On August 11, Medela sent out an announcement to its customers that it was taking steps towards meeting their obligations under the WHO/UNICEF International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes. Medela is working to revise its web pages and marketing materials in all countries where it does business and will not idealize bottle feeding. However, more needs to be done relative to its Calma bottle, particularly its packaging.
For many years, its Calma product line has been of particular concern. The packaging on its Calma products as seen on Amazon still features an infant and says, “Switching from bottle to breast has never been easier.” It is described as a “Breastfeeding Friendly Set.”
Many breastfeeding organizations wish to associate only with Code-compliant companies, and as a result, have not associated with Medela. Medela’s new announcement, while encouraging, does not alter its status regarding the Code.
The 2023 Lancet Series on Breastfeeding explores how the value of breastfeeding is wasted by governments and public health, and how the vulnerabilities of women and children are exploited by the commercial milk formula (CMF) industry.
The 3-part series explores the strategies used to target vulnerable parents, reveals formula puffery claims made with little or no supporting evidence, exposes sophisticated digital marketing platforms, and discusses industry lobbying efforts to influence policy and weaken the Code. Breastfeeding is the major competitor of infant formula. Analysis carried out in this Lancet series showed that for each additional kilogram of standard formula sold per child each year, breastfeeding was 1.9 percentage points lower. Recommendations are put forth to address the $55 billion industry that the formula marketing playbook so effectively supports.
The World Health Organization and UNICEF have released their long-awaited report on formula marketing. According to the report, “Formula milk is a US $55 billion per year industry that systematically undermines parents’ infant feeding decisions and compromises women’s and children’s health and human rights.” It also states, “Marketing of formula is emblematic of marketing of other products such as tobacco or gambling that prioritize sales over health and well-being.”
Providence, Rhode Island — As part of efforts to support breastfeeding mothers, women who give birth in Rhode Island will no longer receive infant formula marketing packs when they head home from the hospital. Rhode Island’s First Lady, Stephanie Chafee, Lieutenant Governor, Elizabeth Roberts, RI Department of Health Director, Michael Fine, and Marsha Walker from the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition’s Ban the Bags campaign joined the Rhode Island Health Department Monday November 28, 2011 in celebrating the state’s becoming the first in the nation to eliminate the distribution of infant formula marketing bags in all of Rhode Island’s birthing hospitals.
Director Fine, the Lt. Governor as well as the First Lady spoke of their commitment to breastfeeding families and their support of the hospitals’ efforts in this giant step forward in removing the commercial barriers to breastfeeding. State health officials noted that studies link giveaways to decreased breastfeeding rates, which is not in keeping with their efforts to promote optimal health for mothers and infants in Rhode Island.
For more information, see coverage in USA Today.
According to a recent CDC survey, US hospitals are falling short when it comes to breastfeeding support. Formula marketing bags are just one of the obstacles that new mothers may face in the first few days after birth. What’s to be done? You can start by writing a letter to your hospital to share your experiences, good and bad, during your maternity stay. Tonya Lieberman offers tips on how to make an impact on the Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog.
Facing pressure from mothers and professional groups to limit hospital-based marketing, formula companies are looking for new partners to pitch their products. Â
Mothers continue to receive uninvited coupons and samples mailed to their homes â€” according to a recent CDC study, nearly 2/3 of first-time mothers received a free sample of infant formula in the mail . Â
Industry marketers continue to reach mothers through mailing lists sold by baby product manufacturers or maternity retailers. In the hospitals, some mothers have reported that baby photo companies are providing addresses to the formula industry to pitch their products to moms.
The industry seems to be extending that strategy to small businesses: weâ€™ve had reports that businesses catering to young families, such as baby photo studios, are handing out formula samples and coupons to clients. In one case, the owner of a photo studio confirmed that a formula representative had approached her about distributing their marketing materials. In another case, a photo company that takes newborn photos in the hospital was connecting with at least one formula manufacturer to share contact information of new parents.
Where have you seen formula handouts in your community? And what can we do to educate businesses about the financial costs and health risks of marketing branded formula to new mothers? Â
Studies show that formula marketing bags shorten exclusive breastfeeding duration, even when the formula samples are removed from the bags. How does that work? It’s simple – but subtle. Industry-manufactured “breastfeeding support guides” offer advice that undermines mothers and promotes artificial breastmilk substitutes, as Erin explains beautifully in her guest blog, Helping Themselves: Breastfeeding Advice Nestle-Style.
Mead Johnson pulls “Breast milk formula” web page title
June 23, 2009– Mead Johnson hit new lows this past week, calling Lipil ‘The Breast Milk Formula” on its web site. The title to the web page was changed to ‘Enfamil “ ‘Lipil” following a concerted campaign by breastfeeding activists to contact the Federal Trade Commission.
Mead Johnson’s advertising is already under review by the FTC for overstating the health benefits from added fatty acids DHA/ARA. With the recent “breast milk formula” ploy, Mead Johnson sank to new lows, essentially claiming that infant formula is the same thing as human milk.
In another cynical move to market formula in the guise of breastfeeding support, Abbott Labs has partnered with Working Mother magazine to create a “workplace breastfeeding support” kit. Blogging in The Huffington Post, Dr. Melissa Bartick explains why businesses should steer clear of formula propaganda, and instead use the Business Case for Breastfeeding, a federally-funded workplace lactation support program.
A “Mama is…” cartoon speculates on how the formula samples in the Enfamil “Breastefeeding Kit” could possibly help mothers successfully nurse. See the cartoon.
Writing in “The Kid’s Menu,” Lesley Porcelli describes how she and her baby resisted a barrage of formula handouts and industry-endorsing health care providers to breastfeed successfully. She writes, “The world seems to start pushing formula on mothers at the moment of conception. But what if you just want your baby to drink breast milk?” Read the article.
Marsha Walker exposes formula company tactics in her article, Formula Company Discharge Bags: The Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing:
Sampling gets the product into the hands of the consumer, provides for its easy use at the first sign of breastfeeding roadblocks, and starts the process of early weaning – the perfect setup for creating a market where none existed before.