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Association of Health Profession and Direct-to-Consumer Marketing with Infant Formula Choice and Switching


  • This work was done in his previous position in the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, College Park, Maryland, USA.

Address correspondence to Yi Huang, PhD, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250, USA.



Infant formula is marketed by health professionals and directly to consumers. Formula marketing has been shown to reduce breastfeeding, but the relation with switching formulas has not been studied. Willingness to switch formula can enable families to spend less on formula.


Data are from the Infant Feeding Practices Study II, a United States national longitudinal study. Mothers were asked about media exposure to formula information during pregnancy, receiving formula samples or coupons at hospital discharge, reasons for their formula choice at infant age 1 month, and formula switching at infant ages 2, 5, 7, and 9 months. Analysis included 1,700 mothers who fed formula at infant age 1 month; it used logistic regression and longitudinal data analysis methods to evaluate the association between marketing and formula choice and switching.


Most mothers were exposed to both types of formula marketing. Mothers who received a sample of formula from the hospital at birth were more likely to use the hospital formula 1 month later. Mothers who chose formula at 1 month because their doctor recommended it were less likely to switch formula than those who chose in response to direct-to-consumer marketing. Mothers who chose a formula because it was used in the hospital were less likely to switch if they had not been exposed to Internet web-based formula information when pregnant or if they received a formula sample in the mail.


Marketing formula through health professionals may decrease mothers' willingness to switch formula. (BIRTH 40:1 March 2013)