I could kick myself. I find myself humming the tune to the Cow & Gate advert today. The one telling you to feed their personalities…with purees, mush and follow on substitutes! ‘Come on Eileen’, the track originally by Dexy’s Midnight Runners, it’s catchy, I find myself being drawn in by the cute super-group of babies.
Now that I am more savvy towards formula, formula companies and the whole charade of their advertising strategies, I understand that these commercials are no longer just cute and catchy, but carry a more sinister subliminal messaging system.
Since the World Health Organization adopted The International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes in 1981 there have been strict rules on infant formula marketing and advertising. The problem with the code is, it is just a code, not a law. It is down to the individual governments to legislate and implement the code.
In 1995 in the UK, it became illegal to advertise infant formula, for use from birth to six months with the introduction of new legislation The Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula (England) Regulations.
So what exactly have I been seeing on the TV and in the magazines?
Well, the regulations surrounding formula did not include follow on milk, and the formula companies took advantage this loophole.
Statutory Instruments 2007 No. 3521,The Infant Formula and Follow-on Formula (England) Regulations states for the avoidance of the risk of confusion between infant formula and follow-on formula that… Infant formula and follow-on formula shall be labelled in such a way that it enables consumers to make a clear distinction between such products so as to avoid any risk of confusion between infant formula and follow on formula.
But as you can see from the photographs below, the packaging is almost identical for infant formula and follow on milks, so infant formula is by association being promoted in a seemingly legal advertisements.
This puffs formula powder in the face of the original legislation and the protection it should be giving to the womanly art of breast feeding.
The advert got me wondering what exactly makes follow on milk so popular. Is there any goodness to it, or is it just another way for the formula companies to keep the money pouring in.
The main difference between infant formula and follow on milk is the type of milk protein used. Infant formula has a higher whey content. Follow on milk has a higher casein content. Casein is harder for the stomach to digest, so it sits in babies stomach for even longer than whey based formula, keeping them fuller for longer, which is why these milks are sometimes labelled for hungry babies or nighttime feeds. NHS Choices. 2012. Types of formula. [online] http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/Pages/types-of-infant-formula.aspx#close
Follow on milks also claim to contain all of the vitamins that a growing child needs and all of the iron that they require. So how necessary is all of this iron if your child is fed a balanced and healthy diet?
The iron in breast milk is quite clever. It is bound to lactoferrin a protein which aids absorption of the iron. Together with the high content of lactase and vitamin c in breast milk, iron is highly bio available (close to 50%). Being bound to the lactoferrin also means that free iron is not floating around in baby’s gut feeding other bacteria and organisms because of its bacteriostatic and bactericidal effects.
Follow on milk has impressively high levels of iron, but this isn’t matched with the other bits like lactase, lactoferrin and vitamin c. This means that the percentage of iron absorbed is relatively low (around 12%), but also is the perfect feeding ground for iron loving organisms like e-coli which in turn can cause gastrointestinal problems in little people, like constipation and diarrhea.
it seems more and more likely that follow on milk was was designed to promote the formula brands. In line with the advertising laws for formula, infant formula is not included in any in store promotions, displays, price reductions, special offers or even store points like Boots advantage points. Follow on milk circumnavigates all of these issues, it is cheaper, and most importantly can raise the visibility of formula ranges.
So what have I learnt. Babies obviously need plenty of iron, especially over six months old. If not from breast milk then it needs to come from formula. But wherever possible, and as soon as possible, wouldn’t it be best ti ideally get babies iron from a varied and healthy diet. I think that should be the goal to keep in mind.