Monday, April 11, 2011

Formula makers hand out nutritional advice

Formula makers hand out nutritional advice            

A few days ago, I received an advertising package from Materna, Israel’s leading formula brand. Somehow, they found out my name, address and how old my baby is – how, I have no idea, unless they have access to hospital or health care records, which in my opinion should be made illegal, to prevent them from specifically targeting new mothers.

There was a pamphlet accompanying the formula samples in the package, which provided, among other things, a supposedly “balanced” sample menu for a six-month-old. It was something that really made me raise my eyebrows. Here it is.

Morning: formula-based porridge

Mid-morning: pureed fruit

Lunch: pureed chicken/meat/soy, with pureed potatoes/rice and pureed veggies

Dinner: formula-based porridge, well-cooked peas OR pureed veggies

Throughout the day: nursing or 1-2 180 ml bottles of formula

Now, I remind you, we are supposed to be talking about a six-months-old! That’s an age when babies, according to the recommendations of the WHO, are only just starting to be introduced to solid foods, and that begins and happens gradually – a six-month-old’s diet isn’t supposed to be based on solids just yet. What they suggest is suitable, in my opinion, perhaps for a baby closer to a year old.

It really grates on my nerves when formula makers start “mother’s clubs”, “baby clubs” and even “nursing help-lines”, as if trying to pretend they have our best interest at heart, when it is obvious, and of course understandable, that what they really want is to sell their product.

They might argue that they are only targeting mothers who aren’t nursing anyway, but because formula is so widely advertised, so easily available, and is claimed to be so close in its qualities to breast-milk, it prompts young mothers to quit nursing when they are discouraged, exhausted, misinformed or unsupported.

In my opinion, it would be more fitting if formula was sold in pharmacies only, in plain, unattractive packages, under a description such as “inferior breast milk substitute, to be used only when necessary”.

But of course, in a money-driven world, it will never happen. 


leah Brand-Burks said...

"even “nursing help-lines”, as if trying to pretend they have our best interest at heart, when it is obvious, and of course understandable, that what they really want is to sell their product."
UGH! Oh my goodness, how I agree with that line! It's close enough to despicable. Great to hear from you again, Anna.

Roxaline said...

I agree! I got one in the mail (I had a home birth so I don't know how they got my address) for my 3 month old. It had close to the same thing. They wanted her eating 3/4 of a tub of food 3 times a day!!! I couldn't imagine her eating that much at ONLY 3 months old. She isn't even supposed to be starting solids. I don't know if you have seen the latest "study" about encouraging mothers to postpone breastfeeding until later so that your baby can get his or her vaccinations. Supposedly some vaccines are not working because of the mother's breast milk? How you can postpone and still breastfeed I don't know. Just another way that they can get mothers to use formula instead.

Matushka Anna said...

Wow, that's really awful. And not even near safe.

Becca said...

Awful! I have 6 kids, and have exclusively breastfed 2 of them until 9 or 10 months because they were not interested in any other food. Wouldn't that shock formula manufacturers?

AnneK said...

It started out as a good article, but the last paragraph spoiled it.

I hope you never have issues breastfeeding and feel guilty for a long time. Because if you did you would feel bad for even expressing such a sentiment as you did. And I sincerely hope any mom who tried and could not breastfeed never come across this article.

Kimberly said...

Oooh-nursing 'help' lines are the worst! Usually the 'help' involves horrible advice that will lead to a drop in supply and eventual early weaning.

Jocelyne said...

What a ridiculous menu for a 6-month-old baby. I'm just starting my 5-month-old on a little cereal mixed with breastmilk, but it's more practice than anything else. He seems to like it and takes the spoon quite eagerly, but his eating skills need work. Most of it ends up on the bib, his face, his hands, the high chair, me, the floor ... I doubt he's receiving any nourishment from it yet! I know he'll be getting most of his nutrition from the breastmilk for several months to come.

I used to just laugh at the formula companies' disingenuous advertising campaigns, but now that I've had a baby myself, I find it all quite unconscionable. New mothers, especially first-timers, are so vulnerable.

I had read a lot during pregnancy and was determined to breastfeed. However, after an unplanned c-section which resulted in a very sleepy baby with trouble latching and my milk being several days late coming in ... the first week was a nightmare. I did supplement with formula (only a day or two, by cup or with a lactation aid) just because I was frantic he wasn't gaining weight. However, the hospitals here are aggressively pro-breastfeeding and most of them have breastfeeding clinics. I made an appointment at the clinic as soon as I could. The lactation consultant was great and gave me a plan to follow. Also, the public health nurse visited me a few days later to see how the breastfeeding was going and offer some advice. Even with all that professional help, and a very supportive husband, I was VERY close to giving up several times. I couldn't believe how hard it was to get breastfeeding established, and how long it seemed to take! Now of course, it's easy and fun and so convenient (not to mention free). But I wonder how many women, in the grip of post-partum hormones and suffering extreme sleep-deprivation, just give up and reach for that packet of free formula?

Katy M. said...

Shoot...they should have a special sign above the cans that read "Are you a horrible non-caring mother who's lifestyle may not support breastfeeding? Then this stuff is for YOU!"

Rightthinker-Andrea said...

Since culturally we have embraced what's easiest, because mama's "should be free of being tied to baby, so that they may work, have girls night out, etc", we can only expect demands to make formula "better, healthier" and for formula makers to pretend they have a corner on the market of superb health for infants.

It's ugly. When I absolutely couldn't nurse my 6th child-the first one that I couldn't breastfeed for REAL reasons, I made my own raw goats milk formula..and he thrived. Now, expecting #7, I pray God will bless us with a healthy nursing relationship that I had with my first 5 children, so as to avoid non-breast milk with this baby.

God Bless, and a great post!

Jana said...

You should send a letter to the WHO in regards to this. Governments and hospitals do listen to the WHO to a degree. I think you may have been subjected to some "help" from neighbors or family or friends. If it was the hospital, then they should lose any funding assistance they get from the government. Perhaps you could write a letter to the hospital insurance companies. Explain to them the benefits of extended breastfeeding and how if saves lives and money and that the people live longer.

I get bombarded with this info a lot myself though I've never seen a nutrition guide. Thanks to pediatrician Jack Newman, a lot of mothers have been made aware in Northern America of the formula companies dirty deelings. You might get some ammo in his book or on his website.

Canadian said...

This isn't a comment on this particular post, but I was wondering what you think of this article:

emily said...

I agree that marketing of formula has been wrongly used at times.

However, I wonder how you think a new young mother who cannot breastfeed for medical reasons would feel if formula were labelled as 'inferior'?

Personally, I believe that most new mums do their best, and deserve encouragement, whatever their options and limitations. :)

SarahF said...

I love your suggestion of how formula should be sold and your description is perfect. But as you say, sadly it will never happen and will continue to be sold in bright, colourful packaging in the baby aisle :-(

Linda said...

Do these formula makers have stock in drug companies manufacture the epi syringes that severely allergic people have to inject themselves with when they go into anaphylatic shock because they've encountered one of their allergic reaction triggers? Because it sure sounds like they are trying to induce severe allergies in children by encouraging mothers to introduce them to possible allergen inducers at an age when their systems are too immature for them. Chicken and eggs as well known for being two such culprits when introduced into the diet too early.

Anonymous said...

As a UK trained dietitian,I recommend infants progress quickly with weaning from 6 months of age and by 7 months 2-3 small puree meals of family food would be expected. By 6 months iron rich foods are introduced. By 1 year they should be on to solids and normal family meals.

I find that if the weaning process does not progress to solids by the time the infant is one year of age, then we end up with a fussy child who still wants the baby puree.

The WHO 6 month weaning recommendation is much debated in the UK. The advice was developed based on evidence that breastfeeding is protective against diarrhoea and gastroenteritis, which is the main cause of mortality in developing countries. This is not a cause of mortality in developed countries and so many UK dietians recommend weaning when the infant is ready developmentally between 4-6 months.

I 100% agree with your points regarding the agressive marketing of formula companies. I greatly dislike their tactics also.

Lady Anne said...

It's funny how "standards" change from time to time, or maybe country to country. My mom (who just turned 90) was raised in a "milk until one year" era. In fact, my grandmother called baby teeth "milk teeth" and scolded me for giving my girls solid food before they lost their first tooth. Can you imagine nursing until your child is six or seven! Good grief!

My mother had every childhood illness that came along. Even in an age when vacines didn't exist, she got things most children didn't - polio, diptheria, rheumatic fever, you name it; she had it.

I nursed my own children, and my doctor recommended starting them on cereal at three months. "When they start reaching for your plate, they are ready for real food." She haad five kids, so who was I to argue? I simply put whatever we were eating into the blender with some boiled water or pasturized milk (my husband and I drank raw milk ourselves), gradually adding less and less liquid. They grew up eating whatever we did. No picky eaters in our family! And other than the usual colds, not a serious illness among them.

Lady M said...

I find it interesting, as well, that my pediatrician is recommending vitamins for the baby....made by a formula company. Uhm - yeah. Okay. Not on a bet. I eat a well rounded diet, we are out in the sun - even in the winter, I take vitamins & none of the 3 children prior to this one had a problem (and none of them took vitamins as babies - even though he pushed them then). Just makes my head hurt.

Lisa said...

I tried my hardest to nurse my baby. She was tongue-tied and wasn't getting the milk out efficiently. I literally bled and was sore for 3 months straight. I battled a yeast infection too. It was so so painful. I hired 3 lactation consultants, went to BF support groups, took classes, read books, and hired a cranial sacral therapist to relax her jaw. We even had her tongue clipped, but by that time she refused to nurse and I couldn't fight anymore. I was exhausted! It was extremely emotional for me. I got such a guilt trip from the lactation consultants and they kept handing me more and more BF devices. I gave-up right before the last suggestion, which was the nursing supplementer/lactation aid. I then went to pumping every 3 hrs so she would have only breastmilk. I was so tired.

At 4 months I started to cut down on the pumping because I couldn't do anything. Because by the time I finished pumping, cleaned the parts, then bottlefed her, I had maybe 2 hrs in-between pumpings. I would run to the grocery store and back, pump, make dinner, eat dinner,pump and so on. It was so hard.

Finally I just accepted the fact that my daughter will have to start drinking formula. She was on half breast milk, half formula for 6 months. It was the best I could do. Now she's 9 months old and is eating finger foods, pureed foods, and is having 3, 6oz bottles of formula a day. And I don't feel
guilty. She's thriving, healthy, in the 60th percentile for weight and height, she sleeps well, and is very happy. Mommy is also sleeping much better too! So I really come to appreciate formula and all the nutrition it provides. I don't get bothered by the commercials or advertisements at all. I'm very thankful. I'm still an advocate for BF, but I'm also very empathetic to women who can't breastfeed or had a lot of difficulty and had to use formula. :)

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a menu. My heavens. My six-months-old children had:
a teaspoon of mashed banana
a sip of my water
a tiny taste of the broth from my soup
a spoon to chew on
more mashed banana
nursing all through the night

This produced kids never lower than in the 80th percentile for height and weight. And boy, was I hungry!

Anonymous said...

I just had my first baby. I was eager to take her home as she was nearly nine pounds and absolutely healthy.
The night before the day I was supposed to take her home, a nurse came in to see me at midnight, just after my husband had left and told me my daughter had lost too much weight, and I would have to give her formula. I told her my husband and I had agreed to breastfeed only. She told me if I didn't put her on formula they might not let me take her home. The idea of leaving my little baby behind at the hospital scared me into giving it to her. Not to mention the fact that I had been awake for over 48 hours and was all alone. The baby cried through the forced feeding, and eventually spit it all back up....all over the nurse (which was my only consolation.)

Before I left they supplied me with a sample case of formula and made me agree that I would feed her formula. It made me wonder if the hospital benefited somehow from every baby they got on formula.

I have breastfed exclusively for 4 months, and my baby is in the 93rd percentile for her growth.

Jenny said...

What I've often wondered is, how superior is breast milk if the mother's diet is poor?

If a mother is eating fast/convenience foods, etc., wouldn't formula be a better source of nutrition than her breast milk or is breast milk superior to formula simply because it is generated by the mother's body?

I ask this in all seriousness and feel that you, Mrs. AnnaT, with your background in nutrition and dietetics, might know.

Gebreyesus said...

I find that if the weaning process does not progress to solids by the time the infant is one year of age, then we end up with a fussy child who still wants the baby puree.


Er, as a mother, I must disagree. My three kids have all moved to solids on different schedules. The youngest ate very little solid anything until 13 months and continued subsisting on mostly breastmilk for a few months more. We skipped purchased babyfood altogether, and when *he* was ready to eat solids, I mashed up the food the rest of us were eating, and he ate happily and quickly moved to fingerfoods.

Frankly, we just avoid powdered cereals and jarred foods altogether with our kids, in favor of whole foods that are minimally processed, at home. Why should they wean at 6-7 months? They will still need liquid nourishment. Why not breastmilk? Why the "necessity" of moving to formula + solids?

Gebreyesus said...

lol anon. My largest (consistently *over* the 100th percentile in height and weight) child was the one who was breastfed the longest and ate the least solids. I started calling myself "the creamery".

Anna, I agree with the rest of your post, and it is so frustrating. And I do understand why you wrote that last paragraph. Formula is not "as good as", it cannot be because it is a human reproduction of God's design (or nature's, if you're so inclined :D ). As parents, we all will face times when we cannot provide the ideal. That's a reality, and should not induce guilt. It's a fact of life.

Oh, and I'm actually Margaret/CappuccinoLife, but my son is still signed in from his schoolwork. :p

Carol said...

This is an informative post--and I enjoyed all the comments. It is inspiration for women to take time to make well informed decisions-- being skeptical of advertisements.

Everything that the marketplace wants to sell is not necessarily in our children's best interests.

joyce said...

I agree that this menu seems inappropriate for a 6 month old

However, I think your ending paragraph: In my opinion, it would be more fitting if formula was sold in pharmacies only, in plain, unattractive packages, under a description such as “inferior breast milk substitute, to be used only when necessary”.

is just over-the-top awful. I'm sure there are many young mothers who, for valid reasons, cannot breastfeed, even though they'd really like to.

My own daughter, for instance, breastfed her newborn daughter for a few days. But less than a week after giving birth, my daughter developed a serious, rare condition known as Post Partum Cardio myopathy. She went into congestive heart failure and was hospitalized in Cardiac ICU. She had to stop breastfeeding because of the meds she is still taking for her heart condition. My daughter has not recovered from her condition and her heart function is currently about 40%. I'm sure she would have liked to have breastfed, but she couldn't for medical reasons. I don't believe she has treated her baby in an inferior manner by giving her formula.

I know you are entitled to your own opinions, and they are strong in certain matters. But I kindly suggest that you "think before you speak out."

Amy said...

As a mom who nursed my first child, but was unable to nurse my second, I have come to a new understanding of how painful it can be to go through that experience. Such guilt and feelings of being a bad mother are only intensified when other mothers make comments like what I have seen in response to your post. As a mother who fully intended to nurse my second child, but was unable to, I am asking for others (who have successfully been able to nurse - even with difficulty) to realize that there are often situations that cause a mother to not be able to nurse. Imagine being a mother who was unable to breastfeed (even after nursing your first), and suddenly realizing that you're going to have to use formula - against everything that you ever wanted (or expected) to do. I could have read this post a few years ago and agreed with all of the comments that you have received. But, then I had a second child who I was unable to nurse. Even the use of the words "inferior food" (which I know it is) can be crushing to a mother who actually needs to use it. I remember crying at night, because I felt like I was feeding my little girl poison. Speaking from experience, even if you know you have no other options and it is necessary, such incredible guilt comes from comments like that. I know that you are not referring to people who are not able to nurse, but I just want to make clear that mothers who aren't able to nurse are the one's who are being hurt by comments like that; not the ones who don't nurse just because they don't feel like it.

I'm sorry for such a long comment! The subject of breasfeeding is just so sensitive for me now, since I've had unwelcomed and unexpected experience on the other side. Even those of us who know we had no other choice often still feel such guilt over such comments that your readers have made when we "logically" shouldn't. I guess it's part of being a mom who wants the best for our children, just as you do.

Anonymous said...

My twins were born premature despite my being on bedrest. My milk was not in, nor did it ever come in enough to keep up with twins and def not enough to keep up with babies that needed higher cal diet to put on weight. I tried pumping for a few mths but I never got much and the time it took with having to feed premature babies every 2.5hours then pump etc left no time for me to sleep-I was also recovering from an emergency c-section due to placenta previa and anemia so bad I was a hair away from needing a blood transfusion. I'm thankful for the option of formula. I also happen to be a pediatric RN by training (SAHM now) but realize that not everyone has the same life circumstances as everyone else. We all need a little help in certain areas now and then:) By the way my boys are 18mths old now, VERY healthy-have been sick only once in their little lives with a cold.

Asrat said...

I don't believe she has treated her baby in an inferior manner by giving her formula.

That is not what Anna said. At all.

We need to be careful about hyper-defensiveness because it lends itself to misinterpretation.

Formula itself is not biologically or scientifically equivalent to breastmilk. The way human beings are designed, for best overall health, breastmilk, not formula, should be the norm. If we cannot, for whatever reason, manage that "norm", we are not inferior parents even though we accept and acknowledge that it would be better if we could. We do the best we can with what is presented to us, and none of us are going to reach all our ideals. We might have no problem with breastfeeding, but later on be unable to afford organic whole foods on a regular basis or at all (that would be me). We can lower standards of normal in order to make us feel better emotionally, but I don't know that that is healthy.

Anonymous said...

totally didnt agree with that last paragraph. And we here in Scandinavia are abit fed up with what is locally known as the "breastfeeding police" (government supported bodies who try and make women feel guilty about choosing formula). I thank the Lord for formula as i couldnt breastfeed my baby and felt guilty about it for months. here in Norway, manufacturers of formula are not allowed to advertise their products and independant writers are not supposed to mention formula to the general population. Such is the extent of the "breastfeeding police" here! What is a poor mother to do when she cant provide for her baby? Luckily i got support from my midwife and the nurses at the hospital when they saw how much i tried and when i eventually broke down in tears. So please dont generalise the issue as it isnt the same all over the world. I would have been glad for more info on formula when i needed it!

Kind regards...

Mrs. N said...

I'll leave this again, since it didn't get published the first time. I simply feel offended, and I'm not being "hyper-sensitive" as one of the comments read. I breastfed my twins as long as I could stay sane with a two year old son running around, and had to make the purely logical and loving reasoning to switch to formula for the good of everyone, including my babies & husband. You cannot assume that every woman will be able to exclusively breastfeed her children, especially when her children are in multiples or have allergies/sicknesses that prevent them from even being able to digest the breastmilk. Giving a baby "inferior breast milk" doesn't make a mother "inferior" herself, which is what your article made me feel like.

CappuccinoLife said...

You can "feel" whatever you like, but Anna did not say you are an inferior mother.

Formula is a good and useful substitute when breastmilk is not possible. A good mother is one who does what is best for her kids, and that may include using formula, as there are many reasons breastfeeding is not possible.

Pointing out the fact that breastmilk is the better and more healthful option, when possible, has absolutely nothing to do with the character of a mother, regardless of how she feeds her baby. Pointing out the shenanigans of the formula companies and their marketing says nothing about the character of mothers who purchase formula.

My kids do not eat organic foods. I believe that the less processed and closer to nature food is, the better it is for us. I believe that processed food is generally inferior in nutrition to whole and organic food. But I do not believe that I'm an inferior mother because I cook up boxed pasta and frozen vegetables and meat from a bag. I'm doing the best I can with the resources available to me at this moment. That's all I can do, and that is all I need to do in order to be a good mother. That's all any of us can do.