Tag: Infant Formula Marketing

Guest Post: Conquering Nutrition Myths in Myanmar – Breastfeeding #Marchis4Nutrition

In honor of National Nutrition Month in March, 1,000 Days is amplifying the critical role the world’s mothers play in nourishing the next generation through our annual online #Marchis4Nutrition campaign. Throughout the month, we will also be highlighting stories from our partners. Follow along and get involved on Twitter and Facebook with the hashtag #Marchis4Nutrition.

Save the Children believes every child deserves a future. They work in 120 countries around the world to give children a healthy start in life, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. Save the Children does whatever it takes for children – every day and in times of crisis – transforming their lives and the future we share.

Save the Children works in many communities with mothers such as Ms. La Min to provide robust health and nutrition programs that save children’s lives and ensure they grow up healthy.

This is Ms. La Min’s story from Myanmar.

I thought that formula was better than my own breast milk because I had very limited knowledge about the benefits of breastfeeding – and also because of marketing by the formula companies.

They claim that formula is good for my child’s IQ and every mother wants to give the best to their child. Therefore, I thought it should not be a problem if I cannot breastfeed, because I can afford to buy formula instead. So I choose formula against my own breast milk.

Then, I realized that my child was getting sick at least two times a month and I needed to bring her to the hospital very frequently while I was giving formula to her. Her immunity was very low. I started thinking that something is going wrong. Later on, I became more aware about the benefits of breastfeeding and that “Breast milk is the best” by reading educational materials.

I thought formula was better for my baby’s IQ because of the marketing and because I didn’t have appropriate knowledge before. Moreover, every mother I saw at the antenatal clinic said that formula is better for children’s IQ. Then, I became to believe in formula.

Infant formula is heavily marketed at hospitals and at baby counters in shopping centers. When I went shopping to prepare for my delivery, I saw so many different formulas. Whenever I visited the hospital or shopping centers I saw promotional messages everywhere. They say that they have Dumex and Similac. They also say that Similac is more expensive but that is because it is the best. Sale attendants told to every mother like that. Every mother also say that Similac is good.

When I delivered my baby, I spent time with a nurse from the hospital because I didn’t have experience with child caring. The nurse said to me “You don’t need to breastfeed. Formula is better for your baby to be strong and have good IQ.” That was also one of the reasons I trusted in formula.

The nurses themselves are believing the wrong things because of those companies. Not only nurses but also many doctors. I was even shout at by a doctor for not giving formula to my baby. When they weighed my baby, the doctor said that my baby’s weight was below what it should be – and he said it was because I quitted the formula. I replied that I quitted because my lactation consultant told me that I don’t need to give formula, my breast milk is the best.

I want to know everything about breastfeeding. I have known most of the breastfeeding information for a mother-writer, so now I want to help other mothers. What I feel very sad about is that people from my native town believes my baby is smart because I gave her formula. Actually, it is not because of formula. It’s because of other measures such as how I’m taking care of her. I find it very difficult to explain my friends from home town.

Another story is in Yangon, in my neighborhood, there is a mother who operates a photo-copy shop. She can breastfeed well. One day, when her baby was about 3 or 4 months old, she told to me that she is very sad because she cannot afford buying formula. I asked her “Is it because you have no breast milk?” She said “No, I have enough breast milk. I want to give formula because every other mothers are giving formula.” I told them that breast milk is the best but they don’t believe me. The messages from the advertisements are nailed in their head.

I feel really sad because my husband still wants to give formula to our daughter because he wants her to be a big baby. In the battle of breastfeeding – the doctor and my husband are on the formula’s side and I’m the only one on the side of breast milk. We are always fighting. It’s very disappointing.

Babies Health or Corporate Bottom Lines

Every day, a billion-dollar battle is waged for a baby’s first food. It takes place the world over, from maternity wards in Uganda to OBGYN offices in Manhattan, from corner stores in Detroit to market stalls in Thailand. And it is fueled by a handful of large and powerful multinational food and drug companies that manufacture the bulk of the world’s infant formula and pour hundreds of millions of dollars each year into marketing their products.

As many of us know, the infant formula marketing onslaught begins before baby is born—sometimes, as soon as a few weeks after we find out we’re pregnant. Free samples, cute gifts branded with formula company logos, clever commercials, and coupons galore are all harmless right? Not quite. All this marketing is designed to do one thing and one thing only—to get you to start using infant formula, as soon as possible and as much as possible.

And while formula itself is a necessity for many babies, the marketing of it is not. For starters, marketing drives up the cost of formula. It is one of the industry’s dirty little secrets: free samples aren’t really free. Formula-feeding families end up paying dearly for these so-called free samples because the cost of making and distributing the samples (often in hospitals and doctors’ offices) is baked into the high price of name-brand formula. It is important to remember that for many parents in the U.S and throughout the world, infant formula is a costly but necessary expense that strains the family budget. The high cost of the product is one reason why financially-strapped parents sometimes end up diluting formula to make it last longer, inadvertently putting their babies at risk for malnutrition. The marketing of formula is also engineered to undermine women’s confidence to breastfeed. Infant formula companies very often employ messaging and tactics (and even messengers such as health care workers and pediatricians) that prey upon nursing mothers’ fears and anxieties—am I making enough milk? is my baby getting fed enough? is my baby getting all the nutrition he needs? This kind of marketing is not only predatory and unethical, it is also detrimental to the well-being of women and children. The more formula companies push their products, the less moms and babies benefit from breastfeeding and the more their health suffers. For mom, longer durations of breastfeeding is associated with lower risk of heart disease, ovarian cancer and breast cancer. For baby, breastfeeding protects against illnesses and infections and offers unparalleled brain-boosting benefits.

While the aggressive marketing of formula does little to help families, it does a lot to drive profits for infant formula companies and Wall Street. Make no mistake, infant formula is big business. Globally, annual sales of formula are projected to grow from about $45 billion to almost $71 billion in the next two years. Most of this growth is expected to come from emerging economies in Asia and Africa where high rates of child mortality and malnutrition persist. This global growth has meant huge profits for companies and has made formula company executives very wealthy. In fact, one of the highest paid chief executives in American business is the CEO of Abbott Labs, the maker of Similac. The U.S. accounts for about $4 billion in sales each year for formula makers, though sales here have been stagnant as breastfeeding rates have been inching upward. Even the slightest increase in breastfeeding rates can spell trouble because every breastfed baby is a lost sale for formula companies. Pressure by Wall Street investors to boost profits have led formula companies to spend big on promoting their brands and pushing new “super premium” (i.e. high-priced and heavily marketed) product offerings. It has also led companies to be even more aggressive in their promotion of formula: marketing their products as “closer than ever to breast milk”, making bogus and misleading health claims on product packaging, and pushing supplementation for breastfed babies by stoking parents’ fears about underfeeding.

As many families struggle with the high cost of formula-feeding and mothers deal with confusing and conflicting messages on how and what to feed their babies, it is time we take a stand against the aggressive promotion of infant formula. Expensive advertising and marketing tactics and bogus product claims benefit no one except the big formula companies and Wall Street investors.

If you agree, join us in taking action. On Thursday, May 18th, we’re teaming up with Public Citizen, Best for Babes and ROSE for a day of action to send a message to infant formula companies that it’s time to put #HealthOverProfit. You can get involved in this day of action here. We hope you’ll join us in standing up for formula-feeding and breastfeeding families the world over and let formula companies know that our babies’ health is more important than their bottom lines.

Reflecting on 2016

As 2016 comes to a close, we at 1,000 Days are struck by the important work that has been accomplished – and how much is left to be done. Over the past year we have continued to fight for a healthier future for moms and babies here in the U.S. and around the world. We launched new findings and reports, we worked with new partners and champions, we grew our team – we even added two new babies to our 1,000 Days family!

Here are a few of our highlights from the last year:

  • In January we hand-delivered over 230,000+ petition signatures in support of paid family leave to members of Congress.
  • In April – at an event featuring Bill Gates – we launched a groundbreaking study providing a roadmap for how the world can accelerate progress against malnutrition.
  • Also in April, we sent a letter to President Obama – signed by over 100 athletes – in support of all children receiving a fair start to life with good nutrition.
  • In August we launched our Babies Unite video series in support of ending malnutrition worldwide (which has received over 400,000 views and counting!)
  • In September we released a first-of-its-kind report on nutritional health of America’s mothers, infants and toddlers.
  • In November we urged the presidential candidates to prioritize paid family leave and encouraged the FDA to regulate misleading infant formula marketing.
  • In December we presented findings from qualitative research we conducted to better understand the realities of the first 1,000 days among low-income families in the U.S.

This work would not have been possible without the incredible support of our partners and supporters. You help power our work at 1,000 Days, whether we’re pushing for a national paid family leave policy, fighting for greater investment in programs that save lives of children around the world, or supporting and promoting every woman’s right to breastfeed.

We’ve come a long way this past year, laying the groundwork in our fight for healthy moms and babies. But, there is still more to be done. We look forward to continuing to help build a healthier and more prosperous future for children and their families in the year to come, for there is no better investment we can make than in the health and well-being of our children.

FDA Takes Steps Against Misleading Infant Formula Marketing

More than 1,250 Americans joined 1,000 Days in support of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) effort to protect families from misleading infant formula marketing.

For the first time ever, the FDA is considering to ask infant formula manufacturers to substantiate claims they make on product labels and marketing materials. They want to encourage makers of formula to provide strong, scientific evidence to back up the health claims they make about their products.

Unsubstantiated claims like “reduces colic” or “aids digestion” are confusing to families who are looking to make decisions about what to feed their babies.

Families who depend on infant formula need to know that the products they are feeding their babies are as effective as the companies claim. That is why the FDA’s recommendations are an important first step in protecting families from bogus health claims made by manufacturers of infant formula.

1,000 Days submitted a letter in support of the FDA’s recommendations and also invited its community of grassroots supporters to add their name to the following letter. And in less than two weeks, 1,259 Americans added their name.


November 8, 2016

Susan T. Mayne
Director, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
c/o Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305)
Food and Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061
Rockville, MD 20852

Re: Draft Guidance for Industry on Substantiation for Structure/Function Claims in Infant Formula Labels and Labeling

Dear Dr. Mayne,

It is encouraging to see that for the first time ever, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is asking infant formula companies to substantiate the claims made on infant formula labels.

As moms, dads, and caregivers, we have a right to know that the infant formula we buy is safe and effective. We need to have confidence that the claims made on formula labels are accurate and supported by scientific evidence. Companies need to step up and provide credible scientific research to back up the claims they make on their formula, such as “reduces colic” or “aids digestion.”

Given that so many babies in the U.S. rely on infant formula for their nutrition, we believe the FDA also needs to provide stronger oversight of these products and require companies to provide scientific proof that their products deliver the benefits that they claim.

As consumers and parents, we need accurate, credible information about what we’re feeding our babies. Our government needs to do all that it can to protect families from bogus health claims made by manufacturers of formula.

We, the undersigned, applaud the FDA’s proposed Substantiation for Structure/Function Claims Made in Infant Formula Labels and Labeling: Guidance for Industry and encourage the FDA to do more in protecting parents and babies from misleading marketing.

After all, the health and well-being of our country’s babies are at stake.


1,259 Americans