The advent of social networking sites and other online communities presents new opportunities and challenges for the promotion, protection, and support of breastfeeding. A study was carried out in the US to examine the presence of infant formula marketing on popular US social media sites, using the World Health Organization International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (the Code) as a framework.
The researchers investigated to what extent infant formula brands that are widely available in the US had established a social media presence in popular social media venues likely to be visited by expectant parents and families with young children. They found that infant formula manufacturers have established a social media presence primarily through Facebook pages, interactive features on their own websites, mobile apps for new and expecting parents, YouTube videos, sponsored reviews on parenting blogs, and other financial relationships with parenting blogs. Violations of the Code as well as promotional practices unforeseen by the Code were identified such as enabling user-generated content that promotes the use of infant formula, financial relationships between manufacturers and bloggers, and creation of mobile apps for use by parents.
The researchers conclude that the use of social media for formula marketing may demand new strategies for monitoring and enforcing the Code.
Abrahams S. Milk and Social Media: Online Communities and the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. J Hum Lact. 2012; 28: p. 400-406