Debate surrounds Ed Miliband’s formula milk comment

Not everyone’s happy Labour leader disclosed that he and partner Justine feed their newborn with formula

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Labour leader Ed Miliband’s revelation that he and his partner feed their newborn with a particular brand of formula has stirred a bit of a debate, reports the Telegraph.

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Dad-of-two Ed was being interviewed by the BBC in a Tesco supermarket. After Ed disclosed that he and partner Justine Thornton bottlefeed 3-week-old Samuel, he pointed to a formula milk display in-store, and said to the interviewer, “That’s the one we use, but for 0-3 months.”

D’oh! If there’s one personal choice sure to get mums, midwives and experts talking, it’s this!

Some mums on forums were of the opinion that Ed should’ve thought about the impact his comments would have on the public. Others felt it pertinent to mention it was under Labour that the official advice that it’s best to breastfeed exclusively for a baby’s first six months was introduced. However, it’s worth pointing out this isn’t just a Labour ideal – it’s a global public health recommendation from the World Health Organisation.

Others on the sidelines were more understanding and moderate, pointing out it’s a personal decision for Ed and Justine, with many possible reasons why they’ve chosen to formula feed.

Some comments, though, have focused on the rules and regulations.

Formula milk advertising is tightly controlled – basically, it’s illegal to market or promote it and it can only be advertised if it’s made very clear that it’s follow-on milk for older babies. The Telegraph points out these rules are aimed at restricting paid-for advertising and promotion, not comments such as Ed’s, which took place in a news interview.

However, one midwife from Kent has accused the BBC of breaching those advertising rules. “Would he be seen putting his child in a car without a car seat? Or would he smoke in that supermarket?” she argued.

The National Childbirth Trust’s Belinda Phipps commented that Ed had been naïve and given free publicity to formula milk makers. She has said the BBC shouldn’t use the segment.

“They have a new baby, and how they feed their child is down to them. But it’s really difficult when a major public figure appears to endorse a product like this; it gives the manufacturers publicity they could never have bought, and that is deeply unfortunate in a situation like this,” said Belinda.

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“The people who filmed him really should have been aware about the regulations on this,” Belinda added.

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