I read a post this week from Nicola over at All Things Spliced which reminded me of my deep rooted anger at the companies responsible for baby and infant formula.
Don’t be pissed off with me yet, my anger is not because I’m about to splash ‘breast is best’ all over your screen; in fact it’s much the opposite. Like many women I bottle fed both of my children. Some of us bottle feed because we choose to while for some the choice is made for us, for a variety of reasons. Either way the baby milk industry is huge, like billions of pounds huge, and the industry has a vested interest in us not breastfeeding, or at the very least feeding our kids some of their other products when we stop breastfeeding.
Like I said, lots of us bottle feed, so my issue is not with infant formula (stage 1). Equally I have no problem with specialist formula products that are necessary for health reasons, such as lactose free formula. So what do I have a problem with? Everything else!
Hungry baby, Comfort formula, Follow-on , Good night milk, Growing up milk; the list is as endless as it is useless and unnecessary!
For me this issue is a by-product of the ‘breast is best’ argument. We are all aware of the health reasons behind this argument, but in this house we are ‘fed is best’ all the way. #SorryNotSorry. The fear over being perceived to ‘promote’ formula means that (in my experience anyway) hardly any valuable, impartial information is given to expectant parents about all the different types and brands of formula available to us and our babies. For many, this winds up with us falling prey to the super-smart marketing of formula brands, and spending our hard-earned pennies feeding our kids stuff they just don’t need.
Don’t believe me? Read on…
Hungry baby milk
The NHS says that there is “no evidence that babies settle better or sleep longer when fed this […] formula”. And isn’t that why we buy it?! Hungry baby milk is basically based on a different type of protein (casein) to regular stage 1 milk (whey); casein is more complex, so harder to digest. Theoretically this should lead to babies staying fuller for longer as it takes their body longer to digest the milk. However, there is ZERO supporting evidence for this.
This formula is marketed as being perfect for providing comfort to babies suffering with things like colic and constipation. Once again the NHS tells us “there is no evidence” to support this.
If you’ve ever had swig of this (don’t ask me why or how, just trust me!) you will know that this stuff literally tastes like sticky, sweet condensed milk. I don’t think I really need to say much else in support of my argument here (but I will, obvs!) It tastes so sweet because that is what will get your kids hooked to the stuff. What’s worse, Netmums reports that “there are […] concerns that these milks may lead to babies becoming obese”. And guess what the NHS says about follow-on formula? Yep, “no benefits for your baby”. And if you needed further convincing, even the World Health Organisation isn’t happy with follow-on formula, and this is what they have to say;
“Follow-up formula is […] unnecessary” and “even though follow-up formula is not necessary […] it is marketed in a way that may cause confusion…”
IBFAN goes one step further and just puts it as bluntly as they can;
“The baby feeding industry invented follow-up formulas for marketing purposes”
We are led to believe through clever marketing schemes that at some point we should be moving our babies from breast milk or first stage formula to follow-on milk. Remember the Cow & Gate advert with all the super-cute belly-laughing babies in high chairs? That advert told you that their follow-on milk is “nutritionally tailored to your baby’s stage”. Aptamil’s advert declares that “your baby’s future can be influenced by the early choices you make” with a not-so-subtle undertone of ‘not choosing us means not doing the best thing for your baby’s future’.
Did you know that Cow & Gate and Aptamil are registered at the same business address and owned by the same company? So that’s one company covering a huge range of parents with two very different sets of advert campaigns; I could go on for hours about the various demographics covered by each brands’ campaigns, but their price tags say most of what I’m getting at; a tub of Aptamil Stage 1 costs £11, while a tub of Cow & Gate Stage 1 costs only £9.*
Good Night Milk
Hands up who tried absolutely everything to get their baby to sleep through, or even just to sleep more? That is exactly why I think calling a milk Good Night milk is not only wildly misleading, but also a cruel use of the one thing that all parents crave the most – a good night! Especially when the NHS has “no evidence that babies settle better or sleep longer after having it”.
Growing Up milk
Just as bad as follow-on formula, by the time you have got to this stage, they have well-and truly got you. Your kids are hooked and it doesn’t seem to matter what you try, none of it works. At least with this stuff you might be able to get your next batch on 3 for 2 because they’re allowed to do that with growing up milk. The law says that promotions can’t be run on the sale of infant first formula so as not to discourage mums from breastfeeding, but there is no such restriction on growing up milk. Apparently that’s ok. Guess what though;
“There is no evidence to suggest that these products provide extra nutrition benefits for young children. Whole cows’ milk is a suitable choice as a main drink for your child from age one” NHS
And I don’t know about you, but after a year of £10+ a week on baby milk, I more than welcome the switch to £1 for 4 pints of cows’ milk!
Like many, we skint ourselves silly making sure that Amelia was drinking the ‘best’ infant formula, and when she seemed exceptionally hungry at a couple of months old, instead of just giving her an extra feed, we gave her hungry baby milk. It is only with the benefit of hindsight, being pissed off, and a bit of research, that we haven’t fallen foul to the same marketing ploys with Wills. But what really makes me angry is how many parents are spending money sometimes they just don’t have on a multitude of products which have no proven health or nutritional benefit for their child, and in some cases may even be doing more harm than good.
*Boots prices, correct as at 26/2/2017