In the run-up to World Breastfeeding Week you might be surprised to find that many leading formula companies use this as a chance to push their own agenda and put down breastfeeding – all to drive sales of their products. Year on year I see this hijacking of World Breastfeeding Week happen yet it never ceases to astonish me. It’s inappropriate, and here’s why.
First up, Kendamil
The first I’ve seen this year – and will undoubtedly be followed by others – is from Kendamil!
Kendamil have posted that during World Breastfeeding week they will be “shaking things up” and talking about why parents chose to formula feed – yes you read that right!!
They also had the sheer audacity to tag #WBW2021 alongside the vile rhetoric that is #fedisbest – but that’s another article In itself (will be coming shortly).
So what’s the problem?
World Breastfeeding Week runs between 1st-7th August each year, the aim of which is to inform and educate people on the benefits of chest/breastfeeding not only for the infant but for the birth giver too. It is also used to highlight how the correct support is vital for Parents to successfully reach their feeding goals.
Some statistics for you:
- Around 80% of Birth givers initiate Human feeding
- By 6 weeks this percentage has dropped to less than 25%
- Exclusive breastfeeding by 3 months of age is down to less than 15%
- Exclusive breastfeeding at 6 months which is the world health organisation’s recommendation is at a record low of 1%
- 80% of mums/feeding parents surveyed explained they didn’t reach their feeding goals and their chest/breastfeeding journey ended before they wanted it to.
This is a huge issue – lack of support, education and the pushing of myths.
What we need is better support and education
Many parents are simply not educated enough about breastfeeding – how it works, signs of low supply etc. So when inevitably cluster feeding hits parents they often believe that they don’t have a big enough milk supply, that their newborn baby is starving and they must need formula. This is an anecdote I see daily whilst managing a huge breastfeeding group. Often parents are pushed into formula top-ups or giving bottles by not only friends and family but by uneducated health professionals. Instead, they should be given correct and sufficient support to continue their chest/breastfeeding journey.
Often parents are pushed into formula top-ups or giving bottles by not only friends and family but by uneducated health professionals. Instead, they should be given correct and sufficient support to continue their chest/breastfeeding journey.
Allowing anecdotes to be shared on a huge platform can be problematic especially one aimed at promoting the sales of formula to increase profit margins. This only serves to decrease rates of exclusive breastfeeding further. Many parents will state they couldn’t chest/breastfeed for multitudes of reasons but when exploring these reasons, they are simply not reasons to stop at all. This is why the right knowledge and support are key.
Breastfeeding is a public health issue…
Breastfeeding comes with many benefits not only to the infant but to the feeding parent too. The World Health Organisation estimates that if all babies were exclusively breastfed for 6 months that over 800,000 lives could be saved per year mostly being infants under 6 months and around 200,000 maternal deaths each year due to breast cancer.
The benefits include a decreased risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer type 2 diabetes, and heart disease for the feeding parent.
Babies who are never breastfed have a 14x higher risk of death than those who are exclusively breastfed. They are also at lower risk of infections resulting in hospital visits, diarrhoea and vomiting, sudden infant death syndrome, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
Breastfeeding also helps with the child’s immune system. Did you know that within 20 minutes of a feeding parent coming in to contact with a virus their body will start an immune response to the virus and thus be passed on to the feeding child? This is a huge benefit, especially during a pandemic!
Yet despite all this, chest/breastfeeding support is severely lacking around the world and part of the purpose of World Breastfeeding Week is to raise awareness of this deficit. Breastfeeding needs to be made a public health priority and we must all work together to protect chest/breastfeeding.
Are Kendamil alone in their tactics?
Of course not! Less than a couple of weeks ago we saw leading infant formula company Tommee Tippee blatantly undermine breastfeeding in content shared from their website.
The backlash they received for their incorrect representation of breastfeeding went viral on social media and Tommee Tippee quickly issued a public apology. You can read more about this in the article I wrote here.
The backlash they received for their incorrect representation of breastfeeding went viral on social media
If we look back to World Breastfeeding Week 2020, the infant formula brand MAM decided to join in getting anecdotes from mums, advice from midwives and even had a ‘breastfeeding’ expert. Sounds great doesn’t it? Until you look deeper, most midwives have the bare basic training depending on their trust, many won’t’ have much experience with chest/breastfeeding either. And for the so-called breastfeeding expert – they didn’t even get a qualified IBCLC, so not really an expert at all. The person they used is often on television programmes and gives lots of ill advice and outdated misinformation.
Formula companies and bottle paraphernalia companies really need to stay in their own lane and leave World Breastfeeding Week to the experts. There are 51 other weeks in a year where they can push their products. If they really cared about breastfeeding they’d all adhere closely to the WHO Code and market infant formula appropriately.
Final note: Kendamil UK have since removed their World Breastfeeding Week social media post (from Friday 30 July), perhaps due to criticism of their tactics?