Monday, June 04, 2012

Infant formula company is at it again...a challenge for Nick Clegg

When you go abroad, it's common to see Nestle infant formula in the supermarkets, but it's not sold here. Sadly, the controversial company has now acquired Wyeth who manufacture the SMA brand.

That company has been sending out e-mails to mothers of 4 week old babies which are clearly designed to market their products. The Baby Feeding Law Group has identified three key areas where it believes that the law on marketing breast milk substitutes has been broken. They also have the cheek to suggest that a new fat in their milk is closer to breastmilk. That's like saying a hairbrush has become closer to being like a sheep's liver.

If mums are having issues with breastfeeding at four weeks, there are plenty organisations, like La Leche League and the NCT who can offer support. In my experience, every breastfeeding problem has a breastfeeding solution - which isn't likely to be offered by a formula company's so called "careline". What a mum who's struggling needs is expert help,who doesn't have a commercial interest in them taking a particular course of action.

Nick Clegg is always talking about increasing people's life chances and of the disparity in life expectancy between rich and poor areas. With evidence suggesting that a poor breastfed baby has better long term health than an affluent formula fed one, as I wrote for Lib Dem Voice last year, surely our leadershould be pushing for enforcement and extension of the current law. Incorporating the International Code on the marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes into UK law is a crucial strand to improving our lamentable breastfeeding rates in poorer areas along with providing easily accessible, knowlegable support and information through peer support programmes and the like.

I suspect the Government, which is always going on about reducing the regulation on business, will not be up for picking a fight with massive corporate giants on this. These companies have got away with it for so long and would not react well to being told brought into line. Nick Clegg talks about the scourge of vested interests in politics and business and he really needs to push for action on this. I doubt he'd get much backing, after all Labour made virtually no progress on this in all the years they were in power, but he needs to try it.

Baby Milk Action's latest campaign is to get formula companies to stop spending money on inappropriate and illegal marketing measures and use the money saved to reduce the cost of their already overpriced product. Sign their petition here. 


Jill said...

I absolutely agree, Caron. However, as a mum whose newborn child would rather have screamed and starved than breastfeed, I honestly don't think that it's as black and white as every breastfeeding problem having a breastfeeding solution. From my own experience, sometimes the emotional and physical health of the mother and child takes precedence over finding that solution. Even the midwives and breastfeeding support workers in the hospital were stumped, but never gave up trying to help us.

But I absolutely would not have appreciated input from formula companies when it came to making the decision to stop trying. My decision was based on the fact that the first few weeks of my baby's life was spent with us caught up in a battle of wills and with no real bond.

My choice of formula brand was based on advice from the midwives at the hospital, and our health visitor. I didn't receive any communication from the formula industry but any commercial advice can only be biased and therefore irrelevant. And if such communication does reach women who are struggling to breastfeed, knowing what sort of delicate emotional state those women are highly likely to be in makes it even more abhorrent that it is allowed to happen.

Caron said...

To be clear, the emotional and physical health of mother and child is the most important thing and I'd never suggest compromising that.

No mother should feel bad if breastfeeding doesn't work out. There are situations, though, when a specialist can make a difference. I was always amazed when health professionals didn't know things I would consider to be basic.

You clearly did have a lot of good help and support, but the quality is patchy across the country and more could be done to increase knowledge and accuracy and up to dateness of information.

forestry investments said...

As the father - middle class - of a breastfed baby, I can say with 100pc certainty that breastfeeding makes a dramatic difference for a child. My wife breastfed our little guy for 18 months. He is currently three years old and already reads - I mean, really reads! - and has a keen intellectual curiosity. Given that my wife is smart but that I am no genius, I must anecdotal confirm the incredible affects of breastfeeding one's baby. Granted, not the kind of subject a man usually comments on, but I am a true evangelist on this subject. Peter


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