Infant Formula Websites Openly Discourage Breastfeeding


Analysis of the websites of infant formula manufacturers reveals that their messages and images discourage breastfeeding while touting the benefits of infant formula, despite public health efforts to support breastfeeding and informed choice.

The study, led by researchers at the NYU School of Global Public Health and published in the journal Nutrition Public Health, is the first to compare information and representations of breastfeeding with infant formula on manufacturers’ websites for U.S. consumers.

“There are many factors that influence parents’ decision to breastfeed or use formula, including breastfeeding support and work schedules. But we also know that marketing and advertising play a vital role, ”said Jennifer pomeranz, assistant professor of public health policy and management at the NYU School of Global Public Health and lead author of the study. “It’s important to understand the messages caregivers receive directly from infant formula manufacturers, whose websites target pregnant women and new parents with marketing claims disguised as feeding advice and support. “

Breastfeeding has many well-documented benefits for infants and mothers. Because breast milk is a complete source of nutrition for babies and can protect them against infections and some illnesses later in life, we and global health authorities recommend breast milk as the sole source of nutrition for a child’s first six months and encourage continued breastfeeding.

Previous research shows that the marketing of formula manufacturers can influence standards and attitudes about infant feeding and may use unsubstantiated health claims to promote formula and decrease confidence in breast milk. To avoid this, the World Health Organization urges countries to ban the marketing of infant formula to consumers; while the United States still allows it, the General surgeon recommended that infant formulas are marketed in a manner that does not discourage breastfeeding.

Pomeranz and colleagues analyzed the websites of three major infant formula brands that represent 98% of the U.S. market, as well as two organic brands, to compare posts and images on breastfeeding and breastmilk with those on infant feeding.

The researchers found that the prominent posts on the websites of the five formula manufacturers were aimed at discouraging breastfeeding. Websites that actually contain Following messages about breastfeeding or breast milk than infant formula, but much of the breastfeeding content (40%) focused on challenges, such as a low supply of breast milk or difficulty taking the breast. Websites were significantly more likely to mention the benefits of formula milk (44%), for example, claims that formula provides benefits for the brain and gastrointestinal tract, than the benefits of breastfeeding or breast milk (26%). Additionally, manufacturers compared formula feeding to breastfeeding, rather than positively comparing their brands to other brands.

Pictures on the websites also illustrated the benefits of formula milk, including ease of feeding, babies holding their own bottles, while making breastfeeding difficult and labor-intensive.

“Repeated communication from infant formula manufacturers about breastfeeding issues such as reduced breast milk production or sore nipples, coupled with images of women holding their breasts to breastfeed, implies that breastfeeding is a problem. difficult and painful work. These recurring messages can ultimately discourage breastfeeding, ”said Pomeranz.

“Even though websites present their ‘advice’ as providing solutions to identified problems, it is totally inappropriate for an infant formula company to disseminate information – let alone negative information – about breastfeeding to new parents and mothers. mothers in particular, ”added Pomeranz.

Researchers identified other marketing tactics on infant formula websites, including the use of discounts or coupons, contact information for sales representatives, and claims of the health and nutritional benefits of infant formula by compared to breast milk.

“These marketing practices aimed at American consumers would be legally suspect in other countries, many of which follow WHO recommendations and prohibit the direct marketing of infant formula to consumers,” added Pomeranz.

Researchers are urging the US government to strengthen its regulation of marketing messages on formula websites and product labeling. They also recommend that healthcare professionals advise their patients to avoid formula websites as sources of information, as they undermine public health recommendations.

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