Friday, July 31, 2009

World Breastfeeding Week 2009

World Breastfeeding Week starts tomorrow (1-7 August). The theme is Breastfeeding, A Vital Emergency Response: Are You Ready? You can find out more, download materials and find events at:

UNICEF and WHO have made statements in support of the week, which is coordinated by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action.

UNICEF's statement includes: "Around 9 million children under five die every year, largely from preventable causes... According to the Lancet, optimal breastfeeding in the first two years of life, especially exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, can have the single largest impact on child survival of all preventative interventions, with the potential to prevent 12 to 15% of all under age 5 deaths in the developing world... This year's World Breastfeeding Week provides an opportunity to sensitize policy-makers, donors, implementing partners and the general public to the benefits of breastfeeding, to its particular importance in emergency situations, and to the need to protect and support mothers to breastfeeding during emergencies."

You can find the full UNICEF statement at:

The WHO statements is available at:

One country facing an emergency is Malawi, one of the world's poorest countries, where 13% of the population is infected with HIV.

In conditions of poverty, infants have a better chance of escaping HIV and being protected from other infections if they are exclusively breastfed. Yet in Malawi, Nestlé is promoting its formula with a logo claiming that it 'protects'. Formula is very expensive and those that believe the claim that the formula 'protects' may well use it alongside breastfeeding - mixed feeding is the worst possible scenario for the transmission of the virus.

It is a government requirement that tins have warnings that breastmilk is best for babies, but Nestlé refused to translate these into Chichewa, despite a government request to do so, because of 'cost restraints'. It took a Baby Milk Action campaign, that led to Mark Thomas highlighting this irresponsible marketing on UK television, to change Nestlé's mind, and further campaigning to persuade Nestlé to show cup feeding, rather than bottle feeding, in line with government policies. See:

So campaigning works. Now we need to persuade Nestlé to remove the 'protect' logo it has introduced on labels in Malawi and elsewhere in the world. You can help by sending a message to Nestlé. You will find the information you need to do so on our July Campaign for Ethical Marketing action sheet, which is now available on our website at:

Also featured on the action sheet is a call on Danone/Milupa to stop using claims for its formula that have been found to be untrue in a ruling last week from the UK Advertising Standards Authority. Although these breach the advertising code's clauses on substantiation, truthfulness and comparisons, the code is voluntary and it remains to be seen whether similar claims will be removed from labels and other promotion stopped. There is also a call for Mead Johnson to stop making untrue claims about its formula.

If politicians fulfilled their responsibility to implement the baby food marketing standards adopted by the World Health Assembly, then public campaigns would not be necessary and there would be progress towards stopping the millions of preventable under-5 deaths.

You can help put pressure on politicians by signing the ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN petition. If you have already signed, visit the campaign website to see what action you can take to encourage friends and colleagues to sign up. See:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Australian advice on choosing infant formula

I have written previously about the difficulty faced by parents and carers who are using formula when it comes to understanding which formula to use. See:

The following advice from the publication "Dietary Guidelines for Children and
Adolescents in Australia" from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council has been brought to my attention. This can be downloaded at:

“The prices of different infant formulas and the types of retail outlets that sell the formulas are not related to quality or nutritional value. All infant formulas sold in Australia meet the relevant nutritional and quality-control standards. Use of a particular formula by a hospital does not mean that formula is the ‘best’ one. Interchange between formulas within the same generic group is optional and can be decided on the basis of cost.”

This will be true of formulas in any country with food safety laws requiring products to comply with the standards of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

This addresses the confusion caused by the UK Department of Health position, which is that all formulas have to comply with composition standards (while advising against use of soya formula unless on medical advice - it is not legal to sell formula based on goat's milk), but does not respond to the question: "So does that mean it's okay to buy the cheapest?"

Straight talking Australian's have done so.

I believe, however, there should be an additional advice and we are calling on the health authorities to investigate and come up with clearer information. There are reports of some babies having an adverse reaction to some of the additional ingredients that companies add, such as Long Chain Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (ingredients with no proven benefit, but which companies make great claims about). So it may be necessary to change a formula if the child does not react well to it - a health worker should be consulted.

Some suggest rotating formulas because the additional ingredients some companies add are effectively being tested on the public. Rotating means any possible harm will be reduced and any benefit - should there be any - will not be missed.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Media coverage of rulings against misleading formula advertising

There has been good coverage of our victory over the misinformation that Danone/Milupa perpetrates with its Aptamil advertising. The Advertising Standards Authority ruling against a 2007 advertisement was published yesterday. You can find links to some of the media coverage at:

In general the coverage has been good, explaining the ruling against misleading claims made about Aptamil supporting the immune system (and Cow & Gate in another ruling following complaints from the National Childbirth Trust). The rejection of the claim that Aptamil is the 'best follow-on formula' also receives prominent coverage.

Some in the media were still moved to present it as a breastfeeding/bottle feeding issue though. For example, the BBC site states: "But some pro-breast feeding groups believe there should be a total ban on this kind of advertising."

Well, we may be a pro-breast feeding group, but we are also pro the right of those who use formula to accurate information. The garbage put out in formula advertisements by Danone and its competitors does not help mothers make an informed decision.

The media likes controversy, however. Last week several papers picked up on a story challenging the benefits of breastfeeding over formula feeding, some of them quite gleefully, though the story itself had no merit: the difference is short and long-term health is well supported by the evidence. Some theorised that these stories appeared at this time because World Breastfeeding Week starts next week. Knowing the ASA ruling was about to be published - as the industry also did - I wondered if that was the reason the story was being put out at this time; indeed, at least one report on the ASA ruling included a paragraph about the 'controversy' over whether breastfeeding really has the health benefits claimed for it.

I have no reason to doubt that these particular journalists were doing no more than stirring up controversy to provoke a reaction. Some so-called journalists, however, have links to the industry. One is Brendan O'Neill, whose Spiked website has provided services to INFORM, a front organisation for the formula industry. He has misrepresented things I have said more than once to make an unwarranted attack on 'lactavists' (I am still annoyed at Brendan because though he made a correction the first time he did this, he has still not responded to an even more blatant case of misrepresentation published on The Guardian site). See:

It serves the industry to portray our work as denying information to mothers, when the opposite is the case: we want mothers to have accurate information and actively campaign for the government to provide this through the NHS. The companies cannot be trusted to be objective, as these ASA rulings show. While it is the nature of advertising to exaggerate, formula is a nutritional medicine, not chocolate bars or yoghurts. Higher standards for marketing should apply - and, indeed, they were introduced by the World Health Assembly in 1981, but still not implemented by the UK Government.

The NCT, which brought the complaints against the Cow & Gate misleading claims, is also labelled as pro-breastfeeding. It is, but it is also pro supporting mothers who use formula. You can find an NCT information sheet on its website at:

So let's stop the breastfeeding/bottle feeding divide. The industry and their voice pieces and controversy-seeking media may wish to create division, but anyone who cares about infant health should surely support an end to company advertising of formula in favour of independent, objective information through the health care system and better labelling and composition.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Aptamil 'best formula' and other claims not supported by evidence, says Advertising Standards Authority

Nearly two years ago I asked the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in the UK to investigate claims made in an advertisement for Aptamil follow-on formula.

The advertisement claimed that Aptamil is the 'best follow-on formula'. Is this true, I asked, considering that all companies claim their formula is the best? When claims are made in an advertisement, they have to be 'legal, decent, honest and truthful' according to the voluntary advertising code.

I also queried the claims made about IMMUNOFORTIS in Aptamil. This is a made up name for a type of oligosaccharide added to the formula (which is called a 'prebiotic' by the company, though this is not an allowed term in the UK marketing law).

I wanted to know whether the claims "This unique formulation helps to support your baby's natural immune system …" and "Intensive work has shown that immunofortis … supports your baby's natural immune system" could be substantiated.

Well, after two years of investigation by the ASA and much wrangling with Danone/Milupa, the makers of Aptamil, the verdict is in.

The company has been told not to repeat the claims and has been found to have breached the advertising code clauses on substantiation, truthfulness and comparisons.

So no, Aptamil is not the best formula and its formula does not support the natural immune system. The company has misled parents.

It has continued to make these and other claims during the two-year investigation and may well continue to make them in other materials and on labels, because they are not covered by the ASA, which is only a voluntary system of regulation in any case.

So while Danone/Milupa has been found to have misled parents, the UK law will allow them to carry on doing so elsewhere.

That's why we - along with just about every other organisation working to protect health and mothers' rights - is calling for the UK Government to implement international minimum marketing standards in the UK.

And it is why we are calling for the Government to ensure that parents who want to know which formula is the best and about the ingredients it contains are able to obtain independent, objective information.

You can't trust companies that want to flog more formula to tell the truth to customers. Don't take my word for it. Look at the ASA ruling.

Find further information on our press release at:

You can send a message to politicians around the world calling on them to protect breastfeeding and protect babies fed on formula at:

Update February 2010: For Baby Milk Action's guidance on choosing formula, see:

Thursday, July 16, 2009

IBFAN breastfeeding calendar 2009 now reduced in price

Our 2009 breastfeeding calendar has now been reduced to £3.00 including UK postage and packing.

It's still great value as the pictures can be used as a training resource. Some people laminate them to be able to hand them around.


Monday, July 13, 2009

UK breastfeeding picnics - 20 July 2009

Breastfeeding picnics in the UK, as reported on Morgan Gallagher's blog. See:


Protect My Baby, Protect Me

Monday July 20th, 2009

Noon - 3pm


Birmingham Picnic

Monday July 20th, 2009

11am - 2pm

Colmore Road




Poole Picnic

Monday July 20th, 2009

11am - 2pm




Stroud Picnic

Monday July 20th, 2009

11am - 3pm



Warrington Picnic

Monday July 20th, 2009

Sankey Street



Salford Picnic

Monday July 20th, 2009

Noon - 2pm

(in front of Mansion)



Durham Picnic

Monday July 20th, 2009

Noon - 3pm



Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Should mothers who use formula feel guilty?

Should mothers (and fathers) feel guilty for using formula rather than breastfeeding?

Plenty do - or feel they are expected to. Here's a comment someone has just posted anonymously on an earlier blog here:

Since all of you are clearly obsessed with the idea that formula feeding is bad, bad, bad - perhaps I should mention that for some mothers, it's the only alternative. My wife tried to breastfeed and in the end had to resort to bottle feeding. We didn't want to, and we didn't like it. But it was the only option we had. So for all you mums who sneer at the poor ignorant women formula-feeding their babies - good for you. We had no choice - and guess what? Our baby is a year old, healthy and a joy. So stick that in your narrow-minded obsessive pipe and smoke it.

I've also recently been contacted by a health worker who says she sees the ill health resulting from formula feeding - such as gastro-enteritis, ear infections - and raises the greater risk of diabetes and other long-term illnesses. She asks: " There seems to be an obsession about fear of "making Mums feel guilty" when it comes to breast feeding, but NOT with other health advice e.g. smoking and healthy eating and vacinnation advice etc. I don't know why this terror of Mums feeling guilty seems UNIQUE to breast feeding."

I stand by my often repeated - but as often ignored - comment that it is a mother's decision how she feeds her child and nobody should attempt to make her feel guilty about it.

I appreciate that some may disagree, but my view is that mothers have a right to accurate, independent information on infant feeding and the health implications of not breastfeeding. If a mother makes an informed decision not to breastfeed, then there are presumably reasons why other factors were judged to be of greater importance than breastfeeding. If she decided not to breastfeed because she was misinformed or misled by company propaganda which suggests formula and breastfeeding are equivalent, or did not have the support to overcome difficulties with breastfeeding, I'm not sure that it is either fair or productive to blame her for being failed by those responsible for regulating marketing practices and providing support.

Remember, in the UK, 90% of mothers who stopped breastfeeding before their child was 6 weeks old said they wanted to breastfeed for longer. The mother cited in the first quote, tried to breastfeed and wasn't able to make it work.

The ones who should feel guilty are those who have failed to implement and enforce the marketing standards that were adopted by the World Health Assembly in 1981 and Resolutions since which update and clarify them. In the UK, this means the drafters of the Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula Regulations which allow misleading advertising and labels to go onto the market. The ones who should feel guilty are the company executives who, as policy, seek to weaken legislation and systematically break the Code and Resolutions.

Those of us trying to promote and support breastfeeding need to do a better job of reaching mothers - it is not easy because the formula industry is far better resourced and uses dishonesty to undermine breastfeeding and suggest that formula feeding and breastfeeding are equivalent (or formula feeding is better - despite the legally required 'breast is best' message).

Rather than using guilt as a lever over mothers, I think a better approach is to understand the role of formula marketing and find better ways to communicate to mothers, particularly those who have had, or are having, a bad experience with breastfeeding. I do appreciate tireless efforts are being put into this already by many.

I do think all of us who are attempting to change formula-feeding cultures back into breastfeeding cultures - which exist or have been recovered in many countries - should redouble our efforts. Promoting the ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN is a good start: - also shaming Nestlé, the worst of the baby food companies by promoting the Nestlé boycott:

As a final thought, I think it is important that those who do use formula, for whatever reason, are also protected. Information should be accurate. Instructions should be correct. And formula should be cheaper - it has one of the highest mark-ups of any product. This is the aim of our safer formula campaign - see the site.

Friday, July 03, 2009

ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN - presentation at the World Health Assembly in May 2009

Please watch this film showing the presentation of 45,000 petition signatures gathered so far in the ONE MILLION CAMPAIGN to support mothers to breastfeed. Today there are over 59,000 signatures.

If you have not yet signed up, you can do so at:

If you have signed up, then spread the word using the resources you will find on the site.