How Does Baby Food Marketing Affect Mothers’ Decision to Breastfeed Their Babies?

There are unique factors that affect breastfeeding behavior in developing and developed countries. Studies show that pediatric and maternal diseases such as colic and maternal infection in babies are critical factors affecting breastfeeding in developing countries, unlike developed countries. In developing countries, mothers with breast infections, swelling, pain, or chronic conditions, or babies with congenital or acquired diseases are less likely to breastfeed.

Environmental factors also have a major impact on breastfeeding in developing countries, due to limited electricity to cool breast milk and fear of contamination due to unhealthy eating environments common in some underdeveloped regions. Unlike developing countries that face major challenges directly related to maternal and child health, the main effects of breastfeeding practices in developed countries stem from health systems, political and social factors.

However, in both developing and developed countries, there is an interaction between individual maternal characteristics, interpersonal, societal and societal factors, such as policies and legislation that affect the mother’s decision to initiate and continue breastfeeding. It may be difficult for mothers to continue breastfeeding even after they have started due to sociodemographic, sociodemographic, social-cultural and systematic factors that do not support breastfeeding practices.

Baby Food Marketing

Women entering the workforce and the introduction of large-scale baby food brands have drastically changed baby feeding practices. Providing free samples of baby food in maternity facilities and encouraging breast milk substitutes by the media and healthcare providers have been shown to reduce the prevalence of breastfeeding. Studies show that among mothers who viewed and remembered a baby food ad, compared with mothers who did not watch the advertisements, infant formula use was twice as high.

Media, including marketing and advertising, influence social norms, which are shared beliefs about acceptable behavior within a social group. The media also influence attitudes towards behavior and tend to resort to common values ​​and perceptions to form opinions and increase profits. For example, in 1997 Tabitha Walrond, a young black mother, was convicted of negligent murder after her 2-month-old child died of malnutrition. The mother was unaware that breast reduction surgery years ago would result in insufficient breast milk.

Years later, Walrond’s case was portrayed in “Chicago Hope,” a popular television show that showed breastfeeding to be potentially fatal. However, the episode depicted white and middle-class parents (a more “attractive” demographic) who were criminally investigated following the death of a child breastfed as a result of malnutrition. Instead of showing the Friendly Hospital Initiative as a successful breastfeeding effort, the department argued that the initiative led to infant deaths as a result of malnutrition by forcing mothers to breastfeed. Worryingly, the seizure has also been found to be a game by pharmaceutical companies to inform the public about the risks associated with breastfeeding.

Baby food ads also appeal to common maternal experiences, and there are often concerns that suggest that breast milk substitutes have ingredients that improve infant intelligence, solve digestive issues, and even help babies sleep through the night. Such claims have not been confirmed by research. However, research has recognized the association of breastfeeding with higher intelligence and lower risk of gastrointestinal disease and many other health benefits.

Digestive problems such as colic are not less common than formula-fed babies, and formula-fed babies have not been found to sleep more than breast-fed babies. Hunger is one of the many causes of crying in babies, so infant formula is not associated with reduced baby crying response. Moreover, the media are often driven by profits and audience protests. External pressures from the aggressive marketing of infant formula and food-related media messages can affect the mother’s intention to breastfeed and provide the most appropriate diet for her child. Over-marketing of infant formula and misrepresentation of breastfeeding can undermine the importance of breastfeeding by spreading biased information and reducing the mother’s confidence in her ability to breastfeed.

Baby food is often portrayed as a viable solution for a lifestyle that is as good as breastfeeding and suitable for working mothers. Labels shown on baby food often include descriptions such as the “gold standard” and pictures depicting happy babies. This type of labeling implies positive health and developmental benefits while ignoring the potential economic and health consequences associated with formula feeding. But families of breastfed babies may experience economic benefits as well as health benefits. Baby food can cost more than $ 1500 during a baby’s first year of life, but breastfeeding women avoid the significant cost burden.

Breastfed babies also need less medical attention, resulting in fewer medical expenses and fewer workdays missed for parents. One study found that a group of formula-fed infants accrued $ 68,000 in healthcare costs over a 6-month period, while an equal number of breastfeeding infants incurred similar medical costs of only $ 4,000. Breastfeeding is also better for the environment because less waste is produced compared to the waste from food products and bottle consumables.

The media can play an important role in spreading these kinds of truthful and positive messages about breastfeeding. Media campaigns that are short, reach the target audience and are shown on appropriate channels (eg radio, television, social media) that appeal to the target audience, adapted to the needs and values ​​of the target audience are the most successful. However, formula companies tend to make unconfirmed claims about breast milk substitutes and use trusted healthcare professionals to promote infant formula. Providing free samples of baby food in maternity facilities and encouraging breast milk substitutes by the media and healthcare providers have also been shown to reduce the prevalence of breastfeeding.

Baby food companies attract new consumers by providing free samples and information on breast milk substitutes to pregnant and new mothers through their providers and hospital facilities. Doctors are often the most undisputed advisers on infant health and nutrition, making them the most important tool for promoting infant formula. Formula companies give doctors free or discounted products in exchange for doctors who recommend and encourage baby food brands to pregnant and new mothers. Many hospitals provide new mothers with packages with free infant formula and vouchers upon discharge from the hospital.

The marketing tactics used by formula companies led to international disapproval based on the claim that formula marketing leads to preventable infant deaths. International opposition prompted WHO and UNICEF to develop the International Code of Marketing for Breast Milk Substitutes. The law prohibits unethical marketing of infant formula as equal to or superior to breast milk and restricts the promotion of infant formula by medical practices.


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