Baby Milk Action’s Look What They’re Doing in the UK monitoring report profiles the major baby feeding product companies and retailers.

I have just added the profile for Medela. This is a breast pump company, which also promotes its Calma feeding bottle with claims such as: “With Calma babies do not have to change their natural behaviour.”

Despite this claim, Medela’s standard response when parents and health workers have posted comments about babies choking using the Calma teat is to explain babies suck on the Calma teat differently to the breast. Medela says, “We’ve found that sometimes Calma takes a little getting used to”.

Bottles and teats are covered by the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and should not be promoted. Unfortunately, the UK law does not include feeding bottles and teats in its scope and companies such as Medela therefore feels able to disregard the Code.

Breast pumps in themselves are not within the scope of the Code, but we believe they should still be marketed responsibly. Medela is supportive of “breast milk feeding” and does not encourage parents to use formula. However, it encourages mothers to use pumps in a way that undermines independent information.

NHS Choices states:

“Some women find it easier to express milk by hand than to use a pump, especially in the first few days or weeks. It also means you won’t have to buy or borrow a pump, or rely on an electricity supply. Hand expressing allows you to encourage milk to flow from a particular part of the breast. This may be useful, for example, if one of the milk ducts in your breast becomes blocked.”

This is missing from Medela’s information, which goes to show how information on infant feeding is manipulated when a company has a product to sell. For this reason there is a self-evident conflict of interest when health organisations enter into sponsorship or other financial arrangements with pump companies.

Baby Milk Action has never accepted corporate funding of any kind so as to maintain our independence (we rely on income from our members and supporters, charitable trusts and development organisations).

However, within the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) there has been debate in the past on where to draw the line, particularly as some groups are involved in mother support.

IBFAN and its member groups do not accept funding or have any commercial links with manufacturers or distributors of breast pumps as these present conflicts of interest, whether or not the marketing practices violate the International Code. IBFAN recognises that in some situations pumps are useful in order to provide breastmilk for infants and young children when mothers and babies are separated. For some mothers pumps are useful and we respect their decision to use them.

IBFAN has taken steps to ensure that its post holders have no commercial links to pump companies.

We monitor the industry without fear or favour. If you would like us to continue in this work, please consider:

 

  • One thought on “Medela marketing and conflicts of interest

    • 12/07/2017 at 1:31 am
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      Well done. This is an important update. Many of these marketing tactics are used by Medela worldwide, and the information about the Family Larrson-Rosenquist Foundation’s lack of arms length status is also important, since Medela has funded research to explore the use of stem cells in breastmilk as medicine. Thank you, especially, for taking steps to ensure that your post holders do not have commercial links to pump companies.

      Reply

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