259724 Discovering Women's Understanding of Infant Formula Advertising

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 : 5:15 PM - 5:30 PM

Kathleen Parry, MPH, IBCLC, LMBT , Department of Maternal and Child Health, UNC Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health, Chapel Hill
Emily C. Taylor, MPH, CD(DONA), LCCE , Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute, Department of Maternal and Child Health, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC
Miriam Labbok, MD, MPH, FACPM, IBCLC, FABM , Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute, Department of Maternal Child Health, Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
ABSTRACT Background: Exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding to at least one year is recommended by all major health organizations. While 74.6% of mothers initiate breastfeeding at birth, exclusivity and duration remain significantly lower than national goals, and the gap between initiation and exclusivity is widening. Empirical evidence suggests that exposure to infant formula marketing contributes to supplementation and premature cessation. This study explores how women interpret infant formula advertising to aid understanding of this association. Methods: Four focus groups were structured to include women with similar childbearing experience divided according to reproductive status: pre-conceptional, pregnant, exclusive breastfeeders and formula-feeders. Facilitators used a prepared protocol to guide discussion of infant formula advertisements. Authors conducted a thematic content analysis with special attention to women's statements about what they believe the advertisements say about how the products relate to breastmilk (superiority, inferiority, similarity) and how they report reacting to these interpretations. Results: Participants reported that the advertisements conveyed an expectation of failure with breastfeeding and the notion that they would need to use formula at some point. After viewing the advertisements, women reported the perception that formula is a solution to fussiness, spit-up, gas and other normal infant behaviors. Participants reported that the advertisements were confusing in terms of how formula-feeding is superior, inferior or the same as breastfeeding. These concerns were exacerbated by awareness of distribution by healthcare providers and institutions, suggesting provider endorsement of infant formula. Conclusion: Formula marketing decreases mothers' confidence in breastfeeding, especially when formula or advertising is provided by healthcare providers and institutions. Therefore, responsible perinatal educators and providers are advised to stop offering infant formula advertising.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
1. Define current situation/problem with regard to infant formula advertising and breastfeeding rates 2. Explain key research findings of women’s understanding of infant formula advertising 3. Describe concerning ramifications of these interpretations for maternal and infant health 4. Identify recommendations for public and private decision makers regarding infant formula advertising

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I organized and conducted this research as my summer internship with the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute. I analyzed the data and am first author on the report generated from the research findings.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.