A (not so) little rant about infant formula

infant-formula-lifebylotte I'm typing this with a small person asleep on my chest, so apologies if there are any typos. I realised recently that I'd been ranting non-stop IRL to people about infant formula. Baby milk. Whatever you want to call it. So I thought I should rant about it on here instead.

Anyway, it wasn't something I thought much about before having a baby, obviously. I assumed I'd exclusively breastfeed - free, convenient and good for both of us! But then all sorts of unexpected things occurred, of which I'll write more another day. And so I found myself in the unfamiliar baby aisle in Sainsbury's, searching for something to feed my poor tiny daughter, who was so underweight when she was born.

First off, I was surprised to see that a 1 litre bottle of Cow & Gate ready-mixed formula cost £2.90. Everywhere. I went online but every single stockist sells it at the same price. Curious, I thought.

I was also surprised to see that you're only allowed to buy two bottles/cartons of formula at any one time (oh hello rationing! thought we left you behind in the 1950s). Also curious.

Furthermore, I was slightly horrified to see that on the packaging, it reminded me (in a manner not dissimilar to the warnings on a cigarette packet) that BREASTMILK WAS BETTER FOR MY BABY.


I am aware that breastmilk is (marginally) better for my baby. I do not need a carton making me feel (even more) guilty about it every single time I pour my daughter something to eat.

I did some digging into these curiosities and discovered there's an actual LAW about formula milk. Ostensibly to prevent those evil formula companies from encouraging you to formula feed over breastfeeding. However, to my mind it seems more likely that it's a money saving scheme for the government - they don't want to encourage those on benefits to use formula. Whatever their reasoning, it's certainly not in the best interests of parents.

If you're interested, the formula legislation basically says: a) you can't ever advertise infant formula (the ads you see on telly are for follow-on milk, which is for older babies and is OK, but note how they still mention that BREASTMILK IS BETTER); b) and on that note, it's a legal requirement that formula companies explain on the bottles that BREASTMILK IS BETTER; c) stores can never discount formula (basically it is price fixed), include it in 'buy one get one free' promotions or suchlike; and d) formula is not eligible for points on store loyalty cards.

Better still, in the legislation it says on the packaging you can't put:

• Pictures of infants, young children or carers (e.g. mothers or fathers). • Graphics that represent nursing mothers and pregnant women. • Pictures or text which imply that infant health, happiness or well being, or the health, happiness and wellbeing of carers, is associated with infant formula. • References to infant’s or carer’s emotions. • Baby or child related subjects (e.g. toys, cots or young animals) and anthropomorphic characters, pictures and logos.

The pathetic patronising pettiness (sidenote: angry alliteration FTW) of this makes me want to scream.

Basically the government wants to make it as difficult and unpleasant as possible for you to use infant formula. How fucked up is that?

I hate this legislation. I think it's dreadful and evil and unfair and makes poor mothers desperate to feed their children feel awful every time they open a bottle or a carton.

Infant formula was invented years ago to save the lives of babies whose mothers, for whatever reason, could not nourish them sufficiently with their breastmilk. It is a lifesaver, literally. Why is it being treated like a poison?

There are now some people making noises about putting formula milk on prescription. Few things have made me angrier than hearing this. What do they expect parents to do - wait till their babies are half starved to death before taking them, sick, to their doctor for them to 'allow' them to use an alternative feeding method?

Since having my daughter, I have been asked repeatedly by healthcare professionals about the state of my 'emotional wellbeing'. At every occasion I have wanted to say that my emotional wellbeing is fine, except for the cruel reminder every time I buy formula that I wasn't able to breastfeed and that if I had I would have been doing BETTER for my baby.

New motherhood is hard enough without being made to feel terrible every time you feed your baby. Plenty of women who want to breastfeed can't. They are not lazy or selfish. They are usually upset about it and emotionally vulnerable. This kind of propaganda is akin to mental torture.