Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Health Sciences - Faculty of Health & Behavioural Sciences


AIMS This project sought to determine whether advertisements for toddler milk function as de-facto advertising for infant formula in Australia, and whether exposure to these advertisements influences parents’ attitudes towards breastfeeding or formula feeding. DESIGN A mixed methods triangulation model was selected to facilitate thorough investigation of a complex public health issue. METHODS Four studies were conducted simultaneously and the results synthesised at the level of analysis. In-depth interviews were conducted to examine expectant mothers’ understandings of toddler milk advertisements. Content analysis was used to compare the frequency with which advertisements for various formula products and brands appeared in parenting magazines from countries with differing regulations about the marketing of formula milk products. A cross-sectional survey was conducted to investigate the effect of exposure to toddler milk advertising on attitudes and beliefs about breastfeeding and formula feeding. A series of discussion fora were used investigate the influence of advertising on the infant feeding attitudes and beliefs of parents and those who influence them. RESULTS Mothers expecting a first baby perceived toddler milk advertisements to be advertising infant formula and found their claims that formula brands can confer health benefits similar to those mothers associate with breastfeeding to be believable. Toddler milk advertisements occurred with greater frequency in Australian parenting magazines than they did in those from the UK, USA or Canada. Exposure to toddler milk advertising is associated with more positive attitudes towards formula feeding amongst parents who are not university educated. In the absence of accurate, evidence-based information about infant formula, mothers, grandmothers and Child and Family Health Nurses rely on advertising to inform their decisions and advice about infant formula. CONCLUSIONS The Marketing in Australia of Infant Formula: Manufacturers’ and Importers’ Agreement is failing to protect consumers from advertising that minimises the important differences between breastmilk/breastfeeding and formula feeding.

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