Collections > Master's Papers > Gillings School of Public Health > Understanding Women's Interpretation of Infant Formula Advertising

Objective: This study aims to understand how women interpret infant formula advertising to aid understanding of the inverse association between exposure to infant formula advertising and breastfeeding rates. Methods: Four focus groups were divided according to reproductive status: pre-conceptional, pregnant, exclusive breastfeeders and formula-feeders. Facilitators guided a discussion of participant reactions to infant formula marketing materials. Results: Participants reported that the advertisements conveyed an expectation of failure with breastfeeding and that formula is a solution to fussiness, spit-up and other normal infant behaviors. Participants reported confusion in terms of how human milk compares to formula. These concerns were exacerbated by awareness of marketing by the healthcare industry. Conclusion: Formula marketing decreases mothers’ confidence in breastfeeding, especially when provided by healthcare providers and institutions.