Is unimpeded marketing for breast milk substitutes responsible for the decline in breastfeeding in the Philippines? An exploratory survey and focus group analysis

Soc Sci Med. 2011 Nov;73(10):1445-8. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2011.08.029. Epub 2011 Sep 17.


Infant mortality and morbidity risk is linked to formula usage. The proportion of Filipino infant formula users rose 6% between 2003 and 2008. It is hypothesized this rise resulted from aggressive formula industry marketing. We conducted a household survey between April and December 2006 and focus groups in April-May 2007 in The Philippines to examine the association between mothers' exposure to advertising and other information sources and formula feeding decisions. Sixteen barangays (communities) were randomly selected from three purposively selected disadvantaged rural, urban and mixed municipalities. A total of 345 households had children under 24-months age: 114, 142 and 89 households from the rural, urban and mixed municipalities, respectively. In addition 38 respondents participated in 3 focus groups of 10-15 participants each, from three selected barangays. After adjusting for education and economic indicators logistic regression analysis showed that, children were more likely to be given formula if their mother recalled advertising messages, or a doctor, or mother or relative recommended it. Those using formula were 6.4 (1.8-23.1) times more likely to stop breastfeeding before 12 months. The focus groups described how television advertisements, doctors and medical representatives enticed them to use formula. We conclude that two factors were strongly associated with the decision to formula feed: self-reported advertising exposure, and physicians' recommendations.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding / psychology*
  • Decision Making
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Marketing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Milk Substitutes / statistics & numerical data*
  • Milk, Human*
  • Philippines
  • Surveys and Questionnaires