Marketing Formula to Moms of Babies Should Be Illegal

indonesian mother and babyWe’ve talked about the sometimes insidious effect of formula marketing before. Obviously, many moms, like me, are glad formula is there to turn to when stress and illness make it difficult to exclusively breastfeed our kids. But the formula companies sometimes go too far, especially in other parts of the world, where moms get the message that formula is superior to breast milk. This can cause major long-term health problems, particularly in places where there isn’t reliably clean water to mix with the formula.

Well, one country is taking a stand and making formula marketing illegal.

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It's now illegal to market formula in Indonesia to moms of babies under 1 year. Is this a good idea? It may be. Could it happen here? Doubtful.

Indonesia is in the midst of a baby crisis. Only about 14 percent of their babies are exclusively breastfed, and rates are dropping precipitously (sometimes 10 percent in one year). And it’s not poverty that’s changing things -- it’s wealth, as women enter the work place or have enough extra income to pay for expensive formula. As marketing targets moms, formula actually becomes something of a status symbol.

Marketers of the kinds of formula available in Indonesia are already on board with the new regulations, with no babies under the age of 1 shown in their ads. Still, almost 40 percent of Indonesian babies show stunted growth, and there are high levels of malnutrition and child mortality. And even though hospitals are banned from handing out formula to new moms, they still do it; hospital workers are rarely trained to help women figure out when their milk comes in, how to handle latching on, or any other lactation support.

Seems like rather than fining the formula companies, they should put their efforts into educating the doctors and nurses (and worrying more about formula companies marketing directly to doctors), but one step at a time, I suppose.

Do you think this will improve child health in Indonesia? Do you think formula marketing changes women's minds about whether they will breastfeed?


Image via Cillian Storm/Flickr

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