Isn't that very patronising?

snafu · 24/08/2005 15:35

But the attitude of 'I'm intelligent so therefore I'm not influenced by advertising' doesn't really take into account the very emotive and often distressing circumstances that can surround breastfeeding and associated difficulties. It's just not the same as choosing a washing powder or a car, is it?

I don't think women need 'protecting' but neither do I think that all women have access to the information that we have, or - indeed - the capacity to make an informed decision. And, as I say, even if you do make what you consider an informed decision, the very particular and unusual circumstances of feeding a baby (as oppposed to buying a dishwasher) often leaves even intelligent, clued-up women open to pernicious influence.

And where do the professionals get their information from? I wish I could believe that all midwives and HVs do in-depth study and research - some do, and many definitely don't. Midwifery journals advertise formula milks, and not just follow-on ones either.

bosscat · 24/08/2005 15:37

Not "I'm intelligent" Snafu, but "most women are intelligent", there's a huge difference in those statements.

bosscat · 24/08/2005 15:40

And I agree that not everyone has access to the amount of information we have but I do think the vast majority of women possess common sense and can assess for themselves that a formula feeding company advertising formula is doing it for the money it makes them not for the good of mankind.

soapbox · 24/08/2005 15:44

Well I would class myself as intelligent (and some would class me as very intelligent) but in the aftermath of childbirth with a very strident midwife I succumbed to the 'big baby so needs supplement' argument and within 2 weeks was struggling to get a drop of breast milk out

My DS was as a result bottlefed, not so bad some would say, except that he was intolerant to dairy and got glue ear, speech deficiencies, etc etc etc as a result.

Not all bottlefeeding is inocuous, as I discovered to the detriment of DS's health. For most bottlefed babies it won't matter, for mine it did. And all because 'he needs a little supplement'!

F*ck load of good all my supposed intelligence did!

Its just not that easy - not easy at all, and I think it is time that we all stopped pretending that it is!

caligula · 24/08/2005 15:48

This has been said on another thread, but it's not one ad that makes the difference. It's the drip drip drip of many ads, many promotions over the years, plus the cultural context, plus the emotional context, plus the professional back-up .... there are so many factors, it is just so simplistic to say "one ad's not going to sway anyone". Of course one ad isn't going to sway anyone - but that's not what the discussion's about, surely?

LIZS · 24/08/2005 15:49

"I could not disagree more with the idea that a mother who chooses to breastfeed will always breastfeed and not be swayed by any influence. I considered myself educated and aware and set on exclusive bf-ing. But I was still taken in by 'expert opinion' telling me I should supplement for my own health and sanity. "

Couldn't agree more Snafu. It was only by sheer bloodymindedness that I didn't succumb to the well-meant entreaties by health professionals and family to f'feed ds when I was struggling to bfeed. Think it easy to forget how vulnerable new mothers can be - exhausted, with the shock of life with a newborn, a seemingly never satisfied infant crying etc. If someone offers an apparent solution you'd be hard pushed to resist it.

It took a lot of effort to admit I was struggling and attempt to seek a more supportive solution rather than just rely upon the opinion of my midwives and HV.

snafu · 24/08/2005 15:54

Bosscat - that's my entire point. Most of us, when watching tv or reading a magazine etc can see through the ads. We know that BMW aren't advertising for the good of mankind. We can logically see that and it doesn't matter to us anyway because buying a car is not a life-or-death, emotive matter. But feeding a baby is. Especially when it seems to be going wrong.

Then SMA, Milupa, Cow & Gate etc etc etc swoop in with 'Pioneering the benefits of prebiotics, supporting natural defences, taking good care of babies, protecting babies from the inside out, supports baby's natural defences' (all quotes from the ads I have in front of me in the British Journal of Midwifery) As Cow & Gate says 'That's why we're here to help' - right?

Ack - said I wouldn't get into this

monkeytrousers · 24/08/2005 16:27

Advertising works in mysterious ways. If it didn't the advertisers wouldn't spend billions on it. We're all susceptible.

ks · 24/08/2005 16:31

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn

caligula · 24/08/2005 16:31

Anyone who thinks they're not affected by advertising is deluding themselves.

We don't quite know how we're affected by it,
(the advertisers themselves don't quite know, they spend millions every year trying to find out) but we do know that we are. Nobody would advertise, otherwise.

bosscat · 24/08/2005 17:10

I'm obviously deluding myself then! I really don't believe I am affected by advertising, I switch them off they annoy me so much and flip the page over very quickly when I see them in magazines. The posters advertising breast is best weren't influential to me or anyone I know. My experience is that most women make their mind up from their own research, from their friends opinions, from their Mums anecdotes and advice and from health professionals. I am not saying at all that m/w and h/v aren't hugely influential and sometimes in a negative way, but I don't believe that anyone will read this advert and believe that suddenly formula milk is in some way better than breast milk, I give women more credit than this. If that makes me deluded, simplistic, sneering, so be it but its my opinion and everyone is entitled to their own I think. Some people on here are getting very arsey when someone has a dissenting view which is not necessary.

monkeytrousers · 24/08/2005 17:18

I'm certainly not calling you any of those things Bosscat. I do think though that we're all in a very vulnerable state in the days, weeks and months after giving birth and we naturally gravitate towards a confident, soothing voice, be that our HV, or websites or family, friends, etc.

This campaign is specifically designed to target and manipulate us at that time. It's incredibly cynical and cold blooded.

caligula · 24/08/2005 17:46

"I don't believe that anyone will read this advert and believe that suddenly formula milk is in some way better than breast milk"

Bosscat, nobody believes that. And I don't think I've read one post where anybody argues that. I think I've posted on about 4 of these threads now, how I think advertising works on a drip drip effect, not a one-off campaign. And this isn't just a personal point of view, it is backed up by research. Honestly, millions of pounds have gone into funding research on how many ads you need over how many weeks of a campaign to reach your core target group, wider target group, etc. etc. This is really carefully measured stuff and it's not calling anybody stupid to say that they would be affected by it.

Of course we're all affected by advertising, to some degree or another, it's part of our culture. Just as we're affected by christianity, even if we never set foot in a church; it still has some resonances for us, because we've grown up with images and words which have simply penetrated our consciousness so succesfully that we don't even notice. I never watch Eastenders, but I know who Ian Beale is. I never once watched an episode of Neighbours, but I knew who Charlene, Scott and Mrs Mangle were. I don't watch Big Brother, but unfortunately, Jade Goody has penetrated my consciousness, however unwelcome she is there! Just because we don't seek something out, doesn't mean they're not part of our mental/ psychological landscape.

And who is getting arsey? I think this thread's quite good tempered really, compared to some of the others!

bosscat · 24/08/2005 18:12

but caligula I don't believe that its a problem if something "penetrates our landscape". So what? You might well know who Ian Beale is but who cares, the main thing is you don't watch eastenders I'm a Christian but I guess Judaism has penetrated my landscape, but again, so what? It doesn't affect my life, I'm still a Christian. Following your analogy why would it be a problem for women to know that formula milk exists? I still believe women ultimately make their own choices. I think people believe advertising has far more a pervasive influence than it actually does and I think advertisers take them far too seriously. I know what I'm talking about too, I lived with an account manager at Satchi and Satchi, and I have a friend who is a partner at a very well known London advertising agency. I have always been baffled by how seriously both of these people take themselves and the effects they honestly believe their campaigns have on consumers as a whole. I remember once my friend was aghast that I admitted I had entered a competition in a magazine to win a holiday. She announced to the whole dinner table that 'I didn't meet the socio economic stereo type ' that she had researched would enter such competitions. The truth was I needed a holiday, I fancied the destination and I had no money at that particular time!! Nothing deeper than that.

Sorry to have waffled on!

caligula · 24/08/2005 18:20

How long have they been working there? Give them a few years and they'll stop taking themselves so seriously!

Of course women make their own choices, but they don't make their choices in circumstances of their own choosing. They make their choices in a cultural landscape which sees formula feeding as normal, breastfeeding as difficult and unnecessary (and slightly militant) and where medical professionals are unsupportive of their choice to breast-feed.

This thread is about the cultural landscape. The medical one, is a whole five more threads!

Hilarious about your holiday friend, btw. I had a friend like that who spoke about nothing but advertising for the first five years of her career. (She's calmed down now)

milkymouth · 24/08/2005 18:21

caligula,you make some really good points.

milkymouth · 24/08/2005 18:23

It's so true that mothers of newborns are so vulnerable. I certainly was. I've never felt so frail,confused and panicky in my life.
That is one of the key factors in why so many of us find this Milupa thing so horrid.

bosscat · 24/08/2005 19:10

Wouldn't it be funny if we were talking about the same person Caligula!

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