Thursday, April 22, 2010

WHO Gave You My Address? An open letter to Mead Johnson & Company

Mead Johnson Nutrition,
2400 West Lloyd Expressway-B215
Evansville, IN 4772

Dear Mead Johnson Nutrition/ Mead Johnson & Company

 I don't know who gave you my address, but as a breastfeeding mother, I'm less than thrilled with the discount formula "checks" you sent to my house. The "nutritional building blocks he needs now" don't come from your "Toddler Formula," they come from breast milk and real foods.

I also think you should know that bolding and capitalizing "PREMIUM" really isn't trade markable, but more over, there is nothing premium, other than the price one pays, about your formula. In order to be distributed and marketed as a breast milk substitute, any formula has to meet certain FDA established guidelines.  Other than the fact that yours is a formula created by chemists to be more like what a toddler needs than what a newborn needs, you're not special.  I'm a little irritated that you're trying to mislead parents with said bold capitalized words.

I'm even more mad that you had the gall to print "Getting the right nutrition seems easy with breast milk or infant formula, but now it is a bit more complex.  Make sure your toddler gets the nutrition she needs after infant formula, for growth, brain and immune system development" with your product.  That you went on to say your product was chemically formulated "to help toddlers get balanced nutrition when they need it most with essential vitamins, antioxidants, iron and DHA [chemical soup de' jour] helps provide a strong foundation for healthy development," only adds to my displeasure.

This implies that getting the right nutrition with breast milk is an illusion, because it only seems simple and doesn't have added vitamins, antioxidants, heavy metals, and acronyms we're told we need, when in fact, breast milk provides the nutrition a toddler needs for growth, brain and immune system development.  Any formula trying to do similar is imitating breast milk, and the phrasing on this propaganda you sent my house is clearly crafted to cast doubt on the nutritional value of breast milk and continued breastfeeding past one year of age.

The World Health Organization recommends that infants be breastfed exclusively to 6 months, and continue to be breastfed until at least 2 years of age, and beyond 2 years as is beneficial and mutually desirable to both parties of the nursing dyad.

"Breastfeeding is an unequalled way of providing ideal food for the healthy growth and development of infants; it is also an integral part of the reproductive process with important implications for the health of mothers. As a global public health recommendation, infants should be exclusively breastfed(1) for the first six months of life to achieve optimal growth, development and health(2). Thereafter, to meet their evolving nutritional requirements, infants should receive nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods while breastfeeding continues for up to two years of age or beyond."

You can read more about the WHO breastfeeding recommendation and the Global Strategy on Infant and Young Child Feeding here.

Promoting any special toddler formula with misleading wording regarding the nutritional value of breast milk is disingenuous and certainly a violation of the WHO code (International Code of Marketing Breast-milk Substitutes) and despite the fact that the United States does not yet enforce said code through fines and other penalties, violation of the WHO code costs lives every year.   

Breast milk inarguably supports the healthy and proper development of the immune system, and research has shown time and again that breastmilk evolves with the growing child's ever changing needs to be the appropriate food to nourish growth and immune system development.  Also, breastfeeding, not just breast milk, also has the added benefit of helping further develop a strong sense of attachment, trust and security in the child.  Formula can't do that.  Lovingly feeding a toddler can, and I am not saying that formula can not be given in a way that furthers those bonds, but formula itself can not.

I also noted that in the image of your product, it boasts "Great Taste!" and that it comes in both unflavored and vanilla.  Not only is it not a real food, it's natural ingredients readily identifiable, it's also artificially flavored, because our children need more of that in their diets. 

I also find it interesting that after using misleading language about the value of breast milk, you proudly use the words "Milk Based" on your product's canister- because while species appropriate breast milk is apparently not good enough, cross-species breast milk chemically reconfigured certainly must be.

So Mead Johnson Nutrition, you tried to mislead me.  You treated me like I'm not smart enough or informed enough to understand what you're trying to do through your advertising. I'm angry.  I won't be rushing into the grocery store to get five dollars off the price of your magic new chemical soup of growing, and I certainly won't be giving your company's products preference when buying.  

You don't value the health of my children, and that right there says a lot to me.


Slee Fenton, Proud Breastfeeding Mother to a Very Healthy 11.5 Month Old Baby

9 reflections:

Jupiter said...

YES, it always pissed me off getting crap like that.

This is one kick-ass letter :-)

natalie said...

"magic new chemical soup of growing" ?
Wow... love it!

I got two separate coupons, each for 7 dollars off toddler formula, AND a sample in the mail. Ugh.

Cate said...

Thank you for this! We get those formula coupons, too, despite the fact that I've never signed up for anything like that. I'm also proudly breastfeeding an 11-month old!

Farmer's Daughter said...

Nursing my 6-week old as I read this! Thanks for so eloquently stating what I was thinking!

Casey said...

This bugs me, too. My 4 year old son weaned last week. My 2.5 year old is nursing, and I am currently pregnant. I have never signed up for any sort of formula coupons or samples, and I have over the last year received 4 cans of different types of formula. Since my older son was born, I have received over 10 cans. Who is selling my address? Unfortunately, I'm having to lean toward the clinic I used to go to for my appointments.

Erin said...

Mead Johnson Nutrition just got TOLD! Yeah, buddy!

I read the last part of this aloud to a friend (starting with the part about the vanilla and unflavored) and she about died laughing. She asked if you were a blogger too and I gave her your link. I think you just earned a new reader. LOL.

Good stuff, lady.


Slee said...

So proud of you ladies who are happily breastfeeding your children, despite the sort of propaganda we get in the mail. You ladies Rock.

mandy @ bigcity! baby said...

That's a great letter! Way to go! ...did you really send it?

mandy @ bigcity! baby said...
This comment has been removed by the author.