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Paediatricians should recognise the influence of infant formula milk companies and avoid intentionally or inadvertently promoting them
The promotion of breast feeding is a high priority for most paediatricians, yet many, inadvertently, assist infant formula milk companies (IFMCs) in their marketing, thereby undermining breast feeding. This article examines how infant formula manufacturers achieve this and how such promotion can be avoided.
WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT
It is now known that the use of infant formula instead of breast milk is one of the most important causes of preventable mortality in infancy world wide.1–,3 However, there is growing evidence that this is not just an issue for poorer countries. Research in the United Kingdom has shown associations with increased morbidity,4,5 reduced later intelligence quotient (IQ),6 and increased risk of adult ill health,7 and a recent paper from the United States showed an association with excess infant mortality.8 This places the use of infant formula high among the avoidable risks to health to which children in the United Kingdom are exposed. Yet in the United Kingdom, breast feeding rates are stagnant, after encouraging rises in recent decades, and there is a clear social class disparity, which means that children in the poorest families, already facing multiple adversities, predominantly start life without the protective benefits of breast milk.9 Globally, breast feeding is also under threat, with signs of reverses in rates of exclusive breast feeding in many countries.10
WHY INFANT FORMULA MANUFACTURERS SPONSOR PAEDIATRICIANS
Infant formula manufacturers have a duty to their shareholders to maximise sales of their products, which by definition means minimising exposure of infants to breast milk. Hence while publicly stating their commitment to breast feeding, as required by law, IFMCs are, in fact profiting from the failure of breast feeding. With growing knowledge of the hazards of infant formula, …
Competing interests: AJRW is an unpaid adviser to Baby Milk Action which campaigns to reduce unethical marketing by infant formula manufacturers