Baby formula advertising – breastfeeding’s foe?

At a certain stage during my pregnancy, I must have landed on a general advertiser’s mailing list tagged as an expectant mother. All of a sudden, the supermarket started printing out vouchers for special deals on infant formula, and samples started turning up mysteriously in my letterbox. I was being inundated with advertising encouraging me to choose formula. I took a photo of the samples that I received, including one packet of ready-made formula in a “breastfeeding” bag from a formula manufacturer (in the photo: a bag of generic formula, two kits of four bottles of ready-made Similac, and a box of Enfamil powder, plus a snazzy backpack). To be fair, the breastfeeding bag also contained some storage bottles for breastmilk and nursing pads. Samples of infant formula make up the bulk of the samples I have received. In contrast, to date I have been given a single nappy sample, even though I have been going through these essential baby items in large quantities and would appreciate more samples of them.

This is one of the big problems with breastfeeding – the financial impact is that mothers save money, rather than paying for formula. There is no business case for breastfeeding that provides a chance for anyone to make money, except the families of newborns who will have lower costs in providing for their newborn. It is very easy for wavering new Mums to decide to formula feed because the have been provided with slick marketing information and samples ready for when breastfeeding becomes difficult. On a few occasions in the past 11 days since my daughter was born, when she has been having difficulty latching or I have been confused by the well-meaning advice about feeding my baby on a two-hour schedule rather than on demand, I briefly considered grabbing one of those little bottles just to be certain that she was eating enough.  And the advertising tells me in reassuring tones that formula helps me to keep me and my baby strong and healthy…

So far, breastfeeding is getting easier and my daughter’s weight gain and dirty nappies gives me confidence that she is thriving without formula. I am keeping the samples to re-gift to a neighbour with an infant once I have passed the three-week mark and I am certain that breastfeeding is working.

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