Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Newborn Know How from Wyeth / SMA

Yesterday I wrote about a video for mothers from Hipp, which undermines World Health Assembly recommendations on infant feeding and encourages early introduction of complementary foods.

Today a look at a UK video from Wyeth/SMA Nutrition. This is sent to mothers in pink utility bag with a booklet and has the title : "Newborn know how: An essential guide to being a new mum."

It is presented by television celebrity Lowri Turner and is targeted at pregnant and new mothers: "If you are watching this you chances are you are just about to give birth or has just had your baby."

It has three sections: the first day, the first week and the first month. One of the landmark events is, of course: "The first feed whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding."

Companies should not provide gifts, such as this video, to mothers. They should not seek direct contact .. and the video is sent after mothers have responded to a magazine advertisement, health centre pamphlet or registered via the company careline.

Looking at videos such as this with a marketing eye reveals how much thought has been put into their preparation. It contains information on all aspects of child care in the first month, no doubt much of it useful. But its presentation of infant feeding marks it out as a company video rather than an independent video produced with the best interests of mother and child at its heart.

It does have Lowri Turner asking the expert mid-wife: "Is breast always best?" and getting the answer: "Yes." But this is not followed by the list of benefits to mother and child from a health point of view, the impact of introducing feeding bottles on lactation or the financial costs of artificial feeding .. information required by the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes to be in materials for mothers. The bear essentials of the required information is given in text scrolling up the screen after the film has finished.

In the body comes stress on negative associations with breastfeeding. "It seemed I was destined to feed her for the next two years..", "Actual feeding of her was pretty much a disaster...", "What you don..t expect is the crying in between..."

A neutral video would provide information on addressing these concerns and details of where help can be obtained. Other than advice to speak with a mid-wife and numbers at the end of the film, the video has Lowri say to the expert midwife: "Not all women can or indeed want to breastfeed though do they."

The response: "If you want to bottle feed your baby that's fine and your baby will thrive as well as a breastfed baby". No mention that even in the UK an artificially fed child is 5-10 times more likely to be hospitalised with gastro-enteritis and at greater risk of short and long-term illnesses such as respiratory infections, otitis media (ear infection), diabetes, allergies and obesity.

Certainly mothers who decide to use formula should not be made to feel like failures or to feel guilty, but they have a right to know there are health implications. There are important differences between formula and breastmilk, which are not even fully understood, though the difference can be seen in the health outcomes. Companies idealize their products to suggest there is no difference.

Most mothers who stop breastfeeding early on do so because of the problems they experience, which are real and distressing in themselves, made worse by a crying and hungry baby and concerned family members. At such times support is needed.

It is at times of vulnerability that baby food companies see their opportunity. The video says: "One of the important things to remember is to practice making up a bottle to feed the baby before you have to do it in reality when the baby is crying beside you."

This is followed by a mother explaining: "It was going to be easier to bottle feed him. We..d given it our best shot."

The video points out that a mother can ask for formula in hospital and has the right to specify a particular brand.

The first week section again looks at infant feeding, with Lowri saying: "One of the commonest worries that new mums have is if the baby is feeding enough."

The response from the expert mid-wife: "Yes a lot of mothers worry about that, particularly when they are breastfeeding. Breasts don't come with millimetre measurements on them. And bottles, of course, do. And mothers really become worried about that."

While there is reassurance about checking for a wet nappy there is no discussion of other signals that a breastfed baby is feeding well, such as throat movement or weight gain. No discussion of the difference in weight gain between breastfed babies and artificially-fed babies.

And so it goes on through such company-produced materials. It would be foolish to expect anything different.

The short hand message from the planning department for this video presumably went something like: "Breast is best.. but inconvenient and difficult.. not all women can do it.. be ready with the formula... Use the company logo used on our infant formula as liberally as possible."

The film ends with: "If you would like more information on infant feeding or weaning issues please phone SMA careline ***".

Distribute and watch the money roll in.

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