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Iceland Cuts Price on Baby Formula, Breastfeeding Isn't Free

Iceland Has Cut Its Price of Formula, but Breastfeeding Still Isn’t Free

Drink deep my love

In August, supermarket giant Iceland did the unthinkable, and promoted that the chain would have a "permanent" price reduction on baby formula. While it might seem like an obvious move for supermarkets, given the current cost of living crisis, to provide support for parents of formula or combi-fed babies via discounts on such an essential item, it's actually illegal for them to shout about it. Yes, really.

Back in 2007, regulations were passed to ensure that marketing in supermarket adverts as well as in-store and online promotions would not discourage breastfeeding. This means that, shockingly, discounts and coupons for baby formula from birth up until six months of age are banned in the UK, while breastfeeding is promoted as the better option.

But it's 2023, so how can we force women and new parents to have no choice financially but to attempt breastfeeding (which, by the way, doesn't work for everybody), or to cough up between £9 and £16 per tub? For reference, most families will find that their baby will go through at least four 900ml tubs of formula per month, according to babypost. That's between £36 and £64 per month minimum. In fact, The Food Foundation found that there aren't any first infant formulas on the market in 2023 in the UK that are completely covered by the Healthy Start allowance (a government benefit for some people who are 10 weeks pregnant or who have a child under 4 to help them buy healthy food and milk).

As such, Iceland boss Richard Walker took to "Good Morning Britain" on 23 August to call on the government to "allow retailers to tell the public about the price of formula, and permit customers to buy formula with loyalty points, gift cards or food bank vouchers".

"Is it not time that we start respecting a mother's sacrifices and let her decide how best to feed her child?

The response was divided, with many declaring that breastfeeding - unlike formula - costs "nothing" anyway and so that should be the port of call. One comment beneath GMB's clip on Facebook reads: "Perhaps we start supporting breastfeeding about we give proper lactation advice and train doctors in breastfeeding so they don't also jump to give up when it isn't necessary". Another writes that breastfeeding is "also lovely bonding, very portable, and free", whilst a third adds, "I risk the backlash but you know what's cheaper than formula, even free…"

But is breastfeeding actually free? Should there not be respect for a woman's time, energy, and bodily autonomy? A study by Yale School of Medicine found that the cost of breastfeeding for one year would equate up to $11,000 (£8,700) when considering food intake by the nursing person, supplies, vitamins, and time dedicated to pumping or feeding.

In a society where women and those with uteruses have been stripped of their constitutional right to an abortion in parts of the US, and a woman in the UK has been jailed for taking abortion pills past the legal limit, is it not time that we start respecting a mother's sacrifices and let her decide how best to feed her child?

The notion that "breast is best" appears to have its roots in a long-standing medical ideology that breastfeeding is the best way for a mother to bond with her child, whilst healing her body during the postpartum period. The NHS states that after birth, parents would have been "shown the basics of baby care", including how to bathe their baby, keep them safe, and breastfeed. But not every family can or wants to breastfeed. POPSUGAR reached out to the NHS and to the Department of Health and Social Care, but did not receive a response.

There are a multitude of reasons why parents may not be able to breastfeed, including having troubles with milk supply, latching, mental health issues, and being on medication which can affect breastfeeding. For non-nuclear families, breastfeeding is not always a luxury that they are able to afford, never mind for parents who simply do not want to breastfeed - as is entirely their choice. Yet outdated rules suggest failure as a parent, and therefore financial punishment, if breastfeeding is not carried out.

Image Source: Alex Donohue

Alex and Lorna Donohue have a 19-month-old daughter, Beatrice, who was almost exclusively formula fed. Beatrice was welcomed into the world via an emergency C-section, which took a "huge" toll on the new mum, now 35, who was also struggling to produce milk or express. "We stayed in hospital for a week, and I was really looking after them both whilst I let Lorna rest," Alex, founder of Press Box PR, tells POPSUGAR. This meant that formula feeding was essential for him to help with the physical and emotional load of his partner.

"I was absolutely delighted to be able to play such a huge role in raising and feeding our daughter and feel confident it has contributed to our relationship," the 34-year-old continues. "I know dads of exclusively breast-fed babies who feel like a spare part, and have missed [out on] bonding." By sharing feeds, the family has been able to incorporate precious teaching moments like reading, singing songs, and sleep independence – "and our sleep sanity!" – which means they have been able to establish "a happy, calm and positive home environment" for their daughter.

Alex, like the majority of parents, understands the benefits of breast milk. Information about its benefits are required to be included in NHS recommended NCT antenatal classes when expecting a baby. "But I also think there's an incredible amount of pressure on parents, but especially mothers who, after a traumatic experience are made to feel inadequate about something so fundamental such as feeding your newborn child."

Parenthood is hard enough without the pressure of wondering whether you're feeding your baby correctly. "I have loved being able to feed my daughter," says Alex - and that's a wish that every parent deserves to fulfill. At the end of the day, fed is best.

Image Source: Getty / Marco VDM
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