Formula Companies Pushing Products in Third-World Countries

Baby formulaNew innovations are being created constantly to make everyday activities more sustainable. And yet at the same time, baby formula companies are pushing products that make life’s most sustainable activity (in every meaning of the word) less sustainable.

In addition to the huge benefit that breastfeeding has on health (including significantly reducing infant mortality), breasts and human nipples are natural and entirely reusable, not to mention completely free! Think of all the resources saved. All the shipping and packaging of formula – totally unneeded. So why are breastfeeding rates dropping, especially in developing countries such as Vietnam where it’s needed most?

According to an article in MSNBC’s Today, the number of Vietnamese mothers who exclusively breast-feed in the first six months is only 17%, less than half what it was a decade ago. Meanwhile, formula sales in Vietnam jumped 39% last year.

Why would this be? Perhaps it’s due to the $10 million spent on advertising for formula last year alone. Making such claims as increasing IQ, and making children taller, the formula companies target new moms from the second they’re pregnant. From sponsoring furniture in prenatal care waiting rooms to bribing doctors to recommend their product.

This aggressive marketing of formula is common across the region, from China to Indonesia to the Philippines. The breast vs. bottle war in Vietnam is just one example how difficult it is for nursing advocates (such as the World Health Organization and the government) in developing countries to win against international companies with large ad budgets and aggressive sales teams.

Perhaps it’s time to turn breastfeeding into a mass sustainability issue rather than one just concerning moms and babies.

Audrey is a freelance copywriter. She has worked with every kind of company, helping them to communicate their message of sustainability. Careful to never greenwash, Audrey believes that transparency in marketing is just as important as branding. And that doing well and doing good are not mutually exclusive. When she's not blogging, marketing sustainability or writing radio commercials for Chinese food, you can find Audrey rock-climbing, riding her bike around San Francisco, or looking for work (she's available for hire, call now!)