LONDON: Children's charities in the UK are demanding a ban on the advertising of all formula baby milk. They say such marketing is responsible for mothers giving up on breast feeding their infants before the recommended six months.

Currently, manufacturers are allowed to advertise only so-called 'follow-on' milk for older babies, but the National Childbirth Trust, Save the Children and Unicef want the ban extended.

The organisations say baby milk makers promote their products for younger infants by giving them the same name and logo as the follow-on milks so as to make them "virtually indistinguishable" to parents.

The NCT's Belinda Phipps compares the behaviour of baby milk manufacturers to that of tobacco companies in devising ways to circumnavigate restrictive advertising legislation.

"Formula milk companies are finding ways to exploit ambiguity in the law and to continue aggressively marketing their products to parents," she complains.

The charities highlight new European Union recommendations that information on formula milks "should not counter the promotion of breast feeding". In light of these recommendations, a review of baby milk marketing is being undertaken by British watchdog, the Food Standards Agency.

However, Dr Ellie Lee of Kent University, who carried out a study of mothers on behalf of the Infant and Dietetic Foods Association, contends that the impact of ads on the decision to switch from breast to bottle was "negligible".

She added it was a "pragmatic decision based on personal circumstances . . . Many mothers feel an immense sense of guilt and failure when they move on to the bottle, and this latest debate about advertising is likely to make them feel even worse."

Data sourced from BBC Online; additional content by WARC staff