Infant formula and toddler milk marketing and caregiver's provision to young children

Maria J. Romo-Palafox, Jennifer L. Pomeranz, Jennifer L. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The World Health Organization International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes prohibits claims and other marketing that may confuse caregivers about benefits of formula and other milk-based drinks for infants and toddlers, but such marketing is common in the United States. This study assessed caregivers' provision of milk-based products to their infants and toddlers and potential confusion about product benefits and appropriate use. Online survey of 1,645 U.S. caregivers of infants (6–11 months) and toddlers (12–36 months). Respondents identified infant formula and toddler milk products they served their child (ren) and provided relative agreement with common marketing claims. Logistic regression assessed relationships between agreement and serving these products, controlling for individual characteristics. Over one-half of caregivers of infants (52%) agreed that infant formula can be better for babies' digestion and brain development than breastmilk, and 62% agreed it can provide nutrition not present in breastmilk. Most caregivers of toddlers (60%) agreed that toddler milks provide nutrition toddlers do not get from other foods. Some caregivers of infants (11%) reported serving toddler milk to their child most often. Agreement with marketing claims increased the odds of serving infant formula and/or toddler milks. For caregivers of toddlers, odds were higher for college-educated and lower for non-Hispanic White caregivers. Common marketing messages promoting infant formula and toddler milks may mislead caregivers about benefits and appropriateness of serving to young children. These findings support calls for public health policies and increased regulation of infant formula and toddler milks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere12962
JournalMaternal and Child Nutrition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020


  • Expert recommendations
  • infant formula
  • marketing claims
  • policy
  • toddler milk

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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