Intended for healthcare professionals

General Practice

Representing infant feeding: content analysis of British media portrayals of bottle feeding and breast feeding

BMJ 2000; 321 doi: (Published 11 November 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;321:1196

This article has a correction. Please see:

  1. Lesley Henderson (lesley.henderson{at}, senior research fellowa,
  2. Jenny Kitzinger, readera,
  3. Josephine Green, senior lecturerb
  1. a Centre for Media and Communications Research, Department of Human Sciences, Brunel University, London UB8 3PH
  2. b Mother and Infant Research Unit, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9LN
  1. Correspondence to: L Henderson
  • Accepted 11 September 2000


Objective: To examine how breast feeding and bottle feeding are represented by the British media.

Design: Content analysis.

Subjects: Television programmes and newspaper articles that made reference to infant feeding during March 1999.

Setting: UK mass media.

Main outcome measures: Visual and verbal references to breast or bottle feeding in newspapers and television programmes.

Results: Overall, 235 references to infant feeding were identified in the television sample and 38 in the newspaper sample. Bottle feeding was shown more often than breast feeding and was presented as less problematic. Bottle feeding was associated with “ordinary” families whereas breast feeding was associated with middle class or celebrity women. The health risks of formula milk and the health benefits of breast feeding were rarely mentioned.

Conclusions: The media rarely present positive information on breast feeding, even though this feeding practice is associated with the most health benefits. Health professionals and policy makers should be aware of patterns in media coverage and the cultural background within which women make decisions about infant feeding.


  • Funding The study “infant feeding in the media: an analysis of representation and influence” was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (grant No R000222785).

  • Competing interests None declared.

View Full Text