Table 2

Themes and subthemes

Theme 1: It’s all about the brand.
1.1 Importance of choosing a trusted brand.‘To be honest, I think most of it just came up from actually what I'd seen over just my lifetime of adverts actually and TV things, and what became like a familiar sort of brand that you'd heard of. So, I'd seen a lot of [brand X] adverts, I’d seen a lot of I think it’s the [Brand Y] one as well, I’ve seen quite a few adverts…It’s actually literally just been from advertising, sort of, I guess a trusted brand name that you've kind of heard, especially being a new mum, you want something you know.’ (P14, 2 months)
1.2 Caution over swapping brands.‘If she wasn’t happy with it then, yes I would have changed but she actually likes it. She is very, very healthy so I just stayed with the [Brand X]. (P01, 27 months)
1.3 Information sources for brand choice.‘It was more friends and family rather than the midwife with what formula feed is best….They were saying [Brand X] was best with less chance of getting colic for the babies, so in the end they said [Brand X] has got the same breast nutritions in it too.’ (P25, 0.5 months)
1.4 Identifying the best product.‘it definitely appeased something in me that I was getting [Brand X]…. I thought in my head at that time, well, if I was going to formula feed, then I had the best on the market and that was it. But, if I wasn’t a mum at 4am in [supermarket], I would tell myself that is absolute nonsense, and there’s probably little to no difference in any of them’. (P09, 8 months)
Theme 2: Formula stages exist for a reason.
2.1 It’s best to follow the labels.‘with my other two I put them onto cows’ milk at one. But I know now [Brand X] has stage three and it’s got more vitamins in it. So, depending on how money is I might, we might carry on with stage three but it is so expensive [laughs] not going to lie.’ (P15, 3 months)
‘I find that information quite confusing actually because some of the products market formula milk that you’re meant to start at 6 months and then some of the guidance is actually you’re weaning solids at 6 months but keeping them on the same milk. So yes, no, we need to do some research on that, I need some more guidance on that.’ (P17, 4 months)
2.2 Different stages are surely different somehow.‘I don't know what the difference is with the toddler milks to be honest. But for me, because I'm an anxious person, if it said don’t use it, use this after six months and use this after a year, I would go by what it said, rather than using my own judgement type thing.’ (P18, 15 months)
‘I asked the health visitor and she just said, “Oh keep him on stage one, that’s fine.” But then I’m like, that’s all well and good but why is there then a stage two? She didn’t explain.’ (P23, 8 months)
2.3 Confusion over specialist formula.'the [Brand X] Comfort – what does that one say on it? “For colic”. Okay.’ (P12, 10 months)
‘so the Comfort I know is good if they suffer with constipation or reflux…and obviously [Brand X] Lactose Free would be good if you thought they had an allergy.’ (P08, 8 months)
‘[Brand X] Comfort is like the one for keeping the babies fuller for longer.’ (P13, 8 months)
Theme 3: Presentation matters.
3.1 Overall appearance tells a story.‘you want to make sure they are getting the best, I suppose and you want to have some faith in the product. I don’t think [Brand X] product really screams─ I don’t know. I don’t know. I just don’t like it. I look at it and I think it’s childish.’ (P20, 3 months)
3.2 Expensive-looking products are better, aren’t they?‘It is up to you, I suppose, to do your research. Because if they are all the same, then why don’t we just go for the cheapest? That’s the question. We are programmed to think one is better than the other and they are probably not, are they?’ (P12, 10 months)
3.3 Messages that sell.‘to me, “leading baby nutrition research for over 100 years” is way more important, and way more grabbing and confidence building. There’s certain things you would just expect there to be and Omega 3 and 6 is probably one of the things that I would just not be shocked is in there, that’s great. What would sway me more to buy this is definitely if they’re leaders for 100 years.’ (P09, 8 months)
‘for me that was something I would look quite closely, as a breastfeeding mum, on the packaging if it says it’s “breastfeeding friendly”, it tells me that it’s really close, in like to likeness to breastmilk.’ (P12, 10 months) [‘Breastmilk substitute’ was written on product viewed]
‘[Brand X logo] stands out because it’s very simple but it proper stands out. It looks like a mother but then her breast, so it’s showing it’s similar to breast milk.’ (P25, 0.5 months)
‘the M in the middle kind of looks like a breast feeding mum so I kind of look at that and think oh maybe it’s good because it’s kind of got that breast feeding association with it so you are giving a pure feed kind of, that’s kind of what I get from seeing that.’ (P10, 9 months)
  • P refers to participant number; months refers to the age of child consuming commercial milk formula (CMF).