Formula Marketers May Undermine Breastfeeding: A Preliminary Analysis of Social Media Marketing of Infant Formula


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Digital marketing-versus print advertising, product labels, and television commercials-is uniquely problematic today in that marketers are able to aggressively reach a pregnant woman with personalized content early and constant, which may undermine breastfeeding, according to a preliminary analysis of social media marketing of infant formula by the Berkeley Media Studies Group (BMSG) in September 2016.

Breastfeeding is good for mothers and babies, and it’s free; however, Latina moms face many barriers when attempting to reach their personal breastfeeding goals, one of which is the widespread marketing of infant formula, thus they have lower breastfeeding rates and are burdened by health disparities.

Researchers found “a number of examples of formula companies using social media to tap into the emotional and psychological aspects of parenting by, for example, evoking positive values (like choice or freedom from judgement), providing parenting tips, or aligning themselves with parents’ dream for their children.”

In 1982 The World Health Organization adopted the “International code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes” to ban marketing and promotion that idealize artificial feeding. The United States did not sign on to the code.

BMSG aims to address the research gap of the understudied and poorly understood digital marketing of infant formula.

One thing researchers do know is that baby food marketing to Latino parents does not align with expert opinion.

Spread the word to raise awareness about the need to uncover and understand how formula marketers may undermine breastfeeding, and consequently the health of mothers, children and the generations that follow.

Read a creative non-fiction essay, Jaws, The Milk-drinking Kind, from public health crusader, Stephanie Pitsirilos-Boquin, where motherhood, pop culture, mythology, public health advocacy, feminism, and humor meet.

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