Why I’m Angry About Infant Formula

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.

Comfort formula

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.

Follow-On formula

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.

Rant over.


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*Boots prices, correct as at 26/2/2017

41 thoughts on “Why I’m Angry About Infant Formula

    1. That’s very true, I guess it’s quite easy to be annoyed by it all! I can’t imagine there’s a shortage of ranty posts hahaha!!x

  1. This is disgusting! It should not be allowed to happen and I’m so glad that you’ve done this research and shared it for other parents to read. I am actually really worked up after reading this, and I didn’t even give my kids formula! It’s so blatantly dishonest! Grrrr!


    p.s. sorry for the over-use of exclamation marks! Haha

  2. I could not agree more with you. This really makes me angry too. To be fair I never used any formula (because I didn’t need to) and once I stopped breastfeeding my children just went on to drinking cow’s milk ( when they wanted to). I have however been tempted on many occasions to try all super milks because I wanted to do the best for my children and of course that’s what companies bank on. However I don’t because after researching I didn’t feel they would be all that beneficial. Thank you for liking up with #StayClassyMama

    1. That’s the thing isn’t it; even the most clued up parents could easily be fooled into thinking these milks are necessary! It really winds me up!! Thanks for your comment xx

  3. I’m also all for fed is best and share your anger. However it also makes me angry that you can’t even get boots points on infant formula. Does anyone stop breastfeeding so they can get boots points? Really?! #stayclassymama

    1. Hahahaha! I’d never thought about it like that, but yeah – as if you’re gonna go “you know what? I could earn a free lunch if I switched from boob to formula. Sorry kid, the meal deal wins” hahahaha!!x

  4. It’s all such a con isn’t it! Playing on everyone’s fears to do the best for their child. My Dad was fed actual condensed milk because they were told it was best at the time. It often takes a while for the effects to show and advice to change. Thanks for joining us at the #bigpinklink

  5. I bottle fed my son and had no support because every bloody person around professional and not said he should be breast fed.
    I switched him to comfort milk for colic having had to do my own research. There were no guidelines for formula and its so wrong. #StayClassyMama

  6. The health visitors in a baby group I went to were talking about this, it’s disgusting! Apparently they don’t have all these types of milk in the US, but they are allowed to advertise stage 1 milk on TV. Because our government just want everyone to breastfeed, they won’t allow advertising of milk for under 6 month olds. As a result, they made up follow on milk to generate more money through advertisements and charging more for it. As for things like the night time milk – anything to make a few extra pounds off of sleep-deprived parents desperate to try anything to get more sleep!
    Thank you for this post, I think there are so many people that aren’t aware of this. My little one will be continuing with stage 1 milk until she’s a year old, as the health visitors said there is really no benefit to using follow on milk. Apparently the only difference is a tiny bit of iron, which she’ll be getting from eating food when she turns 6 months anyway.

    1. Oh really, I didn’t know that about the US! But yeah, it’s definitely all a big con in place of being able to advertise stage 1 formula! My issue is mainly not so much that these products exist, but that they are allowed to be marketed in a way which suggests that they are necessary, that we pretty much have to have them.

  7. I don’t think we have all those types over here, but it doesn’t surprise me there’s a raquet to overcharge on insecurities of new mums. As if formula isn’t expensive enough! #Stayclassymama

  8. YES! I think this gets confused with formula bashing at times but is a very separate issue. Legally companies are very restricted to the make up of formula yet their clever marketing sells all sorts of false hopes and ideas. Its great it exists but the Companies behind it are often very immoral and take advantage of parents and their cash. #ablooginggoodweek

    1. That’s exactly what I was hoping would come across – I’m not anti formula, or anti BF, I’m not pro-formula or pro-BF… quote frankly, I’m not fussed how you feed your child as long as you do haha! It’s the immorality and lack of info around formula that bothers me, and you’re right, it is a totally separate issue x

  9. I didn’t know that about the hungry baby formula in fact we were recommended it by our health visitor when ours were babies. I think growing up milks are a total gimmick so we never used them. There are so many useless products marketed at parents it’s shocking. Thank you for linking up with #TuesdayTreasures

  10. It drives me crazy that they refuse to teach expectant mothers anything about formula to promote breastfeeding. I went to a breastfeeding class, and they would not give me any information about formula feeding when I asked. I did breastfeeding for 7 months with formula supplementation, and most of the information about this came from booklets sent from formula companies. They think they’ll force you into breastfeeding by making you less informed? Ugh. Glad to hear I’m not the only one frustrated by this. #stayclassymama

    1. Yes!! This is exactly it – and actually what ends up happening is the lack of information leads many babies and kids to being fed stuff that they don’t need at all, and in some cases is potentially not even good for them! Not to mention the money spent on useless formulae! X

  11. I’m with you on this having bottle fed eldest 2 and breastfeeding the third. There is absolutely no need to sell any other brand of formula other than stage 1. I have advised so many new mum’s that a baby just needs their stage 1 milk! #TuesdayTreasures

  12. I also read that post from Nicola and was amazed. My daughter is well past the formula stage and all we really tried to find was one that she wouldn’t spit up immediately, but its crazy how unregulated all this is #tuesdaytreasures

    1. I agree; I just think it’s odd that they’re allowed to market these products as something a child needs when they really do not! I’d be interested to know how much the government make on tax, if any, on these unnecessary milk products…x

  13. I totally agree with everything you said.
    Even here in South Africa it’s a huge industry. My youngest had allergies so we had to put her on the hypoallergenic version at DOUBLE the price! Where is the justification in that? What if we couldn’t afford it which we very nearly couldn’t?!
    It’s all a scam!

    1. Oh now that is really awful..! And this kind of lends a whole new thread to the argument, because surely that should be prescribed by a doctor (not sure about coat of that where you are? Would that be covered by insurance?) As you said, lots of families simply couldn’t afford that, and some will just scrape by but to the detriment of what else? Thanks so such for your comment x

  14. Ah this is all so true! We fell foul of it, as you are aware. Didn’t even know there was a good night milk, however!! I dread to think what that consists of!! Thanks very much for the link back xxx

    1. Just popping back over from #blogcrush. I’ve thought often about your rage – I mean post!! – this week. The good night milk sounds quite frankly slightly dangerous, mixed with cereals you say?! And imagine if you had a poor sleeper, you’d be so tempted to try it, wouldn’t you? xxx

  15. I agree! We are facing the possibility of full formula feeding this time around and I’m drowning in choices. Starter formula is a nightmare too, there are so many choices and reactions for each! Grrrr!

    1. There really is no right or wrong decision with stage 1 formula. Research suggests that any added whatever (vitamins, fortified with iron etc) are completely unnecessary for babies. As long as the milk you choose complies with regulations in terms of ingredients (which it will if it’s on general sale) then its fine! Good luck xx

  16. Couldnt agree more. Its all a marketing ploy and at a tenner a tin they’re laughing their socks off. Poppy’s just turned one and so can have cows milk. We don’t drink whole milk so bought that and a final tub of milk in case. Of course sods law she guzzled the cows milk!! Thanks for joining us for #marvmondays

  17. I’m literally just in the process of swapping my LO from breastfeeding to bottle and did not know any of this so thank you so much for the information. For what it’s worth, I don’t think it’s fair to blame it on the ‘breast is best’ message, having been on that side of the fence I can tell you there is not enough support for those of us feeding with boobs (even less when wanting to stop, I feel like I’ve been exiled between both worlds!). Now sending this to my partner for help with our weekly shop tonight x #marvmondays

    1. Amy I totally agree with you that there isn’t enough support for breastfeeding mums either – I know that every day thousands of women despair and even give up because of lack of support. I just think that because of the breast is best guidelines there’s almost a fear to arm parents with any knowledge surrounding formula milk. I feel like people think they shouldn’t talk to you about formula in case they are seen to be trying to persuade you one way or the other, or in case they are perceived as advocating one over the other. Me telling you guys about all these ‘awful formula companies’ could be perceived as me trying to persuade you not to use them, scaremongering in fact. Or it could be perceived that I am banging on about formula education so much that I am against breastfeeding. neither is true, but I think that fear is there for a lot of people and that’s part of the reason that expectant parents aren’t given valuable formula information.

      The lack of support for breastfeeding mothers, in my opinion, is bloody abhorrent! I’ll admit, that is part of the reason I chose not to breast feed my children, and really that’s a pretty poor state of affairs for a fairly forward nation to be in.

      Good luck with the switch, I’d love to hear how it goes!!

      p.s I’m a bit jealous – If I sent Mr C to the shop I can only imagine what piles of rubbish I’d get to cook!!

  18. Well said. The breast is best message means that parents can’t get proper information about formula because it’s just not discussed at all by health professionals.

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