New technologies reuse old marketing tactics to undermine breastfeeding


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Nestlé Advertisement, 1911. Credit: Nestlé

New products that they claim to replicate breast milk they have entered the lucrative infant formula market.

To anthropologist and academic in public health who studies , these claims seem to be based on old patterns of misleading scientific statements and reveal the power of marketing to exploit the gaps created by inadequate social support for breastfeeding.

The costs of undermining breastfeeding are enormous. Worldwide, more than 823,000 child deaths it could be prevented annually with proper breastfeeding. Besides, 20,000 maternal deaths could be avoided every year worldwide against breast cancer. Poor communities of color around the world take on this damage disproportionately.

The rise of the commercial formula

Throughout most of history and all cultures, communities understood that breastfeeding guaranteed the best opportunity to survive and prosper. Breastfeeding continued, on average, from two to four years, with caregivers introducing new foods while continuing to breastfeed.

Attempts to completely replace , usually with animal milk and groats, were relatively rare. These attempts were more frequent when mothers were sick or dead and caregivers could not locate a lactating woman. Compared to breastfeeding, replacement feeding reduced the chances of babies surviving..

Efforts to imitate it increased with the rise of scientific thought and industrial capitalism in Europe and the United States in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Mass migration to urban centers eroded community support and poor working conditions made breastfeeding difficult.

From the first announcement patented in 1865 by Justus von Liebig, formula makers relied on science to earn the trust of medical providers and they argue that their products were as good as—Or even superior to— human milk. A study prepared and published by Nestlé in 1878 stated that breast milk was deficient in key nutrients and infants 6 to 8 weeks old already needed supplements with Nestlé food.

Doctors used to claim that they supported breastfeeding while undermining it in practice with poor advice and a growing focus on formula feeding. Pioneering American pediatrician Emmett Holt defended its own method of making formulas. In his best-selling book, first published in 1894, Holt claimed that children could be harmed by breast milk that was corrupted by emotions. Holt also advised mothers to schedule brief breastfeeding sessions and to limit physical contact. These tips prevented the physiology of breastfeeding, which is based on frequent, sensitive feeds and close contact, and which contributed to a growing dependence on supplementation with formulas.

Doctors ultimately they incorporate formulas into their routine medical practices and institutionalized them in hospital delivery protocols.

Worldwide dissemination

In the first half of the twentieth century, colonial administrations spread these new standards and “scientific” child care products around the world. They saw how to feed on a bottle solution to infant mortality, disease and malnutrition—And, finally, in response to the shortage of labor in the colonies.

In the 1950s, Nestlé used sophisticated marketing techniques in Europe drastically expand its market in Africa, Asia and other parts of the world. The growing number of child deaths associated with the use of these products attracted international attention and ultimately led to the Boycott Nestlé in 1977.

Nestlé’s practices were not unique among formula makers. Growing concern for role of inappropriate marketing practices in declining rates of breastfeeding and infant illness and death led to the development of International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes, which was adopted by the World Health Assembly 40 years ago, in 1981. The US was the United States the only nation that voted against it, driven by formula pressure efforts.

Benefits of milking

In the 1950s and 1970s, multiple social movements were nurtured increased interest in breastfeeding in the US. Medical experts supported these movements with a growing body scientific research demonstrating the importance of breastfeeding for child, infant and maternal health. But despite that significant gains in breastfeeding in some environments, such as the US, the formula industry continues to expand.

Between 2005 and 2019, global formula sales increased 121%, led by middle-income countries. The global industry is currently valued at US $ 50.6 billion i it is expected to double in 2026.

Formula makers are engaged billions of dollars every year in marketing which co-opts the scientific and medical authority i undermines global breastfeeding. These marketing practices do continued to challenge the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes.

As in the nineteenth century, formula marketing yet presents breastfeeding as an intrinsic problem, unreliable process to which the formula provides the solution.

However, most of the challenges of breastfeeding, such as the perception of insufficient milk and the difficulties faced by breastfeeding workers, are the product. structural and social conditions which can be addressed by invest in policies offering quality perinatal care, skilled support in breastfeeding, parental leave and workplace accommodation for breastfeeding parents.

More than a meal

Formula companies focus on human milk as the only important element of breastfeeding and claim a near equivalence between their product and human milk. Still, human milk is a living substance that sustains life with one long evolutionary history and cultural significance.

Human milk is specific to our species. Is dynamic and adaptive—Changeable in response to local environments. Human milk contains bioactive compounds and has a unique microbiome that varies according to configuration and over time. New technology, included the cultivation of human cells, cannot replicate any of this.

Through complex interactions between mothers, babies, and their communities, breastfeeding provides babies optimal nutrition and protection against infectious diseases. Through cultures, breastfeeding and human milk are created relationships that link families and communities together.

Families need accurate information without commercial influence to make informed decisions about breastfeeding. I think when it is not possible or desirable to breastfeed, families could benefit from human milk donor. Government investment in policies Protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding remains key to creating an environment in which breastfeeding can thrive.

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