We live in a world where the symbol for baby is bottle.
Type baby into your phone and more often than not, the suggested emoji is a bottle. We live in a world where if we say anything anti-formula, we are accused of shaming formula feeding parents when this is just not the case. We live in a world where we are so out of touch with nature and our instincts that we know more about the different brands of formula than we do about our breastmilk.
Worst of all, it's not even our fault.
We have all grown up in a world where baby equals bottle. We are conditioned, even in early years, to associate babies with bottles. Go to a toy shop and look at the dolls. In children's stories, when baby is hungry, baby is given a bottle. It's so hardwired into our heads that nature's way of feeding our babies is no longer the norm. The breastfeeding rates in Ireland are shamefully low, the most recently recorded data shows that only 46.3% of babies were being exclusively breastfed at birth. This figure then fell to 15% by 6 months of age.
The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes 1981, often referred to as the World Health Organisation (WHO) code is a marketing code that came into effect to protect breastfeeding, to protect all mothers and babies from the aggressive marketing tactics of the formula industry. Formula is life-saving and absolutely vital in situations where breastfeeding is not possible. The WHO code prohibits things such as; manufacturers advertising and promoting infant formula and the advertising of baby bottles and teats. It prohibits only the marketing of these things, not the sale or use of them. So in shops where infant formula is being sold, it cannot be put on discounted special offer, cannot be included in a special display and there may be no shelf talkers on the shelves where the formula is - in other words, there can be nothing that draws the customer's eye to the infant formula and no discounts that could cause formula feeding parents to change from brand to brand based on which is cheapest at any given time.
But formula manufacturers weren't going to give up there.
Then came the introduction of stage 2 formula, a formula that was created by formula companies as a means to bypass the code. It is not marketed as an infant formula but as a follow-on milk (from 6 months) so manufacturers are free to advertise and promote their brand without being in breach of the code. In Irelan, the code is not fully enforced so formula companies are able to sponsor baby events such as the annual Pregnancy and Baby Fair in the RDS Dublin further promoting their brands. Manufacturers going to these aggressive lengths in order to promote their brands is what makes a tub of formula so expensive.
The WHO code does not advocate against parents choosing to use formula, however, it does require that all parents are given complete and factual information about infant feeding - both breastfeeding and formula feeding and unfortunately, in Ireland, we are not. Parents are not informed of the increased risks of obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, leukemia and sudden infant death syndrome associated with formula feeding or taught about the correct preparation of formula. Parents are not informed of the struggles that lots of breastfeeding mothers experience in the first weeks, they are not taught about what is in breastmilk and why it is the better option for babies.
Why is the code not fully enforced though?
Because the dairy industry in Ireland is huge - because the average dairy farmer in Ireland is said to have earned in excess of €80,000 in 2017 - because the Government is strongly invested in this profitable industry and because formula is part of the dairy industry and 15% of the worlds formula comes from Ireland. So it's no surprise that the Government isn't in any hurry to do anything to upset the industry.
So when people say they hate formula companies, it is not because they hate formula itself, it is not because they want to shame formula feeding parents, it is because the industry behind formula is so ruthless.
Parents are not given the information required to make a fully informed decision when it comes to infant feeding. We are bombarded with the baby - bottle association wherever we go. When mothers choose to breastfeed, they are often frowned upon because we are so conditioned to accept the sight of a baby being fed a bottle and not fed by a breast. The lack of information and support given to breastfeeding mothers makes their choice to breastfeed often tough at the beginning.
The fact that so many mothers who intend on breastfeeding don't achieve their own goals due to lack of information and support. All of this boils down to the WHO code not being fully enforced.
Do your own research, inform and empower yourself. Don't make decisions based on what is happening around you or what you've been conditioned into accepting. Make the right decision for you and your baby.
Let me know what you think about the issues raised in this topic.