UCL Health


Monitoring of marketing of breast milk substitutes to pregnant and postnatal mothers in the UK

This project will monitoring marketing of breast milk substitutes (BMSs) to pregnant and postnatal mothers in the UK (WHO EU CLICK).

1 July 2022


Advertising of infant formula is prohibited in the UK, however follow-on formula (marketed for use from 6 months of age) and growing up formula (marketed for use from 12 months) can be advertised as long as no cross-branding is associated with infant formula.

There is limited monitoring of digital and social media marketing of BMSs to pregnant and post-natal mothers. However, digital marketing is increasingly being used to influence societal norms and may impact parent infant feeding practices. There is concern that inappropriate marketing of BMSs can mislead parents and may encourage purchase and overreliance on expensive formula milk products. 


This project aims to provide a broad outline of digital marketing strategies used by breast milk substitute (BMS) companies in the UK. It will provide a detailed descriptive analysis of BMS adverts, including types of messages and cross-promotional strategies used. The viewing behaviour and exposure of pregnant and postnatal mothers to these digital marketing messages will be analysed in detail.


This is a collaborative research project, involving research and policy teams across different countries, including the WHO regional office for Europe (WHO EU), the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Public Health England (PHE).

A market research company will recruit pregnant women and postnatal mothers in the UK to take part. Screen time capture software will be used to monitor digital and social media expose to BMS marketing. The data will then be categorised and analysed. This project will feed into the larger WHO EU CLICK study.


  • June 2022

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The NIHR Policy Research Unit in Healthy Weight is part of the NIHR and hosted by UCL.