The posters highlighted various issues and one featured a laptop computer and a bottle of baby milk – suggesting a potential choice mothers had to make between working and caring for their children.
“The use of this image is thoughtless and careless,” said managing director of Real Baby Milk, Arwen Folkes. “The use of this image by a body such as the European Union sadly perpetuates the cultural assumption that bottle feeding is the normal way to feed babies.”
His group, and others like the UK-based group, Baby Milk Action (BMA), have long been a battle to defend breastfeeding, which has been in decline as bottle-feeding rates have risen.
The groups believe infant milk and follow-on formula is over-aggressively marketed, which contributes to this decline along with diminished infant health.
“We are all working hard to change negative social perceptions of breastfeeding and to properly inform and support mothers to give human milk to their babies and thereby improve the health of future generations,” Folkes added.
He called for the ad to be withdrawn and was joined by Andrew Duff MEP, the UK leader of the Liberal Democrats on the European Union who stated: “This image is not suitable to portray a family, other images could have been used, even a picture of a family.”
The policy director of Baby Milk Action and coordinator of the Baby Feeding Law Group, Patti Rundall, OBE added:"European policies have an enormous influence on health not only in Europe but globally. It is an uphill battle to achieve the safeguards and support that European mothers and babies deserve, including legislation to ensure adequate protection and support for working mothers who wish to breastfeed."
She added: "This campaign is a gift to the baby feeding industry that is fighting to expand its multi-million euro market - at the expense of child health and to make us all believe that artificial feeding is the norm."