Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Power of Advertising

If you picked up a baby or parenting magazine right now, there are two things I can nearly guarantee you. One, it will say somewhere that Breast is Best. Two, the ads will do their damnedest to leave you with the message that formula is what normal people do and is choc full of healthy vitamins and nutrients that your baby won't get anywhere else.
WHO Code violation anyone?
But no one cares. No one cares that formula manufacturers advertise and promote their knock-off baby milk substitute to American moms. This is a first world nation, right? It's not like the WHO Code should extend to civilization. Duh. Breast is only really best for women with dark skin in backwards lands without all the science and government oversight that makes formula far superior here. Right?
Wrong.
There are people who do care that new mothers are receiving formula samples and coupons in the mail.
There are people who do care that we are constantly being bombarded with pacifier, bottle, and formula imagery.
I am one of those people.
Are you?
I have this idea. What if we STOP buying magazines with formula ads? What if we tell the various corporations publishing the magazines we love that we won't buy them until they stop selling advertising space to WHO code violators, or at least disallow WHO code violating ads? Think we could create some change?

22 reflections:

Denise said...

Ban dolls from being sold with a bottle & a pacifer too!!!

I think you need to start a petition...I'll sign!!!

I've been really surprised to learn what is banned by the WHO & am shocked that big business in the US is allowed to just ignore it, even our government pushes formula on mothers, as I know you are aware from your previous posts about your experiences at the WIC office.

~ April ~ EnchantedDandelions said...

I totally agree. Although I've never paid for a subscription, I get random American Baby and Parent magazines. They go straight in the recycling bin, because reading them makes my BP go sky-high. >:(

Upstatemomof3 said...

You are so awesome!! In all your fight the formula companies ways. I pledge to not buy anymore magazines with formula ads!!!

Farmer's Daughter said...

I got on a mailing list after shopping at Motherhood Maternity store. Ugh. I'm not due til March and I'm already getting formula samples. How does that even make sense? What am I going to drink them?

Anyway, it's pretty frustrating since I would like to breastfeed and I feel like the companies are just being wasteful. I'm going to join you in this boycot.

Melinda said...

I'm with you on this one.
I Formula fed, but mostly because I didn't have a support system, and I think I know what the problem was.

When I was pregnant, I turned down the "free" bag and samples the OB/GYN gave me as soon as their test was positive. When we were at the hospital, I had to keep the nurses away from my daughter b/c they kept thinking she needed a bottle.

I also plan on not giving my daughter dolls with pacifiers or bottles so she doesn't think that it's "normal". On her birthday, someone gave her a doll that had a cloth diaper on.

Always seem to confuse people when you're PRO-breastfeeding, but had to use formula. lol.

I agree, you should make a petition or something. I would sign!

melinda
hippie-mommy.com

Ryan, Corrie, and Max said...

Okay, so here is my two cents worth. For what it's worth. =)

I'm working on reading that WHO code you linked to, and thus far, the advertising of formula and sending out samples does not break WHO's code. I think where America falls far short is the promotion of and education regarding breastfeeding. Formula is pushed on women overseas, as well. I lived for 23 years in a 3rd world country in South America, and while most of the posters in Dr.'s offices and such promoted B/Fing, formula was easily available, and pretty much EVERYONE starts adding a really runny cereal to their baby's diet within a few weeks of birth.

I've also heard that in some countries, formula is so cheap that women use it just because.

I only used formula a few times with DD out of sheer desperation (for a number of reasons), but am thankful it is available. I know plenty of women who CAN'T breastfeed either due to latching problems or medication or whatever. It really stresses some women out, and they feel like they've failed as a mother and failed their child. Honestly? I feel like it's campaigns like this one (to not buy magazines with formula ads) that stress out mothers and promote feelings of guilt and inadequacy. And let's not forget post-partum depression.

I used to be one of those people who looked down on other moms who used formula. Then I had a baby. And even with pumping, sometimes you just want/need a break.

So yes. Breast is best. Nothing can replace it 100%. But formula is not the devil. Advertising formula and sending out packets of formula is not evil or a sin. I've received a few packs myself and am holding on to them. You never know what might happen, and based upon my first birth experience and the weeks following, I want to have them available.

Slee said...

@ Ryan Corey & Max
It's section five, as quoted below. "Article 5. The general public and mothers

5.1 There should be no advertising or other form of promotion to the general public of products within the scope of this Code.

5.2 Manufacturers and distributors should not provide, directly or indirectly, to pregnant women, mothers or members of their families, samples of products within the scope of this Code.

5.3 In conformity with paragraphs 1 and 2 of this Article, there should be no point-of-sale advertising, giving of samples, or any other promotion device to induce sales directly to the consumer at the retail level, such as special displays, discount coupons, premiums, special sales, loss leaders and tie-in sales, for products within the scope of this Code. This provision should not restrict the establishment of pricing policies and practices intended to provide products at lower prices on a long-term basis.

5.4 Manufacturers and distributors should not distribute to pregnant women or mothers of infants and young children any gifts of articles or utensils which may promote the use of breastmilk substitutes or bottle feeding.

5.5 Marketing personnel, in their business capacity, should not seek direct or indirect contact of any kind with pregnant women or with mothers of infants and young children."

I have to respectfully disagree. I formula fed my eldest for a lot of reasons, but the two reasons I keep coming back to when I try to figure out what went wrong are that I hadn't the support I needed, and that it was too easy to switch to formula, as they had been kind enough to send a bunch of it to my house so the morning I was so exhausted and drained that I didn't wake up to the baby crying, my mom just gave her a bottle of some formula, and that was that.
If someone wants to formula feed, that is their choice. If someone needs to formula feed, then of course the option needs to be available, but I can't help but believe that the pervasive imagery doesn't predispose a woman to expecting to bottle feed. We are each of us, a product of our culture, and when culture is constantly pushing the benefits of this new fortified product and that better delivery device, then I feel that it is an unhealthy message when it means that image is seeping into the baby-feeding schema.
Of course formula isn't the devil, but it's also not the best option for most infants, and the WHO Code was created to help infants get the best nutrition and healthful start to life.
I think the cruelty and humiliation I faced when I was formula feeding my daughter is a problem that lactivists need to be careful to avoid, but I don't believe that saying maybe we shouldn't be buying things that promote breastmilk substitutes is harmful to a formula feeding mother.

Cassaundra said...

We should
NEVER NEVER NEVER EVER EVER EVER
blame a mother for using formula. how can you hold someone responsible for it when BILLIONS of dollars are spent every year to make DAMN sure that she FAILS at breastfeeding. BUT, we need to hold formula companies accountable. YES formula companies are the devil. Formula is a drug, it was created to sustain a n infant's life till it could be carried to a wetnurse after a maternal death. As a drug it should be available under a prescription only and only temporarily until either donor milk or a wetnurse can be provided. No, we aren't there yet, but the first step to reaching any goal, is deciding what the goal is. My goal is: an end to the entire formula industry, 98% of babies breastfed by their own mothers and the other 2% fed by donor milk or a wetnurse. Only then will children's rights be truly protected.

Veronica said...

I have 2 children. One is 10 years old and the other is 18 months. When my 10 year old was born, the "breast is best" movement began but it was not yet taboo to use formula. I was 18 years old and had planned to breastfeed until the nurse at the hospital told me I could not due to medication. I was devastated. I felt like a terrible mother even though I was blessed with a wonderful support system in my parents and family.10 years later they now know that the medication I was on was perfectly safe for pregnancy and breast feeding.

8 years after her birth, I found out I was expecting again. This time around I was right dead center of the "breast is best" movement. After much consideration I decided that no matter what the doctor said regarding the safety of my medication in breast milk, I would not breast feed. I felt that doctors don't always know everything and even if they say my medication is safe for breastfeeding, that may turn out to be wrong years later. I did not breastfeed and was greatfull for the free samples we received in the mail and at my pediatricians office.

Now onto my reason for commenting. I was a part of babycenter.com message boards throughout my entire pregnancy up until recently. Through them I was introduced to blogs and blogging of all sorts. It is wonderful that you have the opportunity to voice your opinion publicly...freedom of speech and all that jazz, but understand you are only 10% correct in what you are promoting. While I do agree there is too much formula advertising, I feel more strongly that women these days are being forced into breastfeeding by people such as you and most of the others to respond to this blog. You read every day about women who are killing or seriously abusing their children due to Postpartum Psychosis. I would bet that if you were to look a little deeper into this, these women should have been medicated but chose not to because they were breastfeeding. I have a very good friend who stopped taking her medication during her pregnancy against the recommendation of her doctors and because of that, she immediately developed a postpartum psychosis. Forget about breast feeding, she didn't even LIKE her child. She is now safely medicated and one of the best mothers I know. Because of propaganda such as this, women are now feeling like they are bad mothers when they can not or do not want to breastfeed. You are right, this is not a third world country. The formula we get is not black market and is available to those who want or need it. It is NOT a drug, it is NOT poison, and I pray to God that there is never a time where mothers have to feed their infants another woman's milk.

Yes, breast is best. Millions have proven that. But formula is not evil and women have a RIGHT to decide what is right for THEM without being made to feel like they are less of a woman/mother or abusing their child.

For the record...remember how I said my 10 year old was formula fed? She was a wonderfully healthy child. She had the vocabulary of a 4.5 year old by the time she was 2. She made it from kindergarten to the middle of 4th grade with undiagnosed ADHD and being teased ad bullied at school, yet still pulled of nothing less than a B. Since she was 6 she has wanted to be accepted into a charter school in our area for Marine Biology. She is now in a private school(on scholarship) as well as on medication as has gotten nothing less than a 90% so far this year.My 18 month old was also formula fed and has been in the top 50th percentile for bother height and weight. She was right on track with everything developmentally . The best part? She did not get sick for the first time until she was over 1 year old, and even then it was a small cold with a mild fever. She too is thriving.

AMother'sEarth said...

I have to add that it isn't just the advertising that has been getting to me. I recently saw that Dr Sears has a line of bottles out. I lost a lot of respect for him when he put his name on such a product! He is very influential in natural and alternative parenting networks, and for him to have BOTTLES with his name on them is a step backwards in my opinion.

Slee said...

@Veronica
I dontfeel that I've said formula is evil, I've said that the free samples that show up on doorsteps and the mass marketing violates WHO code, which is the case. I agree with the WHO code because breast IS best on a nutritional and immunilogical level. I don't believe that formula is evil or poison, I believe the way we are programed for breastfeeding failure, however is another matter.
I formula fed my 10 year old. The guilt and talking down to, the ridiculous flack I got from the early lactivists was a little traumatising, so when my 5 month old was bor, I was fairly certain that I'd try breastfeeding, ut had already lined up the equipment to formula feed if I failed again. But then I realized that if you go at something expecting to fail, you will. So yes, I want women to succeed who want to succeed.
Also, there are a lot of women who believe that formula is an expression of love because it involves fiscal sacrifice, even when they honestly can't afford it. This leads to dillution, which is not a healthy feeding practice, but if they believe it is normal and expected, how on earth will they get over the stigma of making the free choice?
If someone wants to formula feed for any reason, that is fine, but I hope they are making an educated and informed choice, and not just following the most prevalent marketing.

Deanna said...

Wow, agreed! I wish I breastfed my son exclusively. I feel regrets everytime I think about it. I know that with my next one, I will not substitute with formula.

Thanks for the insight.

Mommygaga

Kunsthure said...

I gave most of my formula samples to the pediatrician's office. At least that way it wouldn't go to waste, though it probably should've.

I had *no* idea there was a WHO code, even though I've been around the natural living/AP forums for years. When has America ever paid attention to international codes on anything? Thank you for sharing this!

It's sickening how pushy the formula companies are. If they didn't give our their garbage so readily more women would breastfeed. It baffles me that pro-formula mothers say they know breast is best yet they turn right around and *choose* to give their babies inferior, man-made artificial baby milk. Yes, yes, there are some that can't BF for whatever reason, blah blah blah, we've all heard that argument before. But those who choose to in the face of everything saying breastmilk is far superior leave me confused.

Janet said...

Apparently I am very naive, or, that advertising is different in Canada. My mother formula fed myself and my brother. Back then, they were told that this was better than breastfeeding. And as my mother was painfully shy, she did not feel that she could breastfeed in public. My grandmother strapped her breasts to her chest to stop the milk flow so that she could not breastfeed.

However, when I got pregnant, I automatically assumed that I would breastfeed. I don't know if it has anything to do with subliminal messaging, my more "granola" outlook on life, or the one year maternity leave available in Canada, but I never once thought that I would use formula. When my midwife told me that my milk was not coming in soon enough and that my baby was losing too much wait and I needed to put him on formula until my milk came in, I didn't know what to do. I had no problem using formula if that's what my child needed, but I honestly didn't know how to do it. In the middle of a snow storm, my husband had to go out and buy formula and bottles. We read packages and boiled bottles and warmed formula and looked at each other and said, my god this is a pain, why would anyone choose this over breastfeeding? I would pump when I could and my husband would feed our child in order for me to get a bit of sleep every once in a while, but for no other reason. I never even thought to use formula in that situation. I was very thankful that after 14 hours on formula, my milk came in and that was the last he had of it.

Out of curiousity, is formula more prevalent in the US because women are expected to go back to work much sooner, if they choose to go back to work, and it is easier than pumping? This was always my thought, but now I wonder if it's the advertisements. I think the US government could drastically help promote breastfeeding if they provided a better maternity leave option for women. But that is a other can of worms.

Slee said...

@Janet
I think that the maternity leave issue is huge in pressuring moms to formula feed, but I think the rampant advertising and the media imagery of bottles and babies has sunk in. I think its a lot like the ways that Always sponsors the instructional materials 5th grade girls receive when first learning about puberty, and then later they look at you like you're nuts if you mention cloth. We are rtaught early on that formula is "normal" and since breast doesn't sell when it's functional, it becomes abnormal.
I still recall the first time I saw a woman breastfeeding. I was the woman.

Ryan, Corrie, and Max said...

Okay, I'll admit that when I first posted I hadn't read all of the article. So I jumped the gun there a bit. But I still hold to what I said.

And, maybe I missed something (and someone please point me to the right source, if so) but since when is the WHO code actual law?

I feel like there's a happy medium. We all know that scientifically, breast is best. But it doesn't mean that breast is ALWAYS best for EVERYONE. I think we need to aim at being "pro-baby feeding" and stop judging others for their choices.

I think one way to help promote breastfeeding in a positive but not judgmental way would be to become a lactation consultant. Or being leaders in the LLL, or other related things.

Slee said...

@Ryan, Corrie, and Max
O still don't see how suggesting that people who believe in the code take actions to encourage adherence. The WHO code is not legislated in the US, at this point, however, I believe that in section 11.3 it addresses self policing and enforcement despite an individual country's legislative status. It is law in many countries. I also support asking legislators to adopt the code for the sake of the health of future generations.
But again, I don't see how supporting the code harms formula feeding moms. The WHO code doesn't say that these products can't be sold, but rather limits promotion. Formula companies still operate and profit in countries where they have to adhere to the code for fear of fines and other legal recourse.
I think the difference is I'm talking about the behavior of corporations, and I can't see how that is persecutorial with regard of their target market, moms.
Breast isn't always the besat option for health (emotional or physical) reasons, but it is not the job of corporations to sabotage a mother's ability to nurse her child through any of the myriad ways they do.

Ryan, Corrie, and Max said...

Yes, because that's exactly what we need- MORE nit-picking laws to govern the day to day lives of people who are thought to be unable to think for themselves. And when we choose NOT to follow these laws, we wonder when CPS will get called. Simply because we choose to follow our God-given motherly instincts. Now again, don't get me wrong- there are some bad mothers out there. But they make the rest of look bad and seem uneducated.

Slee said...

@Ryan, Corrie, and Max
But when legislated, it isn't encroaching on the lives of people, but rather how the lives of people are affected by advertisements and promotional materials.
Who code doesn't say you can't formula feed, or that you're bad for $aking that decision as I did with my eldest, just that formula and breastmilk substitutes/equipment needs to be labeled and sold ethically.

Ryan, Corrie, and Max said...

But that is how it starts. And while some such laws are for our safety, I maintain that the government does not need such far-reaching control.

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