On Tuesday night I took part in a debate about the EU’s decision to ban “idealised” pictures of happy children on Formula milk on a BBC World Service programme called News Hour.
I was very pleased to be asked but I’ve only just finished cringing for long enough to write this – in all honesty I don’t think I did a very good job because the issue annoyed me so much (as I left the studio I heard one of the producers – who by the way were all male – say “well, that was a case of ‘light the blue touch paper and stand well back!” – which I’m not convinced was a compliment).
I’m not sure what people think babies who are formula-fed actually look like afterwards. I’m sure it would be convenient for some if they were writhing in pain, grimacing and/or screaming.
Except I’ve seen rather a lot of them up close and personal in the last two years and they all look pretty damned contented afterwards in my view – just like their breastfed buddies, they gurgle for a bit, get adorably milk-drunk and a bit spaced-out – and then fall asleep.
So my views on this EU decision are 2-fold:
1) there is no such thing as an “idealised” image of a happy, just-fed baby. They just are.
2) it’s a huge vote of no-confidence in the ability of women to make intelligent decisions, no? Are we really portraying ourselves to be that dumb, that the EU believes we are unable to resist anything with a cute baby on it? Because contrary to popular belief, I don’t find myself instinctively buying everything that smiles back at me. I’m also an apparently rare breed of woman who is able to resist purchasing things that are PINK (but that’s another discussion).
I was debating with Patti Rundall from Baby Milk Action who, rather astonishingly doesn’t believe the EU has gone far enough. In fact, she also wanted even more prominence given to the ingredients, which are already listed on the can.
I think we came from different planets. She didn’t seem to comprehend my view that the appearance of the box doesn’t the slightest bit of difference when you have a hungry baby to feed and you aren’t breastfeeding for whatever reason.
Whatever the hell the packet looks like, you still have a hungry baby, and you still need to feed it. Why throw humiliation and contempt into the equation at the point of sale?
In the book I wrote about the first time I bought a box of formula in Boots and presented my Boots Loyalty Card. I might as well have put bomb making equipment on the counter. I was sternly informed that you do NOT get points for buying baby milk (that’s also thanks to the EU, by the way). Go straight to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200.
As for ingredients. I tried to point out to her that there are also elements in breastmilk from the mothers’ diet – whatever you eat, ends up in your milk (as a friend discovered the hard way after an accidentally spicy curry). So how about some ingredient lists for that too, EU?