After hearing about Emma Kwasnica's decision to pull out of the Babble.com "100 Moms Who Are Changing YOUR World" promotion over her concerns that Babble.com carries infant formula advertising, Jamie Parker decided to find out for herself what the fuss was about. She called the folks operating the Similac hotline and asked for help. She contacted Emma this morning with this report:
"So, just now out of curiosity, I looked up the "Similac Feeding Hotline" number, and gave them a faux compliant. I said my 8 month old (true) isn't seeming satisfied after nursing (false). Their immediate solution? "Why don't I take your address and we can overnight you some samples, and then we can put in an order to ship direct to you? Then its just as convenient, you won't even need to leave the house!" When I said that I wanted to continue breastfeeding, they said (direct quote here): "Your baby has all the benefits breastfeeding offers. After 6 months, breastfeeding and feeding quality formula are exactly the same."
So the rationalizing messaging from Babble owner Rufus Griscom about how Similac really is helping women to breastfeed and that it is a wise marketing tactic because those moms who choose formula later on will turn to the brand that made them feel good? It's just a smokescreen. First, let's take a look at what Rufus said in response to PhDinParenting's blog post on this last year:
I would like to take a moment to address a larger difference in perspective that we have. I think you, and some of the commenters here, believe that it’s impossible for a formula company to offer genuine advice on their website and elsewhere (not on Babble, our content is independent) that is genuinely seeking to help moms breastfeed more effectively. I disagree. I think it’s possible, however ironic that it may seem, that the formula company that is most genuine in it’s endorsement of breastfeeding will be the most successful. I am not a Similac spokesperson, but I don’t think you give them enough credit. I would be interested to know what you think of the breastfeeding page on their site (http://bit.ly/9UceeP), which does not once mention formula, and links to the WHO and the AAP for more information. Companies do make good decisions — Google pulled out of China which was not good for business but was the right thing to do. In the long run, ethical behavior is good business, and I believe that view is ascendant in the business community more broadly. You may consider this naïve; in my view, on the other hand, there is a guilty-until-proven-innocent assumption in this forum which is not necessarily right.One other place we disagree is in the ability of women to make good decisions based on clearly demarcated advice from different sources. If the Similac help line were not clearly identified as such, I would consider that to be an ethical violation. It is clearly demarcated, however, and I think moms are smart enough to make their own assessments of what they read and hear with all the facts at hand.
Moms sure are going to get warm fuzzies here - finally *someone* is saying it's ok to feed formula instead of breastfeed, and look, these nice people are going to send some free to the doorstep!
The Similac "help" line is there for one reason: to identify a mother who may be having problems breastfeeding and to get her to switch to formula. It's a great tactic because they've got the actual potential buyer right on the line - they can get a name and an address for that all important first shipment "right to your home!" all the while planting further seeds of doubt about the value of continued breastfeeding.
If you believe strongly about this issue, post about it in the comments below. Tell Rufus Griscom you want him to stop targeting breastfeeding and new mothers with formula company ads. If you have a Twitter account, you can tweet a petition to the whole Twitterverse.
If you want to read more about this issue, here is a list of blog posts, more in less in the order they were published (edited to add new items as I find out about them):
Why do 'lactivists' want to ban baby formula advertising? - The Globe and Mail
Informed Parenting: More Babbling about the Babble Debacle
Informed Parenting: Breasts, Babble, Boycotts and Bashing. Baffled?
The International Breastfeeding Symbol » Blog Archive » No one said it was easy to walk the walk…
This is so NOT about your boobs!! | Natural Urban Mamas
Jodine's World: Shame is the new guilt
Breastfeeding Advocate Asks Babble to Remove Her “Momination” — PhD in Parenting
Jodine's World: Babbling about breasts, again.
And here's is Babble.com's response to the issue from Her Bad Mother blogger and owner of The Bad Moms Club Catherine Connors, who has recently been hired by Babble.com to fire up their new Babble Voices collection of bloggers. She's got another smokescreen up - she might make you feel ashamed for raising your voice - because your voice could hurt - shame, even - mothers who have already been duped. You might want to tell Catherine what you think, too.