(Update: press release 22 September 2015: Nestle-sponsored paediatric society distances itself from corporation as it launches shocking first 1000 days campaign – our original blog article from 16 September responding to the Daily Mail report is archived below).

Update 25 February 2016: Research shows the messages people take from the Brazilian “your child is what you eat” campaign

Brazil is generally very good in promoting breastfeeding and ensuring marketing of breastmilk substitutes (formula) is appropriate. So why is a campaign reported in the Daily Mail this week (15 September 2015) undermining breastfeeding with scare tactics?

This campaign is attributed to the Paediatric Society of Rio Grande do Sul (SPRS) in Brazil (which is sponsored by Nestlé, though the Daily Mail does not mention this fact).

The advertisement states: “Your child is what you eat. Yours habits in the first thousand days of gestation can prevent your child from developing serious diseases. Learn more at sprs.com.br [sic: text on the English version of the advertisements shown on the Daily Mail and other websites. Larger versions here].

The Daily Mail report links the advertisements to a suggestion that good maternal diet can activate a gene that combats cancer, with the implication that if mothers eat hamburgers this may not be activated. Yet the Daily Mail report raises more questions than it answers.

While it links to the SPRS website (Sociedade de Pediatria do Rio Grande do Sul) and this is cited in the advertisement as the source of further information, nothing has been found about the campaign on the website. Our colleagues in Brazil say the campaign has not appeared there.

Why also would a Brazilian campaign have text in English, rather than Portuguese?

The claim “your child is what you eat” is also very simplistic. While the advertisements may worry some mothers into thinking they are better off using formula, formula is made from cow’s milk. Cow’s eat grass. So does that mean a formula-fed child is made of grass?

Nestlé sponsors events organised by SPRS, including the Rio Grande do Sul paediatric congress 2015.  A full page advertisement for Nestlé’s infant formula appears in the society’s current journal (June 2015), claiming Nestlé’s infant formula is “THE BEST FOUNDATION FOR A HEALTHIER FUTURE” (“A MELHOR BASE PARA UM FUTURO MAIS SAUDÁVEL”).

Nestle advertisement in Rio Grande do Sul Paediatric Society Jou


Following the logic of the SPRS campaign, that healthy future is built on the grass the cows ate.

The Daily Mail says the campaign was created by the Brazilian advertising agency Paim. This is based in Porto Alegre in Rio Grande do Sul and, according to the advertising press, the agency won the account for Nestlé’s advertising in the region in 2009. We have asked the agency questions about the background to the campaign and how it has been spread around the world.

There is, at present, little clarity about the involvement of the Brazilian Paediatric Society of Rio Grande do Sul or its sponsor Nestlé in this English-language advertising campaign.

However, in recent years Nestlé has hijacked the message of the importance of nutrition in the first 1000 days. Although WHO and other health advocates raise the importance of breastfeeding during the first two years of life and beyond, Nestlé tells investors its own first 1000 days strategy is about Nestlé product solutions.

The First 1,000 Days: NestlŽ leadership in Infant Nutrition.

While stating “breastfeeding is best” on the above slide, another slide in the presentation boasts Nestlé’s “gentle start” infant formula marketing campaign is a “growth engine” for sales.

NestlŽ leadership in Infant Nutrition.


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    28 thoughts on “Nestle-sponsored paediatric society shocks breastfeeding mothers with Brazilian first 1000 days campaign according to report in the Daily Mail

    • 17/09/2015 at 2:41 am

      Hi, I’m one of the creators of this campaign.
      I would like to point out many inaccuracies in this article:
      1-This campaign WAS NOT sponsored by Nestle in anyway whatsoever. It was comissioned by the Pediatric Society of Rio Grande do Sul (a state in Brazil) to raise awareness about the first 1000 days of a child, from the gestation to the first two years of his life.
      The brief was to promote a healthy diet of a mother can bring benefits to the baby.
      And yes, we chose a strong image to get peoples attention.
      2- Nestlé is not a client in Paim. I have worked there from 2012 to 2015 and never ever saw any material from Nestlé.
      Nesté was a client in fact many years ago for a brief period. Therefore it DID HAVE NOT any involvement with this ad.
      3- The ad is in english because we send it to some advertising websites that showcase portfolios from around the globe.
      We didn’t expected that the campaign would become a viral hit internationally way before domestic. This is the reason more people came across with the english ads.
      The campaign was launched in portuguese. If you go to SPRS website you will see this versions of the ads.
      Well I hope that I could shed some light in the questions your article presented. Sometime the truth is simpler that it seems.
      Best regards.

      • 17/09/2015 at 12:22 pm

        Dear José,
        Thank you for posting your comment here. I have still not received a response from Paim or SPRS, which I contacted directly before you posted your comment.

        You have, in fact, confirmed the article is accurate.

        The article does not say that Nestlé sponsored the advertising campaign. It says Nestlé sponsors the Paediatric Society of Rio Grande do Sul. We have linked to proof of this.

        Thank you for confirming that the Nestlé-sponsored SPRS did commission the campaign.

        As the article says, there was a lack of clarity on this point. Your confirmation shows our concerns are well-founded. SPRS has a conflict of interest as it is sponsored by Nestlé. Such sponsorship violates World Health Assembly Resolutions. While you say that Nestlé did not have any involvement in the campaign, you do not know what influence Nestlé’s sponsorship of SPRS has on its work or its decision to run this campaign.

        It would still be useful to know why you have promoted this campaign in English. Presumably it is owned by SPRS.

        You say that Nestlé is not a client of Paim during your time with the agency. I do not think you are denying the industry reports from 2009 that it had won the Nestlé account.

        Neither I nor our colleagues in Brazil have found the campaign on the SPRS website nor seen these advertisements appearing in Brazil – please post the direct link.

        As you have probably seen, many people are upset by the simplistic and, some would say, misleading, message, presented in this campaign. Yes, you have caught people’s attention, but please read the comments showing the distress and upset you have caused many mothers through this approach. If it has not yet gone out in Brazil, hopefully SPRS will reconsider.

        I will forward you the email I sent to Paim in case it did not reach you.

        Mike Brady

        • 17/09/2015 at 1:36 pm

          Hi Mike.

          here is the campaign in portuguese:

          The campaign was never intender to be launched english. It’s been always in portuguese. And it’s was launched first on social media and inside hospital as posters because is cheaper.
          SPRS is a non profitable organization, therefore, it’s more difficult to put the campaign on the media, as we have to ask the media groups as a favor.
          The print ads and billboards are going to be release in the weeks following.

          We put the ads on several advertising websites (in english) as a manner to promote our work, from the agency and people involved as well.
          Is quite common in advertising industry. It is the way to show your creative capabilities.
          This is never is done without the client knowing. This case was not a exception.
          Furthermore, because it is a non profitable organization, this job was done for free by all professionals. So to be able to reward to the people involved (art directors, such as myself, copywriters, photographers, illustrators, etc),
          is to showcase the ad in their portfolios and around the web.

          What we didn’t expected was that the campaign would be first pick up abroad (especially in the UK) than in brazil.
          This was very unusual. Really. We are still trying to figure out why is that so.
          Maybe because the striking visual, maybe because it is a delicate matter. Either way, I’m very proud that one campaign I did triggered so many reactions.

          You said the message was simplistic, but that the thing with advertising: you have to create something that trigger a immediate response of a person.
          All campaigns try to put the most information in the simply way as possible. So, I don’t expect that a simple print ad will have more information that a article, for example.
          It’s objective is to catch someone attention and make them think. This is the reason we invite people to seek more information in SPRS’s website.
          The lack of information there, now, is just problem of timing, as I explained before.
          And yes, there are many mother complaining abou the ads, as well many more praising it.
          For me this proves is not a simple matter that will be solved with a simple print campaign, and make people discuss about it is a way to bring this matter forward.

          I’m not working at Paim anymore, but I’ve worked there for three years (I left my home town, Porto Alegre, and came to work in São Paulo on March this year),
          and this campaign was the last one I did there.
          Paim is not a massive operation (it is actually a small size agency, with about 80 people) and it doesn’t have among it’s employees a person just to answer the press.
          It is all done by people involved, and they are overwhelmed by all what is happening.
          Please understand, they didn’t reply your queries because they are mean spirit. It’s simply because they weren’t able to do that in such short notice.

          As the involvement with Nestle and SPRS, we are not aware. Neither our client, SPRS, said anything.
          And knowing them as we do, they are not a big budget organization using big companies to gain money.
          They are all a bunch of doctors trying to do what is best for the people in a country were public health is still a problem.
          They commissioned us to create a campaign to promote healthy diet and care and we did our best to respond this.
          I personally believe their intention was as good as ours.

          I hope I made things more clear.
          Pardon for my english, it’s been a long time since I write in it.

          best regards

          • 17/09/2015 at 2:12 pm

            Let’s be honest here, if you wanted to promote healthy diets an lifestyles you’d have painted broccoli and apples on the breasts and made it a positive ad. That was never the intention. It was always meant to shame mothers. Either it was done intentionally with poor intentions or it was done by people with zero marketing and advertising experience who just don’t get it. I am finding it very hard to believe the latter is true of such a large organization which leaves me with it being intentionally shaming.

          • 17/09/2015 at 2:58 pm

            Dear José,

            Thank you for posting further explanation. Your English is very good.

            SPRS runs advertisements in its journal falsely claiming that Nestlé infant formula is the “best foundation for a healthier future”, so there are strong grounds for questioning the intentions of the people who permit this and how they are influenced by Nestlé’s sponsorship.

            Just as the adverts in the SPRS journal undermine breastfeeding, this campaign seems to be having the same impact. A simplistic message in a public health context can be dangerous. The message people complaining about this campaign are seeing is that mothers should not breastfeed if they eat a hamburger or donut.

            It took Brazil 20 years from the 1980s to recover a breastfeeding culture after it collapsed following the entry of multinational companies such as Nestlé at the beginning of the last century. Brazil has done well in promoting and supporting breastfeeding and has strong laws regulating the marketing of baby foods to protect the right of parents to accurate, independent information.

            The one area where Brazil is weak is implementing regulations on conflicts of interest. Nestlé exploits this through sponsoring paediatricians and targeting health workers.


      • 17/09/2015 at 1:11 pm

        Well done José, the ads are great! I think the campain addresses a very importan and often neglected problem – above all in Brazil: Mothers-to-be live on very unhealthy diets. Breastfeeding is of course best for mother and child, but mothers should be aware of the effects of their unhealthy lifestyle before and after birth. Chris

      • 17/09/2015 at 1:50 pm

        Caro José Pedro,
        entendo que queira defender sua campanha. Mas ela é extremamente falha, e a última coisa que ela faz é auxiliar as mãe na amamentação.
        Quando uma mulher se torna mãe, ela é bombardeada de deveres e responsabilidades, e com isso vem a culpa. A culpa de não ser a mãe perfeita que pessoas como o senhor fazem questão de mostrar incansavelmente em publicidades, sem ter a mínima noção de como dói.
        A publicidade entorno de mães gestantes ou recém parida está em um nível totalmente desumano.
        Respondendo diretamente aos seus pontos:
        Essa campanha pode não ter sido financiada diretamente pela Nestlê, e pode não ter uma relação direta. Mas tendo a Sociedade de Pediatria qualquer relação com esta empresa, esta campanha já se torna questionável.
        Não é aceitável que uma campanha de uma instituição que deveria fomentar a amamentação massacre um pouco mais as mães, com informações tão superficiais. Isso é uma bomba a longo prazo, que aumentará a venda dos produtos de empresas como a Nestlê. De nada auxiliará mães a amamentarem, muito menos conscientemente.
        O senhor sabe qual é o tempo médio de amamentação no Brasil? Te conto: 54 dias. O senhor sabe qual o tempo de amamentação recomendado pela Organização Mundial da Saúde? Te conto também: 6 meses exclusivamente, e até 2 anos ou mais.
        Por último, o que o senhor acredita que vá acontecer com as mães com pouca informação que tiverem acesso a essa campanha?

        Ansiosa por seu retorno.

        Rita Masini
        Mãe de dois, amamentando pela segunda vez.

    • 17/09/2015 at 5:55 am

      Its unfortunate that we can have Nestle mimic the 1000 days to its advantage and nothing is being done. I believe countries and ministries responsible for health should rise up to the challenge and block such kinds of advertisements and claims. I do not see how their products help the mothers for the 1000 days apart from their gain of profits. Hope they do not come up with “sprinkles” and “powders” which are becoming a trend in most of the countries.

    • 17/09/2015 at 1:26 pm

      I was sceptical when I saw Nestle but it seems SPRS are starting to launch the campaign on their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pediatriars However if it is aimed at pregnant women I think showing images of a baby feeding on hamburger/coke/donut is confusing.
      There is an article on the SPRS website about the first thousand days of a baby’s life (8th one down icon of baby feet) but it’s more about neurological development and reading than diet.

    • 18/09/2015 at 8:49 am

      The comments above are missing the point. The idea that what the mother does or doesn’t eat has a profound effect on the quality of milk she produces and therefore the health of her baby is utterly, utterly wrong and shows either a basic failure to grasp how mammals work or is a deliberate lie. Why don’t mammals just go and catch/collect food for their young life, for instance, birds? Why did mammary glands evolve? Because no matter what is happening with with the food supply at any given moment the mother will continue to produce milk of the *exact same quality*. If there are food shortages or all the mother can access is poor quality food, the mammals have bought themselves a massive advantage because her body can pull together the molecules necessary to make the perfect milk for her baby at any at that moment (be it newborn, six weeks old, four months old, fighting fit, fighting an infection, etc). The mother’s body will draw on her stores to make up any deficits in what she has recently eaten. In desperate situations her body will even start to break down its own tissues to keep the milk absolutely perfect. After all, an adult can ride out pretty severe conditions that would kill a baby in a few days. So the above images are all nonsense anyway. A mother eats a burger and a doughnut, or a she eats line caught herring, organic rocket, and naturally fermented yoghurt, it doesn’t matter to the baby, it will get the same quality milk. It does NOT have particles of burger or doughnut coming through in the milk, for goodness sake. I think these images are created to make women question their ability to eat a ‘good enough’ diet and therefore doubt they should breastfeed.

      These images are BIG LIES.

      • 21/09/2015 at 6:09 pm

        Roxy Eastland you said it all girl!

    • 18/09/2015 at 11:20 am

      There’s a touch of barrel scraping in this article. An association promoting the 1,000 days campaign getting Women to cut out high fat, nutrition lite foods and you find something to object about! Not sure how you see this as in any way undermining breast feeding or a Nestle plot!

    • 18/09/2015 at 9:39 pm

      The images are grotesque. This advertisement denotes its designers have a lack of knowledge in the fields of biochemistry, physiology, nutrition, pediatrics, anthropology, psycology and marketing.

      • 22/09/2015 at 3:04 pm

        And human anatomy, by showing women’s breasts without nipples.

    • 19/09/2015 at 12:21 pm

      I agree that the images would be more positive and encouraging had they shown the healthy foods mothers should be eating. new first-time mothers are often second guessing themselves. Showing these images will likely lead to increased use of formula. I would love to see a picture of a formula bottle that says “your baby eats what the dairy cows eat” with genetically modified grains, pesticides and antibiotics. Add in the background a caged veal calf, removed from his mother so we can take her milk.

    • 19/09/2015 at 3:29 pm

      No, the campaign was not create to shame mothers. It was created to catch attention and spark a conversation.
      Why we didn’t use a broccoli or other food? Because the anti-example is stronger to get a message across.
      And it is always better to have attention than indifference.
      The fact that a campaign created in a small city in Brazil, with zero budget of media and production, became centre to an international discussion proves the images was strong enough to put down the indifference towards this subject.

      We are not trying to shame mothers and discourage breastfeeding, it’s quite the opposite.
      The sole purpose of the campaign was to make mothers thing about their actions, diet and lifestyle and how they affect hers child.
      As I written before, the image is an representation of the subject. It’s not suppose to be taken literally. It’s not a news article, it’s not a scientific diagram. It’s a representation, to hel get the message across.

      We didn’t create a campaign without proof checking the argument we were using. And yes, a mothers diet, in the long run, can affect hers child during the gestation and breastfeeding period. Poorer nutritional value diets can undermine the formation on antibodies, making the child more susceptible to diseases. This was all that we wanted to inform.

      • 19/09/2015 at 5:43 pm

        This campaign seems to be in line with Nestlé’s hijacking the first 1000 days message, making breastfeeding seem complicated and potentially dangerous.

        In some ways it is too late as this has already gone out around the world, but I appeal to Paim to conduct focus group testing of this marketing campaign before rolling it out in Brazil.

        Here is the reaction you have provoked in some of the posters on the Daily Mail article:

        Ok reading this as pregnant lady who just treated herself to a chippy lunch feeling guilty now :-((

        So you want to harass and convince mothers to be breast is best then scare day lights out of them . Nice one.

        I see it as an add supporting bottle feeding! Go bottle feeders, you can eat what you want…………….and drink!

        We really don’t need this. Breast feeding is absolutely the way to go if possible but advertisements like this are very unsettling and distasteful.

        More pressure!

        However, you are right that the campaign has also prompted discussion, with many people criticising it for spreading a misleading message.

        Some people do take the message you intend about a healthy diet. However, it will be far more damaging if some mothers stop breastfeeding as a result of this campaign than supposed benefits from stopping mothers eating a hamburger or donut if breastfeeding.

        Please seek advice from health experts who are independent of Nestlé and other companies that profit from undermining breastfeeding before putting this on billboards in Brazil (who is paying for these, by the way?)

      • 21/09/2015 at 10:35 pm

        Dear José,
        I do believe your intention was not to shame mothers and/or discourage breastfeeding. However, your whole premise is based on assumptions that are NOT based on scientific evidence.
        What the science actually shows is that, no matter what mother’s diet is, the quality of breast milk is NOT damaged. In fact, a poor diet is more likely to affect the mother than her breastfed baby. Please check the studies in the links suggested by Reyselle Jane and Kelly, summarized by Roxy Eastland.
        Hence, your premise that a mother’s diet could affect the formation of antibodies, making the child more susceptible to diseases needs to be proven. Please show us studies presenting data that support this.
        If this is all that you wanted to inform, please, please back yourself up with some science. Otherwise, it is not believable, and it is questionable.

    • 20/09/2015 at 7:27 am

      Actually, what pregnant mothers or lactating mothers eat does not affect the quality of their milk http://kellymom.com/nutrition/mothers-diet/mom-diet/

      So this ad is really misleading and those who knew less will surely take the formula route and/or undermine breastfeeding efforts.

    • 20/09/2015 at 10:08 am

      IBCLCs (International Board Certified Lactation Consultants) are the most educated and experienced breastfeeding professionals you will find. You just have to take a look at the demanding requirements of their course to see they have the most hours in training, the most experience hours to sit an exam and they are required to have ongoing certification to hold their qualification and ensure they keep up to date. No other medical profession I know of does this. Therefore their knowledge is what we should pay attention to. In Australia (and I have been told in the US etc), doctors and other medical professionals are given around 0-3 hours of breastfeeding education in their undergraduate degrees. I wrote an extensive article about it here: http://www.bellybelly.com.au/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-education-health-professionals/.

      However, as Reyselle mentioned above, a mother’s diet has a minimal impact on her breastmilk.

      From another IBCLC: http://www.bellybelly.com.au/breastfeeding/can-a-poor-diet-impact-the-quality-of-breastmilk/.

      This campaign is not accurate, and one can only come to the conclusion that there were other motives. Sure, women may be eating bad diets. But instead of trying to use scare tactics (since it works so well for the smoking cause, right?), address the root cause. Why are they eating junk food in the first place? They know it’s not healthy (I assume). So how can you help them? What do they need?

      Smokers smoke because they can’t handle stress and need tools to deal with anxiety, stress etc. This is why they fail to quit so many times because they have to rely on willpower – with no other tools to manage their feelings and emotions.

      So, what tools can you give women, besides making them feel worse that they’re poisoning their babies? If you make people more stressed and anxious about their behaviours, they’re just going to fall back into their coping habits.

    • 22/09/2015 at 1:50 pm

      Thank you, Baby Milk Action, for continuing to bring this to people’s attention.

      Why have the SPRS continued with this campaign?

      The campaign has been severely criticised internationally. The focus of the campaign (that eating a burger or other fast food makes breastmilk less healthy) has been shown to have no scientific foundation. And the SPRS did not even pay for the campaign, which was done pro-bono….so why have they persisted with it?

      Who is influencing the SPRS to continue with a campaign that is so potentially damaging?

      Have we heard from the doctors of the SPRS in defence of the campaign? Or just the advertising guy?

      • 23/09/2015 at 10:04 am

        We contacted SPRS on 16 September, but have still not had any response (as of 23 September).

        The campaign was launched in Brazil by SPRS on 21 September. It has issued a statement denying the involvement of the pharmaceutical and food industry in the campaign. The references to Nestlé on the SPRS site have also been removed, including the misleading Nestlé infant formula advertisement in the pdf of the current issue of the SPRS journal.

        For links, archived information and a statement from Baby Milk Action see the article at:

        We have closed comments on this article.

    • 24/09/2015 at 2:54 pm

      The bottom line is, it’s healthier to breast feed, even if your diet isn’t the healthiest, than it is to formula feed. The implication is, if you can’t have the self control to eat well, buy the formula advertised on the same page as this add (and put money in the pockets of the people who indirectly supported the add), because otherwise you’re just feeding your baby hamburgers and donuts, and that is simply NOT true and hurtfully misleading and potentially damaging to mothers (emotionally and in lost long term positive health benefits to breastfeeding moms) and the short and long term health of their children. This add was clearly done for shock value and to pad someones advertising portfolio. I know you (whoever created this campaign) were proud of your work – but it’s clear that you don’t understand the social and psychological health consequences of how you present your message. I know advertising is a tough world, but really – this could have been a positive message, and a great opportunity was lost. It’s done now, but I hope you the future you will hear the criticisms as constructively as possible and try to incorporate a more positive spin in the future. Good luck.

    • 07/01/2016 at 8:57 pm

      I saw the ad with the coke cup- breastmilk is NOT coke! The whole point is that the milk that is made for the baby is better for it than the stuff it is made from. I agree with Heather- the ad makes you think, oh, my diet is not good enough to make good milk, I’d better use formula. But a woman with a poor diet (if it even really makes such a difference) still makes much better milk for baby than formula! The ad doesn’t mention formula, but women may see it as saying because they eat junked their milk is junk. (Actually, that IS what is says.) It’s a negative ad, it associates breasts with toxicity, and that image sticks in your head.

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