Nanny state – why can’t parents be given the facts on feeding?

Whilst the debate about breastfeeding has been discussed again on social media we look at the implications put on companies to tell us about formula milk.


Companies who produce formula have to include wording on their packaging that tells parents about the need for appropriate preparation, storage and disposal of the product. This should include information noting that powdered infant formula and follow-on formula are not sterile, and as such can contain harmful bacteria. It is important to be very careful when preparing formula. All equipment must be thoroughly cleaned and sterilised before use, and bottles should be made up fresh every feed as storing made-up formula may increase the chance of baby becoming ill. They should stress the importance to baby’s health from correct preparation and the increased risk of stomach upsets, diarrhoea etc. These warning should appear in a conspicuous place and be clearly visible and should include wording such as Failure to follow instructions may make your baby ill.


The important notice concerning the superiority of breastfeeding is required on infant formula and should be afforded a high degree of prominence on the label. They must not discourage breastfeeding and should not imply or create the belief that bottle feeding is equivalent or superior to breastfeeding. They cannot make comments like the best or ideal method of infant feeding. They cannot use images of an infant under 6 months.


Infant formula can only be advertised in scientific or trade publications. Consumers need to recognise that follow-on formula relates exclusively to products for older babies and not infant formula. They may not promote a range of formula products or the brand in an advert only the specific product. They cannot focus on carers emotions in relation to the feeding or care of infants under 6 months. They may only provide factual information to consumers and health professionals.


Manufacturers must ensure infant and follow-on formula are labelled with very clear distinctions between them including different colour schemes and not just different shades of the same colour. Infant formula and follow on need to be clearly labelled in a font size no smaller than the brand name. Manufacturers may not include advertising in stores such as shelf talkers (Logos and messages on shop shelves) for follow on formula in the vicinity of infant formula. Follow on formula should be in a different part of the store to infant formula – clearly separated in physical location.


These rules do not apply to advertising products related to bottle feeding such as bottles and teats.


Special sales to promote the sale of infant formula or any special activity at any place where infant formula is sold by retail to induce the sale of infant formula is prohibited. This includes, multi packs, loyalty/reward schemes. Free formula, price reductions, discounts, mark downs or BOGOF deals. They also prohibit any gift designed to promote the sale of infant formula to the general public, pregnant mothers and members of their family, this includes offering gifts via baby clubs or similar activity.


Information and educational material that deals with feeding infants and intended for pregnant women must include:


The benefits and superiority of breastfeeding, maternal nutrition, preparation for and maintenance of breastfeeding, possible negative effect on breastfeeding of introducing partial bottle feeding, difficulty of reversing the decision to breast feed and where needed the proper use of infant formula. They should also mention the social and financial implication of it’s use, the health hazards of inappropriate foods or feeding methods and the health hazards of improper use of infant formula.


As you can see there are clear guidelines and legislation imposed on companies that produce formula to make parents aware that their product is “inferior” to breast milk.


How do you as a mother feel about this? Do you think it is good that there are clear guidelines to ensure that the messaging does highlight risks of formula feeding and highlight the benefits of breastfeeding? Do you feel that they are trying to impose a set way to feed all of our children and not giving us as consumers the right to make decisions for ourselves based on facts? Let us know your thoughts.




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