Similac On My Doorstep Part 2

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After my post yesterday, I had an interesting conversation with @Blacktating who blogs “breastfeeding news and views from a mom of color.”  Her blog has great content and it’s a great example of how Twitter connects people with similar interests.  She felt that it was better for the formula companies to say nothing at all rather than send out samples of formula with inaccurate, negative information about breastfeeding.

Our conversation made me question if I was too quick to sing their praises.  I sat down to read the pamphlet over again to make sure I hadn’t missed any subliminal messages about the evils of breastfeeding.  Really, I just wanted to see if I had read the material too lightly and if, indeed, this campaign is just a way to draw mothers to formula.  After reading through the pamphlet I jotted down the positive points on breastfeeding below:

  • They suggest asking your doctor or attending nurses for assistance in locating a lactation consultant.
  • Remind moms that different positions work for different stages; it’s not one size fits all forever.
  • Advise to let the baby determine how much time to spend at the breast not the clock.
  • State that no additional food/nutrition is required if you are breastfeeding.
  • Say that breastfeeding will assist in weight loss after baby (not sure this is true for everyone but if we’re looking for positive statements that might encourage moms to BF, then surely this will be a good point for some moms).
  • The formula portion of the pamphlet doesn’t make any presumptions about why a mother would not be able to breastfeed.

After reading through it again, I still believe it’s a positive step.  I didn’t pin point any negative or round about way of suggesting to moms that breastfeeding isn’t the way to go.  It’s information similar to what you find in mainstream pregnancy books.  Like @Blacktating I realize that these books are not the best books out there; the thing is that they are the books most women pick up to read when they’re pregnant.  I understand where @Blacktating is coming from – ideally breastfeeding companies would be mailing out informational and supportive literature and maybe even breastpumps.  However, the reality is that organizations focused on breastfeeding don’t always have the marketing dollars to compete with formula company campaigns like Strong Moms.  It also may not be the route they want to take to convince moms breast is best.

I also don’t think that you can convince a mom to breastfeed by only giving her breastfeeding information.  I liken it to telling kids not to have sex until marriage and only teach them abstinence education – it doesn’t take into account the reality of what’s taking place.  I know first hand that there are different kinds of moms –

  • Moms like myself who are adamant about breastfeeding.  We’ll do it no matter what and may even be breastfeeding into toddlerhood.
  • Moms on the fence – not dead set on either breast or formula.  They’re willing to wait and see how it goes.  Nothing lost if boob doesn’t work out.
  • Moms who know before they’ve given birth they don’t want anyone drinking from their boob.  They stock up on formula way before their due date.

I’m the first kind of mom and all of my friends have been in the middle category.  I watched them approach breastfeeding with a positive outlook then each encountered their own set of difficulties – pain, discomfort, a weird ickiness about the process, frustration, impatience, exhaustion.  For some people these are not valid excuses for not bresatfeeding.  However, taking the attachment parenting perspective of taking what works for you, they made the decision that at the end of the day made them better mothers.  While I think breastfeeding is best, I never persuaded them away from their choices.  I offered advice to make sure they had good information and resources but in the end, breast was not for them.

From knowing these women, I also know that a hardcore breast only campaign would not have made them become a cheerleader for breastfeeding.  Not providing them with any information wouldn’t be fair.  Which is why I’m still ok with Similac sending out their samples with breastfeeding info.

What are your thoughts?  Do you think the formula companies are wrong in sharing breastfeeding information?  What is the best way to make breastfeeding go mainstream in our culture?

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  1. I think it is good that formula companies share breastfeeding information, but I don’t think that is enough. I think they should also be required to share information on the risks of formula.

    In terms of making breastfeeding mainstream, a few things I would suggest are:
    1) Seeing more women breastfeed. We see babies with bottles all the time, but breastfeeding tends to be hidden in public and in the media. This needs to change.
    2) Better maternity leave provisions and better support for pumping in the workplace to make it easier for mothers to meet their breastfeeding goals.
    3) Better support in the medical community. In the info you quoted above, you suggested that telling a mom to get a recommendation for a LC from her doctor would be a positive. Unfortunately, many women will not get past that doctor. The doctor will give her plenty of reasons why it is okay to give up on breastfeeding. We need to educate doctors more about breastfeeding and we need to give women easier direct access to quality breastfeeding support.

  2. You know, I have to say, they’ve definitely improved the information they are sending out to people in regards to breastfeeding. If you look at the Similac website, there is still a lot of inaccurate info posted there. It specifically says a baby should only nurse 5-10 minutes per breast, at which point you should move to the second breast. Well, many babies will have only gotten foremilk at that point, not the fatty hind milk, which could result in low weight gain.
    I also agree with Annie. The formula companies should be required to list the dangers of formula, the same way tobacco and alcohol companies do. There are still serious risks involved in formula feeding, even in the West where we have a clean water supply (and I say this as a mom who had to give my son formula, so I know that sometimes there really is no choice). At the end of the day formula does have its place, as a medically necessary alternative when breast milk is not available or lacking. It shouldn’t be any baby’s primary source of nutrition.

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