Marketing Formula to Moms of Babies Should Be Illegal

Katherine - posted on 10/18/2011 ( 77 moms have responded )

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Re-post: Cafemom



We’ve talked about the sometimes insidious effect of formula marketing before. Obviously, many moms, like me, are glad formula is there to turn to when stress and illness make it difficult to exclusively breastfeed our kids. But the formula companies sometimes go too far, especially in other parts of the world, where moms get the message that formula is superior to breast milk. This can cause major long-term health problems, particularly in places where there isn’t reliably clean water to mix with the formula.

Well, one country is taking a stand and making formula marketing illegal.

It's now illegal to market formula in Indonesia to moms of babies under 1 year. Is this a good idea? It may be. Could it happen here? Doubtful.

Indonesia is in the midst of a baby crisis. Only about 14 percent of their babies are exclusively breastfed, and rates are dropping precipitously (sometimes 10 percent in one year). And it’s not poverty that’s changing things -- it’s wealth, as women enter the work place or have enough extra income to pay for expensive formula. As marketing targets moms, formula actually becomes something of a status symbol.

Marketers of the kinds of formula available in Indonesia are already on board with the new regulations, with no babies under the age of 1 shown in their ads. Still, almost 40 percent of Indonesian babies show stunted growth, and there are high levels of malnutrition and child mortality. And even though hospitals are banned from handing out formula to new moms, they still do it; hospital workers are rarely trained to help women figure out when their milk comes in, how to handle latching on, or any other lactation support.

Seems like rather than fining the formula companies, they should put their efforts into educating the doctors and nurses (and worrying more about formula companies marketing directly to doctors), but one step at a time, I suppose.

Do you think this will improve child health in Indonesia? Do you think formula marketing changes women's minds about whether they will breastfeed?


All I have to say is WOW!

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Charlie - posted on 10/18/2011

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Ok but we are talking about Indonesia not the US, marketing HAS played a huge role in the way people feed their children in these countries, these companies are not restricted in these countries to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Not only has it been mass advertised they have been lied to about formula being the same if not better than breastmilk, the same ploy they use in a lot of third world countries it is the same sick unethical buisness practices they use in Africa.

Breastfeeding makes a world of difference in a third world country, do you know how many babies died in Africa when Nestle pulled this shit ? Do you know how many mothers were duped into thinking it was the better option let their breastmilk run dry and then sunk into lower poverty , watering down formula with disease ridden water to make it last compromising the childs health further because these companies have no concious beyond their bank account ?
They dont give a shit if the babies become malnourished, they never have.

Nestlé refuses to acknowledge the role the baby food industry has played in changing breastfeeding cultures into bottle-feeding cultures. Breastfeeding rates declined rapidly during the 1960's as baby food companies expanded their activities into developing countries.

For example, "in Singapore in 1951 over 80% of 3-month-old babies were breastfed, by 1971 it was only 5%. Explaining the expansion at the time"

The World Health Organisation estimates that 1.5 million infants die around the world every year because they are not breastfed ( In developing countries ) . This figure has been stated in this and other forms by WHO and UNICEF many times over the years.

The UNICEF statistics website states:

"It has been estimated that improved breastfeeding practices could save some 1.5 million children a year. Yet few of the 129 million babies born each year receive optimal breastfeeding and some are not breastfed at all. Early cessation of breastfeeding in favour of commercial breastmilk substitutes, needless supplementation, and poorly timed complementary practices are still too common. Professional and commercial influences combine to discourage breastfeeding, as do continued gaps in maternity legislation."

"Every day, more than 4,000 babies die because they're not breastfed. That's not conjecture, it's UNICEF fact."

Did you know UNICEF estimates that a formula-fed child living in disease-ridden and unhygienic conditions is between six and 25 times more likely to die of diarrhea and four times more likely to die of pneumonia than a breastfed child.

Many of these women are illiterate and cannot research on their own they rely on what the marketing crew tell them.

Im not against formula but I am against corporations making money at the demise and deaths of people who cannot afford financially or health wise to use formula.

Stifler's - posted on 10/19/2011

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I don't believe formula should be marketed at all. I formula fed because I couldn't breastfeed but formula IS artificial baby milk. It shouldn't be encouraged by ads claiming fish oils and extras for brain development as if breastfeeding doesn't have those things so it can't be as good. That's the way advertising works, MY PRODUCT IS BETTER THAN ALL OTHER PRODUCTS and it's very irresponsible to promote formula.

Carolee - posted on 10/19/2011

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Why wouldn't they try regulating formula adverts instead of just banning them alltogether?

Stifler's - posted on 10/19/2011

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We are talking about a third world country. Do you think all these people are as educated as in Aus/UK/USA? No! Do you think they have google to sit around and "do their research" on all day?

Charlie - posted on 10/19/2011

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Carolee the fact that these women are already in severe poverty means they are also using money ( needed for other means to survive ) on something that is not suitable for their enviroment and is conducive to poor health and death is also a problem, the immunity that breastfeeding offers is of utmost importance in countries with sanitary issues.



While it may not make much of a difference in our western countries the benefits of breastmilk can mean life or death, the issue is MUCH more than just unclean drinking water.



It is simple things like Diarrhea and gastro outbreaks.WHO and UNICEF has said over and over breastfeeding in these countries can save 1.5 million children.



What these companies do is unethical, they sell product to people who cannot afford it in more ways than one, It is criminal really.



Sorry but their unethical use of marketing means these companies have millions of babies blood on their hands.



This isnt about you ( In general) you dont live in these conditions, if you are in a home and have internet access you are not below the poverty line this isnt a jab at formula feeding mothers this is about the buisness practices of companies leeching money off people who are for the most part illiterate , below the poverty line , live in unsanitary conditions and NEED every benefit of breastfeeding purely for survival.



Its easy to say its just the water but it isnt and even if it was they dont have the resources to fix that.

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Market formula, why not.B/f is not for many moms, many will not even entertain it but many do as the feel pressured to do so.
Regardless of marking and info.Mothers have the choice to make up there own mind.I based mine on common sense.I got far more info on b/f i have to say so when i stopped as bubs would not feed.I had no clue how to make a bottle lol.
I was thankful for all the info i got on formula when i had to go and ask for it from the public health nurse.

No formula ad i have seen market it as better than b/m.Its said more than once in there ads b/m is the best lol.

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 10/22/2011

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LOL Emma, I live in Canada where the alcohol content is higher. A beer would go nicely with breakfast eh?

I do want to say (relevent to the OP) that more breast feeding materials should be provided to women in these countries so they're shown that they have a better cheaper option.

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 10/21/2011

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Feen, would you like something for your head, or would a strong drink suffice?

Tania - posted on 10/21/2011

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I didn't formula feed because of advertising I did because I HAD too. Whhy blame the ad and formula companies, why not try more education and support for new moms.

Charlie - posted on 10/20/2011

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My apologies Sherri I was rude.

I guess Im just saying no one is threatening your coupons , free tins and their ability to market in your country.

Sherri - posted on 10/20/2011

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@Feen I am more than aware that the world exists outside my world which is why I answered the question at hand.



My subsequent posts were simply to what others had written and responses to those Feen.

Charlie - posted on 10/20/2011

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Didn't think you didn't realise that , it seems you are ignoring it.

What exactly is your point of repeatedly bringing it up then ? Are you baiting for a Breast V bottle debate in the US ? You seem to be the only one who has made that assumption.

Just once try and remember the world exists outside of your bubble.

Carolee - posted on 10/20/2011

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That was just in response to the previous aside note, and I am fully aware that it has nothing to do with the debate at hand.

Carolee - posted on 10/20/2011

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I used to get Medela samples in the mail. Breastmilk storage bags, breast pads, even the salve to put on sore nipples. I also got a sample bag of all that at the hospital... along with samples of formulas (that I could have denied).

Becky - posted on 10/20/2011

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I don't think formula should be advertised in developing countries like Indonesia and African countries and I think there should be restrictions on how it is distributed - by health professionals or by a pharmacist who teaches the mother how to properly use it before giving it to her. Because here is the thing. Many of these mothers can't read a word! And even if they can read a bit in their native language, the language on the formula tin is not their native language, it is probably English, French, Spanish, German... wherever the formula was manufactured. It's unlikely that the formula tin contains preparation instructions in every obscure African language spoken by tribes of less than 5000 people! So, if a woman sees huge billboards advertising this formula, or is handed a tin by a company representative without any explanation on how to prepare it properly and ensure that it is safe for her baby, how is she going to know? There is a good chance that mom who lives in a village and never went to school is going to prepare the formula improperly or with unsterilized water and serve it in a dirty bottle. Or that she is going to dilute the formula to make it last longer because she doesn't know where to get another tin or how to pay for it, and her baby will end up malnourished or starving to death. Or she will run out of formula, have no means to get more, have no breastmilk left and resort to feeding her baby food he is not ready for, again, causing malnutrition.

Like others said, it's not about the US, or Canada, or whatever first world country you are lucky enough to live in. Formula is pretty much safe here. It's not in 3rd world countries.

As an aside, I never see Medela advertised on TV, they never send me free breastmilk storage bags or coupons. But I get 3-5 tins of formula in the mail every time I have a baby -which I never use and just donate. Hmmmm.

Sherri - posted on 10/19/2011

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Really I didn't realize that Feen. (insert sarcasm here) I only point out the US because this is where I live and what I know about here.

I already stated my feelings about Indonesia and said it was unethical there. I made it a huge point to separate the two in my original post.

Charlie - posted on 10/19/2011

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*headesk*
It isnt about formula V breastfeeding and it isnt about the USA believe it or not the world doesnt revolve around your country or mine there are many countries and cultures out there WHY ON EARTH do people insist on making it country V country & breast V bottle you are complicating a fairly simple issue here.

Its about Indonesia and unethical buisness marketing.

Try and seperate it please its getting frustrating.

Sherri - posted on 10/19/2011

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And the endless circle of formula vs. breastfeeding.

I am a huge advocate of freedom of choice in the US. I do not think breastfeeding should be pushed, nor do I think formula should be pushed. However, I do think both should be able to advertised and both are. I see ads for breastfeeding and formula on TV all the time.

Breastfeeding in the US (now I know this is not the case in 3rd world countries) is not life or death and really is not a big deal whichever a parent decides to go with. If a parent is more comfortable with formula feeding go with it and if an ad helps them decide which brand to go with, I am fine with that too. If a parent is more comfortable with breastfeeding then go with it and if an ad helps them with that decision, I am fine with that too.

Charlie - posted on 10/19/2011

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" Ads make you think you need the product, the product is the best choice, any other option is not as good. "

Not to mention the billions they spend on figuring out how to advertise it through psychology so you feel as if you made the choice.

Charlie - posted on 10/19/2011

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*sigh* because they are taking from the international code of formula marketing that most countries have used in both third world and western countries.

The International Code basically bans the promotion of breastmilk substitutes and gives the responsibility for advising parents to health workers as it SHOULD BE . Companies are limited to providing scientific and factual information to health workers. The International Code also sets labelling and quality requirements and aims to protect those who use breastmilk substitutes as well as those who breastfeed.

Breastfeeding education is part of the the code as a part of lifting the breastfeeding rate to help save lives in these third world countries.

Stifler's - posted on 10/19/2011

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They don't blatantly claim to be better than breastmilk no. it's the concept of advertising. Ads make you think you need the product, the product is the best choice, any other option is not as good.

Johnny - posted on 10/19/2011

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Part of the problem is that the advertising doesn't have to pass a "truth-test" before it is published or aired. So mother's can be lied to by a company for quite some time about a product incredibly important to the health of their child before the company is stopped from false advertising. If you read the link I posted, Mead Johnson has been caught lying about their product on at least 5 occasions. They still haven't retracted the false advertising. These companies are selling the idea that the formula is beneficial, even maybe better, rather than just the same as one another. The advertising is designed to make mothers choose formula because it is easier and not that much less great than mother's milk.

Rosie - posted on 10/19/2011

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i don't think they claim to be better than breastmilk, they claim to be better than other formulas. if their claims are unfounded regulate them...but to have them stop advertising at all is silly to me.

i feel what nestle did with regards to giving them enough formula to last until their bm dried up and then run was definitely unethical...but that's different than advertising their brand of formula on the television.

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 10/19/2011

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As I said before, when I couldn't breast feed my older daughter after she went through the 'throw up everything' stage I would use my WIC coupon to get formula then when that ran out I would buy the store brand.

That's what my mom did with my brother and I when she bought our formula.

I just believe that in general more should be done to inform moms who want to breastfeed (especially those on or below the poverty line) about how to go about it properly and how to support them.

Stifler's - posted on 10/19/2011

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I go by what other mums have said is the best but with both kids I changed formulas a few times.

Sherri - posted on 10/19/2011

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That is great Feen. I never stated humans weren't smart. I said they should every right in the US to advertise there brand just as every other item on the market is.

I would be livid if I couldn't get coupons or free samples, again just like I can for every other item on the market. They helped me out tremendously when I formula fed my kids and should be available for formula feeding moms.

Charlie - posted on 10/19/2011

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Sherri I assure you humans are a lot smarter than you give them credit for.
Here in Australia we can walk in a store where the isle is filled with many different types of formula , read their speil on the tin perhaps go home and google it and read some reviews and make our own informed choices without coupons, free tins of formula and pamphlets about when we should wean.

Yep we do pretty well on our own.

Charlie - posted on 10/19/2011

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Exactly Emma the proof is there that their aggressive marketing HAS deeply affected breastfeeding rates in several third world countries ( and western ones although it doesnt pose a threat to them )



I get the feeling people are defending their sick actions as though it is an attack on all formula feeding mums, it isnt , it is about unethical buisness practices.



Formula companies have and still are the cause of deaths every year through their marketing , they swoop in there with enough tins to supply the mother until her milk runs out and then says OK this will now cost you more than you own ...pay up.



Shit people are protesting banks for the way they handed out loans like candy to families who couldnt repay and yet when infants deaths are at the hands of formula coporations lets try and find a million excuses to let them continue their unethical , criminal buisness behaviour because it could be offensive to Mrs jones in America who happened to formula feed because making a third world country actually follow the international code for formula marketing ( Like most countries ) might make someone feel guilty.



FFS what a fucking cop out.



Unless you are Indonesian, African or one of the many small European countries these companies have been targeting THIS ISNT ABOUT YOU.



Most countries like Australia already follow the international code this isnt some new , it didnt "suddenly" happen they are merely catching up.



It doesnt make formula any less available for those who need it but it does stop them from lying and pushing tins on mothers who only have the formula reps "facts" to go by.



YES their water and government need fixing but saying isnt going to make it happen for such a corrupt money hungry government it suprises me they actually give a shit enough about their people to pass this law , I guess some places can place human life over coporate money, but these countries are in massive debt they wont be pulling themselves out of poverty or getting the finances and resources to fix the sanitary issue any time soon.





GAH this topic makes me so angry , the evidence is there and has been since these practices came to light in Africa many years ago , the value of human life over advertising is appauling.

Sherri - posted on 10/19/2011

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Because Johnny there are hundreds of brands out there they should be able to advertise there specific brand. There would be no need too advertise if there was only one brand on the shelves.

Why shouldn't they be able too, Every other product on the market can be marketed why suddenly not allow this?

Johnny - posted on 10/19/2011

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Why do they need to though? If you need it, you should buy it. Based on which formulation works the best for your child, not on which ad has the cutest baby. Their advertising claims have often been proven false as well. One of them was in trouble for that recently, I'll look it up and post.

Rosie - posted on 10/19/2011

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i agree with sara. formula companies have a right to sell their product responsibly. if they don't they need to be regulated, but to say they can't advertise their product?

Sara - posted on 10/19/2011

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I hate it when articles contain stuff like "Still, almost 40 percent of Indonesian babies show stunted growth, and there are high levels of malnutrition and child mortality" and try to lead you to believe that formula may be to blame.



I don't think that companies should lie and say that formula is nutritionally superior to breastmilk, and if that's the case then they need better regulations for marketing in Indonesia. But, I think on many levels this is just a cultural thing, I'm not sure it has a lot to do with the marketing, I doubt it's SO pervasive that it could cause a shift that profound in whether or not babies are breastfed. But no, I believe that formula manufacturers have the right to sell their product, responsibly.

Donna - posted on 10/19/2011

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i know here in NY with wic there is a big push for breastfeeding, even hospitals give u a chance to try. lol looking back to when my 2 yr old was born, she took right to my boob. I also remember one of the nurses asking me if i wanted any extra help (i,e, formula) I was like no, were doing well. they still sent me home with a diaper bag from the hospital with a manual pump and 2 oz vials and a diaper bag from the formula company with a box of 10 sample formulas.

Carolee - posted on 10/19/2011

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Then it's the inability to get clean water and have a somewhat sanitary living environment and social pressure than the formula. Kind of like being looked down on in the US for using formula, they're looked down upon by their peers if they breastfeed. Why don't the pro-breastfeeders launch major campaigns there to try to inform these women how they can make healthier decisions? Counter-campaign to the formula advertisements.

(I'm not trying to be on the side of the formula company, I'm just trying to put a different view on this.)

Donna - posted on 10/19/2011

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I dont feel its the marketing companies fault as much as it is societys fault. But I think its really the lack of education that these women are getting.

Charlie - posted on 10/19/2011

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As a side note our medical professionals cannot reccomend brands, they can offer medical advice and advise formula but not brands this is a good way to keep corporations seperate from influencing medical "advice"

Erin - posted on 10/19/2011

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Maybe. But while ever the water is an issue, formula will be a huge risk to the welfare of their babies.

Carolee - posted on 10/18/2011

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It seems like formula isn't their problem. The inability to get clean water is their problem.

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 10/18/2011

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I'm like Heather when it comes to formula. I couldn't breastfeed my older child no matter how hard I tried and she ended up having to be put on a certain formula for babies with reflux (because with my first daughter it wasn't just a kidney that decided to have reflux) Luckily she grew out of it. I ended up giving her store brand formula when I ran out of the Enfamil WIC gave me.

With my 7 month old I had to suppliment when I went back to work because WIC gave me a manual pump and I hated it. I used samples for the babysitter and store brand for my parents' house.

I do feel it's wrong to advertise in countries with poor water quality. However there is also the issue where many mothers have AIDS and while their babies may have been lucky enough to have been born HIV negative they risk passing the disease on to their newborn through breastmilk. So maybe along with the advertising the formula companies should also consider contributing money to constructing new wells for cleaner water sources.

Lady Heather - posted on 10/18/2011

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As a mother who formula fed - formula advertising is entirely unnecessary and detrimental in countries that have problems with clean water.

I don't know about anyone else, but I didn't choose my formula brand because of a cute commercial or even a free sample. I went with my midwife's recommendation. I got freebies in the mail (from those Nestle backpacks - I entered a contest at a Maternity store and they gave my info to Nestle...really) and I donated them to a shelter. So I'm thinking that for those of us who actually legitimately need formula, the marketing is irrelevant. We will buy what is recommended or what fits the budget regardless of whether we see ads or not.

Stifler's - posted on 10/18/2011

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That's what I love about Australia too they DO send us home brochures with diagrams of latching and signs of hunger and lectures on the benefits of breastfeeding.

Stifler's - posted on 10/18/2011

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I'm disturbed that marketing formula to new mums is not banned everywhere. Of course marketing changes people's minds on whether they will breastfeed or not, Formula companies can just make up all sorts of claims akin to "99% fat free". If formula is freely advertised of course they are going to focus on the nutrients and babies thriving on it etc. and since breastfeeding makes no money to anyone there won't be any competition.

[deleted account]

Feen, you are right, we've gone off topic. Obviously marketing is hurting the babies in Indonesia and tighter restrictions should be place on it.

Charlie - posted on 10/18/2011

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Thats the point of advertising and it does have an effect on breastfeeding which is exactly why these companies spend outrages amounts of $'s on advertising and working closely with psychologists to access those BF mothers, whether a mother who weans does so conciously or sub conciously aware of the everyday pressure of this massive campaign.

Anyway this is about Indonesia and how marketing hurts their people and children.

[deleted account]

Maybe it's not totally the ad that does it. There are so many factors involved in why someone stops breastfeeding. But something like less than half of all women are still BFing at 6 months (will find the statistic if someone wants it). Formula companies are not completely innocent in this.

Kate CP - posted on 10/18/2011

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Maybe not, Sherri, but it can make the tired mom who's never breastfed before and trying to calm a screaming infant think "Maybe I should just give her formula. Maybe there's something wrong with my milk". Why not offer help to new moms who want to nurse and for those who want to bottle feed they can receive the samples.

I'm not saying NO ONE should get free samples. I'm saying we shouldn't just hand them out to EVERYONE.

Sherri - posted on 10/18/2011

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Sara what I mean is someone who is already breastfeeding isn't going to stop because an ad says so.

Erin - posted on 10/18/2011

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Like Loureen explained, advertising formula is already banned here.



Marketing formula to third world countries where people have severely limited finances, unsanitary water supply and non-existant sterilisation practices is condemning untold amounts of babies to sickness and death. It should NOT happen.

[deleted account]

"most are going to continue doing what has worked for them, no matter what an ad says."

Then why advertise? Companies wouldn't waste all those samples, coupons, and fliers if it didn't bring in profit for them. They wouldn't send formula reps to doctor's offices and offer incentives to doctors to recommend a specific formula if it didn't turn a profit for them. The fact is, advertising works, so somebody is paying attention to those ads.

Charlie - posted on 10/18/2011

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Like I said in Australia they are not allowed to market baby formula , toddler milk yes but baby formula.

I can say none of the concerns expressed here have happened in Australia because of it.

It does not hinder working mums, It is not tabboo you can access and buy formula easily.

I also think people give marketing a lot less credit then they are due they spend billion on psychology to make you feel like the choices you make to buy their products are your own choices.

The world of formula feeding in industrialized countries will not collapse (unlike third world countries where formula marketing is causing major harm to human life ) , I think you might be suprised to see increases in breastfeeding even if it is slight which is always a good thing.

Sherri you say no one should be able to push either way but expect formula marketing to continue ? They are one of the most aggressive in marketing out there !!

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