Background: Aggressive and unregulated marketing of breastmilk substitutes (BMS) results in increased child morbidity and mortality. Unregulated BMS marketing is a major public health concern because it encourages formula consumption at the expense of breastfeeding. This study aimed to identify the sources and characterize the nature of exposure to marketing of BMS among Mexican mothers of children under 18 months of age. As a secondary objective we explored potential association between exposure to BMS marketing and infant feeding practices. Methods: Cross-sectional study, comprising a pre-piloted survey, was conducted between February 2020 to February 2021 with Mexican mothers of children under 18 months of age (n = 754), in two major cities in Mexico. Mothers were selected according to their current infant feeding practices (Breastfeeding only vs. Mixed feeding). We characterized the different BMS marketing sources and scope, and related them with infant feeding practices. In addition, we used logistic regression models to estimate the odds ratio for infant feeding practices by BMS marketing exposure or recommendation. Results: Mothers reported different sources of exposure to BMS promotion, including BMS advertisements in diverse media channels (41.6%), recommendation by a healthcare professional and/or relative (76.2%), and receiving a BMS sample at a hospital (18.6%). By contrast, only 36.5% recalled hearing or seeing breastfeeding information the previous year. The odds of mixed feeding were substantially higher, compared to breastfeeding, when mothers were recommended to use a BMS by doctors/pediatricians (OR: 3.96, 95% CI: 2.00, 7.83). Having seen or heard breastfeeding information in the previous year was associated with a lower risk of mixed feeding compared to breastfeeding only (OR: 0.59, 95% CI: 0.35, 0.99). Conclusions: Mexican mothers of young children in the metropolitan areas studied were highly exposed to BMS marketing and through different mass media channels and inter-personal sources. Health care professionals, particularly doctors/pediatricians, are a source of BMS promotion that are likely to have a strong influence on maternal decisions about infant feeding practices. There is an urgent need to protect mothers and their families against unregulated BMS promotion through mass media channels and directly by influential individuals, including health care providers.
- Breastmilk substitutes
- Health providers
- Infant feeding practices
- International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes