Thoughts on Formula Legislation

If you follow anything to do with parenting, or indeed just keep an eye on the media, you may have seen that MP Alison Thewliss is proposing that the law on the marketing surrounding formula milk be tightened in order to allow parents to be better informed about their choices. I must admit, when this first hit social media yesterday, my initial thought was “oh no, here we go again!” But for once, this doesn’t seem to be the age old formula vs. breastfeeding debate.

Having read a little into it and watching interviews in the media, it actually seems to be about giving families a more informed choice on the formula front. Angela Thewliss is proposing changes which may include the likes of plain packaging for tubs of formula, not allowing formula companies to make claims that they have ingredients such as added iron or prebiotics, and potentially moving away from follow on and toddler milk.

Whilst for me personally, having the formula tubs packaged in a plain manner wouldn’t have actually stopped my choice to switch from breastfeeding to bottle feeding (which was down to a combination of my mental health suffering and being told that Baby Lighty was potentially dehydrating, as well as not gaining enough weight), it wasn’t until I got to Baby Lighty’s 12 month check that I was even aware, to a certain extent, that there was a difference between the formulas.

Thoughts on Formula Legislation.

Mr Lighty formula feeding a 4-month old Baby Lighty.


If you’ve ever formula fed, or spoken to parents that have formula fed, you’ll probably have heard many of the ‘stories’ that are bandied around: that certain different formulas are owned by the same company but one is marketed as ‘better’ and therefore more expensive than the other, that certain formulas are better for hungry / constipated / colicky babies, that ‘all the midwives recommend this formula over that’. I don’t know if any of these claims are true, but it would seem that the new legislation will help us sort the fiction from the truth.

Of course, it’s got to be done with an element of sensitivity about it. We don’t want this being another way that formula feeding mothers are ostracised. Mothers shouldn’t be made to feel that because the formula now comes in plain packaging, it’s something that should be hidden away like a dirty secret. Breastfeeding is nutritionally best, but for many isn’t the route we go down for whatever reason.

From my experience, a very nervous Mrs Lighty spent a desperate month breastfeeding before switching to formula, only to feel even more like a failure when Baby Lighty’s reflux then worsened. We were then advised to use reflux formula, which came with it the worry of preparing it correctly. For anyone that doesn’t know, reflux formula needs slightly cooler water than normal formula (having cooled in the kettle for 45 minutes as opposed to the normal 30 minutes), the made up bottle needs to be rolled between the palms of your hands for 30 seconds before standing for 7 minutes to thicken and then served. No I’m not winding you up, and it’s been 14 months since we last used it, so that’s how stuck in my mind its preparation is! Because of how precisely it has to be made up, on the advice of my health visitor and after having a discussion with the local NCT weaning teacher, I decided to change Baby Lighty onto follow on milk, as I was concerned that once Baby Lighty started with the childminder on my return to work, his milk preparation would be overlooked in the midst of a busy day. Looking back, I’m sure it would have been fine, but on discussing the issue with my health visitor and her advice that follow on milk contains more iron, we made the decision to switch.

Thoughts on Formula Legislation.

Feeding a 9-month old Baby Lighty.


Imagine how terrible I felt then, when at Baby Lighty’s 12 month check, a different health visitor told me that the worst thing I could have done was switch to follow on milk as it contains so much sugar! In her words, I was giving Baby Lighty “the equivalent of a milkshake’s worth of sugar” every night in his bedtime bottle! Operation switch to cows’ milk commenced immediately therefore at that point, as I felt awful, but I simply didn’t know; and if this is the case with regards to the sugar content, then the health visitor that advised me to make the switch to follow on milk because of the increased iron didn’t know either.

I think, therefore, that if handled with sensitivity, this proposed change to the law could avoid these miscommunications. We could set the record straight once and for all. I distinctly remember having a conversation with some Mum friends when our babies were still drinking formula about a certain formula brand putting their prices up, rebranding their packaging and making the tubs smaller, and how if you were a new mum, you would be so swayed by the pretty packaging that you’d automatically opt for this brand, because this brand must be the best based on its claims.

I’m no scientist, and I don’t know all of the ins and outs of what goes into formula, what research they’ve made into breastmilk, and I definitely don’t have a great deal of experience of actually breastfeeding much to my dismay, but I do know that as a Mum that reads a lot and likes to take the advice of others, some clear cut guidance – without judgement – would have been very welcome when we made the switch to formula. I’m interested to see how this newly proposed legislation develops, and I hope that it’ll give more Mums more choice. After all, we all want what’s best for our little ones.

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26 thoughts on “Thoughts on Formula Legislation”

  1. This is really interesting – I formula feed and literally just picked one off the shelf one day at random and that’s what we’ve stuck with. I completely agree, I hope it is a move towards being more transparent without the stigma that can sometimes come along with not breast feeding.

    1. Thank you! We pretty much did the same!! Yes that’s my worry too, that it might increase the formula stigma, but hopefully not. Hopefully it will just make us all better informed. Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂

  2. I was told when I was pregnant that the only milk a baby would need, (unless allergies) formula wise, was the stage one, and never gave her another type but most don’t actually know they don’t need it and it’s just for marketing to keep people buying the product! I think more information and the openness for health practitioners to talk about forumla milk is a good thing. Ultimately, they’re your children, no matter what you choose, fed is best isn’t it? #fortheloveofblog

    1. Yes I was told this too, and I think had Baby Lighty been ok on stage one, we would have just kept him on it until 12 months, but it was the whole reflux thing and its weird milk preparation that threw everything!! Yes fed is definitely best. I think this will help the whole formula thing be more transparent too. Thanks so much for stopping by! #fortheloveofBLOG

  3. I was so glad to hear about this potential new legislation, as the formula thing has been a bug bear of mine for a while. So many of the ‘extra’ ingredients in formula are actually totally unnecessary, so charging more for something my baby doesn’t actually need seems awful to me. Follow-on milks to me are a disgusting marketing ploy to trick people into spending money that they really don’t need to, and are so full of sugar so as to trap the child too which in my mind is abhorrent. I have recently switched to Bebevita formula, which is from Lidl. What’s interesting is that I haven’t told anyone about this switch yet, for fear of being judged. But I did my research, and the formula is absolutely fine, totally regulated, and complies with all the guidelines, so why am I worried that people will think I’m not doing the best thing for my child? Why am I tipping the new milk into an old empty tub from our previous brand? Because marketing companies have got to us all. Love this post, and something which needs to be spoken more about. #fortheloveofBLOG
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  4. Both my girls have been formula fed for different reasons and I’ve not gone on to the follow on milk for precisely the reason you state. I was unaware of legislation being brought in. I do hope mums can make well informed decisions and that mums who bottle feed aren’t ostracised. We are fortunate to live in a country where both breast feeding and bottle feeding take place. #fortheloveofBLOG
    Helena recently posted…Books, Buble and My Babies #LittleLovesMy Profile

    1. Yes I agree. I hope it’ll just give mums more information from which to make an informed decision. Thanks so much for stopping by! #fortheloveofBLOG

  5. Interesting. When we switched from breastfeeding to formula we tried several different kinds before settling on one that seemed to be easiest on her stomach. Surprisingly it was the cheapest brand, a Target generic. Very little thought went into what might actually be in any of these. #bigpinklink

    1. But then it’s difficult for us to really know what’s in any of them, isn’t it? I’m sure you’re not alone in thinking that. I know I certainly didn’t really think it all through properly. Thanks so much for stopping by! #BigPinkLink

    1. Apparently two are registered to the same address, but I could well be wrong. It’s hard to tell, isn’t it? Thanks so much for stopping by! #BigPinkLink

  6. I actually agree – as a mother who formula fed from about 4 months I found there was very little advice in relation to different types of formula milk. A few mums seemed super proud of getting their kids onto hungry baby milk or follow on milk and I never really understood what they were for? I still don’t!

    Thanks for sharing with #coolmumclub
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    1. I’m the opposite, I wish I’d never started with the follow on milk after the health visitor told me about all the sugar!! I’ll just feed him a doughnut at bedtime next I think!! Oh dear. But you live and learn, don’t you? At least he was relatively easy to wean him onto cows milk so we could rectify our mistake as quickly as possible. The perils of not breastfeeding, eh?! Thanks so much for hosting #coolmumclub as always xxx

  7. This is a really interesting read, thank you.
    Personally, I don’t think that ‘plain’ packaging is the answer at all (although I see the reasoning) simply because I tried breast feeding my first born and couldn’t (turns out she had tongue tie) and I was exhausted. I was in a really bad, I felt like a failure to my daughter and I think if I’d had to go and buy formula packaged in the same way they want to package cigarettes,whilst in that state I’d have felt even worse. Maybe they need to set guidelines as to what can and can’t be included in a milk and what sweeping generalisations can be made in their marketing, maybe they should also be forced to make follow on milk a ‘snack’ type milk rather than a ‘feed’ type milk (if that makes sense). I know (really hope) the plan isn’t to alienate new mums but I don’t think the plain packing is really the best answer. #coolmumclub

    1. Yes I’m inclined to agree with you on this front. We don’t want formula feeding mums feeling like they need to hide a dirty secret. Great idea about the guidelines of what can and can’t go in and I also like the snack idea of the follow on milk. Thanks so much for your input on this and for stopping by! #coolmumclub

    1. It’s really bewildering. Even the first stage milk. I remember not wanting to switch from the ready made bottles because I was so scared of choosing the wrong one and also making it up incorrectly!! Thanks so much for hosting #bigpinklink 🙂

  8. Oh love, I’m sorry you’ve gone through this – how awful for the health visitor to make you feel this way 🙁 Emma was on stage one and follow on milk (and growing up milk after too haha) – I heard people saying it was a rip off etc but in my eyes we only had to buy it for a very small number of months and better that she is fed…as she wasn’t keen on cows milk until recently. I do think it’s crazy how switching to formula makes us all feel like we’re failing our babies, couldn’t be further from the truth! Thanks for linking up to #dreamteam x
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    1. Ah I don’t think there was any long term damage done. Luckily Baby Lighty didn’t have any teeth until he was one, haha!! As you say, the main thing is that he was fed! Thanks so much for hosting #dreamteam as always! xxx

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