Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Is there anything more despicable than stealing a baby’s milk?

Supplementing with powdered milk formula unnecessarily can reduce mothers’ breast-milk flow.

Is there anything more despicable than stealing a baby’s milk? Danone appears to have no such qualms, according to The Independent. The company identified the baby-milk market in Turkey – with a population of 73 million, a relatively high birth rate and salaries on the rise – as one with major potential. But traditionally Turkey had high rates of breastfeeding – and no tradition of using formula milk. So it set about creating one.

In 2009 Numil, Danone’s baby nutrition arm in Turkey, enlisted 577 paediatricians to measure the breast-milk production of mothers of children aged six months.  The company then attempted to calculate a figure for the amount of breast milk a mother should be providing their child. Numil took a WHO bulletin, which referred to an independent research paper on the energy children need to get from complementary food after six months of age. The paper was not designed to prove how much breast milk a child needs, and the resulting figure is not recognised as a recommendation for a breastfeeding child by international authorities.

Danone then launched a marketing campaign to promote the 500ml figure – which it inaccurately claimed was a WHO recommendation – with the slogan, “Half a litre every day”. The message was promoted on TV, online and in supermarkets. One television ad stated: “Your baby needs at least 500ml milk per day. If your breast milk is not enough, give Aptamil formula to support your baby’s immune system.”

At the same time, Danone publicised an online test it had developed so mothers could check if they were providing 500ml. The test asks mothers questions about the frequency and duration of breastfeeding. Thousands of women have filled it in – and according to Danone, most have so far been given the result that they are not providing 500ml. The advice to those who are deemed to be providing less than 500ml is to use formula.

Dr Colin Michie, chairman of the British Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s nutrition committee explained  “Mothers who follow Danone’s advice could end up moving their babies on to formula milk unnecessarily.”

Dr Helen Crawley, director of First Steps Nutrition Trust, said. “The relatively high exclusive breastfeeding rates in Turkey may be undermined by any campaign which suggests a volume that may sound unachievable.”

Dr Gonca Yilmaz, director of one of the biggest paediatric units in Turkey, also condemned the campaign. “The health benefits of breast milk are enormous and mothers must not be pressured into buying formula based on inaccurate advice.”

Capitalism will do anything for profit, even as far as stooping so low as to pluck a baby from its mother's’ breast.

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