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Breastfeeding Advocate Asks Babble to Remove Her "Momination"

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post calling out popular parenting website Babble for trying to dupe breastfeeding moms by putting ads for a 1-800 number feeding expert line run by infant formula brand Similac on its Breastfeeding Guide and other baby related content. Despite the fact that global public health experts from the World Health Organization recommend that advertising of infant formula not be allowed, their recommendations are largely ignored by major media outlets in North America and other countries where they have not been passed into law. But the Similac ads on Babble went beyond your run-of-the-mill formula ad by positioning their live 24/7 Feeding Experts as lactation consultants, with only a tiny mention of Similac in the corner. This is a typical wolf in sheep's clothing tactic.

A day after my post went up, CEO Rufus Griscom stopped by and left a few comments in support of their approach and ultimately told me:
We are not making any changes to the campaign, but I have read all the
comments by the community carefully and we will certainly keep all this in
mind as we proceed in the future.

It is now one year later, Babble has been expanding rapidly, and the same Similac feeding expert ads are still there. Apparently, they are no longer run in the breastfeeding section. However, they still appear across the site on content relating to newborns and when Babble recently listed my blog as a Top Pregnancy Blog that same Similac ad appeared next to the list much of the time.

Human Milk 4 Human Babies Founder Emma Kwasnica and the Babble Momination

"It seemed like a good idea at the time," Jodine Chase wrote about her decision to nominate Human Milk for Human Babies founder Emma Kwasnica for Babble's Momination contest. The contest, which aims to recognize moms who are changing the world, is offering ten prizes of $5000 each to the winners. In her post, Babbling about breasts again, Jodine wrote about how she came to hear about the contest and her decision to nominate Emma:
A item came up in my Facebook feed from Katie Allison Granju, respected author of "Attachment Parenting: Instinctive Guide for Your Baby and Young Child" and well-known mommy-blogger whose life was turned upside down when her son Henry Granju died after a drug overdose. Katie was nominated in Babble.com's "100 Moms Who are Changing YOUR World" promotion and she posted a gracious thank-you and asked people to continue to support her efforts to bring justice for Henry.

I thought of the other moms I know who have stepped outside their role as mother and become advocates for important causes. Emma Kwasnica jumped to mind. I forwarded her name and a description of Emma's work as breastfeeding and birth advocate and founder of the global milksharing network Human Milk 4 Human Babies, and her "Momination" went up on Babble.com's website. Within  hours - even before Emma knew about it! - she had hundreds of votes. And in days she was on the top-ten list.

It seemed like a good idea, that is, until Jodine learned about the deceptive Similac ads on Babble."The last thing in the world I want is for Emma Kwasnica's good name to be tainted," she wrote. Both Jodine and Emma discussed the dilemma and the conflict of interest and both pleaded with Babble, as many others did last year, to reconsider their stance on formula advertising. Supporting formula feeding moms does not have to involve throwing breastfeeding moms under the bus, after all. There is a place for the provision of unbiased information on how to formula feed, but there is no place for a formula feeding company pretending to act in the best interest of breastfeeding moms.

Ultimately, when Babble was (once again) unwilling to reconsider its stance on formula ads, Emma asked to have her entry in the Momination contest removed. In an e-mail to me, Emma explained her decision:
Women cannot count on formula ads to give them unbiased information about formula feeding; it is an impossibility for women to make any kind of an informed choice regarding the feeding of powdered infant formula, or learn about its inherent risks, simply from seeing/reading formula adverts. The only way I would consider participating in the Momination contest, is if Babble were to instigate a zero tolerance policy for all formula advertising across the site --no exceptions. This is a question of ethics; the advertising of formula to pregnant or new mothers, in any capacity, is unacceptable.

Ultimately, Emma decided that while the $5000 would have been extremely useful in her advocacy work, she didn't "care for blood money."

Living Our Values, Protecting Our Social Capital

Recently, I wrote a blog post questioning whether good cancels out evil. There is no question that the $50,000 that Babble will be giving to inspirational moms will go to excellent causes. But if that money came from duping breastfeeding moms, can it make up for the damage that is done? The cost of formula feeding is significant. In terms of the price of formula alone, I saved around $2400 by breastfeeding both of my children. Beyond the cost of formula, a significant study last year found that the United States incurs $13 billion in excess costs each year and also suffers 911 preventable deaths because of low breastfeeding rates. Suddenly, the $50,000 in "blood money" that Babble is handing out seems like nothing compared with the significant cost that comes with sabotaging a mother's ability to breastfeed her child successfully.

Emma Kwasnica isn't the first person to take a stance like this (and hopefully won't be the last). In 2007, children's author Sean Taylor was voted by children as the winner of the Nestlé Children's Book Prize. However,Taylor refused to accept the prize money. According to Mothering, :
In an open letter explaining his decision, Taylor said that he was honored to have won the prize because it is awarded on the basis of children's votes, but he could not accept Nestlé's money because "their interpretation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes sets up the risk that profit is put before infant health." After examining their baby formula marketing practices, Taylor said, "I do not feel that Nestlé are the most appropriate sponsors for this major children's book prize."

I applaud both Emma and Sean for taking the stance that they did, but I really wish that they didn't have to. I wish that companies were more willing to do something about the business practices that they are criticized for instead of just trying to sweep them under the rug by handing out prize money or donating to charitable causes.

In the conclusion of my post about whether good cancels out evil, I noted:
In the meantime, I would like to see less applauding of corporations for the good things they are doing when those are obviously intended to help us conveniently forget the evil they are doing.  I would like to see more people looking under the rug before they agree to participate in or support a campaign. I would like to see these companies held accountable by bloggers and consumers alike, especially when regulators and courts aren’t willing or able to do so.

I'm proud of Emma for taking the stance that she did and I'm sure it will pay dividends much higher than the $5000 she had a chance of winning. I dare say that if Babble were to change its advertising policy and commit to upholding the International Code of the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes that it would reap benefits greater than what it currently charges for those ads.

What do you think?
« Breastfeeding...just because | Main | Evenflo Update »

Reader Comments (61)

Wow - just wow. I am shocked. As a marketer it makes me so mad to see campaigns like that - where are the ethics?

I think it's great that Emma took a stand. More mother's have to do that. I really hope that the Code of Marketing is implemented.

I admire her that much more for standing up for what she believed. That's not an easy thing to walk away from. I commend you on bringing positive attention to Emma and certainly hope Babble with rethink (again and more seriously) it's stance on formula ads that undermine nursing moms.

September 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDiana @Hormonal Imbalances

Thank you so much for posting this, I especially love the comment that "supporting formula feeding moms does not have to mean throwing breastfeeding moms under the bus..." along with a look at the overall costs to society as a result of low breastfeeding rates. I applaud Emma for standing firm in her position!

September 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterchristina martinez

Nicely said, Annie, as usual!!

September 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterIlse

Just wondering if any of you have actually called the Similac help line? I did earlier this year--and contrary to opinions, they were unbiased and extremely helpful. They in no way pushed formula and even had follow-up calls a week later to make sure that everything was going okay with my breastfeeding efforts. Women know that breast is best, but nature doesn't always cooperate. Thank goodness there are companies out there who are willing to invest in creating healthy substitutes if need and supporting mothers in need.

September 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterV

I think Emma did the right thing. She would not have felt comfortable accepting that money because doing so would have undercut the projects she believes in.

* * * * *

Formula companies have a lot of money to spend on marketing to moms. I've been approached on a number of occasions and offered the opportunity to work with various companies on projects ranging from writing newsletters/magazines on their behalf to spokesperson work. I have always turned these opportunities down because I don't want to make money from an endeavour that would undercut breastfeeding. They have always argued that the materials I would be helping them to produce would be in support of breastfeeding, but, as many breastfeeding advocates have noted (most recently Teresa Pitman, when I interviewed her a few weeks ago for my column in The Toronto Star), you can't expect a company that benefits from mothers NOT succeeding at breastfeeding to provide the best possible advice to mothers about breastfeeding. So why would I want to devote my energies to producing second-rate information for mothers? It wouldn't make sense on any level, moral/ethical or otherwise.

September 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnn Douglas

I have no disagreements with the major point of this post, and heartily applaud Emma for her stance.

However, your link to "a significant study last year that found that the United States incurs $13 billion in excess costs each year and also suffers 911 preventable deaths because of low breastfeeding rates..." is actually a link to no such thing, it's a link to a highly biased editorial.

I gave birth in the real united states, my first was a C section b/c he was upside down transverse and remained that way despite me trying everything to get him to turn, including external cephalic version. We nursed within half an hour of delivery and had a very good nursing relationship over the following year. My second was a VBAC with no drugs, I arrived at the hospital 30 min before he was born; I did not get to nurse him until about 1.5 hours after birth because of significant bleeding from tearing in my vaginal area that had to be dealt with and I couldn't manage to hold my little guy through what they were doing to fix me up. We also ended up with a very happy nursing relationship, and I nursed him for a year also.

I was offered lacation support in the hospital and at home, and never offered formula. The babies stayed with me in my room both times.

Editorials like these upset me becuase they don't take into account the TRUTH that there ARE a lot of hospitals that are already following these practices, and also that one does not have to have a happy clappy totally natural birth and immediate skin to skin contact in order to have a productive and happy breastfeeding relationship. Maybe it helps, but I didn't have that with either of my kids and breastfed both successfully. I can't really put my finger on why editorials like these make me so angry; maybe because they do suggest that unless everything goes happy clappy perfectly you will be unable to breastfeed; which ALSO does a disservice to women - perhaps telling them that it IS possible to breastfeed normally and healthily despite not having everything "the way it should be" at birth would be a better message to send. (Because how many people really have their birth go exactly they way they plan - even those who do have a doula / midwife / planned home birth / whatever can encounter obstacles that might make the birth not go the way they had hoped.)

September 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNico

I think her decision was fine, and I would propose a second option as well-- if one is in possession of a very popular blog and has access to a vast audience, I'd say accept the money and make a very public donation to a pro-breastfeeding organization, with a lengthy blog post detailing exactly why. Let Babble be $5,000 poorer! But again, not criticizing her decision, this is just my alternative solution :)

September 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJulie Anita


You are right. That is the wrong link. I had a lot of pages open at once and must have grabbed the wrong one. I'll update it.

September 11, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

::starts slow clap::

I really am shocked at how much bad information is given to new moms. I remember when I was in the hospital after giving birth I had a fantastic LC the first day, she was so supportive and taught me a few tricks to make nursing successful. But then I had this "LC" who tried to tell me that the fact that he wanted to nurse every 4 hours meant he wasnt getting enough milk and then since my milk had not come in by day 2 that I would have to supplement with formula. She gave me this tube thing and attached it to my nipple so he would suck and get it that way. I fucking cried the whole time as she stood there and smiled. Then she tried to plunge the formula into the tube so it would just pour into his mouth. Finally I had had enough and I screamed at her to stop and to leave. When my MW came later in the day she was outraged and told me that I was doing nothing wrong and to continue nursing as I was. What if I hadn't had a supportive MW (or OB)? What if I believed her that my milk wasn't enough? See its things like this that would completely make me question getting breastfeeding advice from someone working for a formula company. No way are they even remotely close to being considered a LC.

September 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen

Well done EM!

September 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

Out of curiosity, did they ask for/require an email address from you, or home address? If so, have you received marketing from them? I'm glad the info was accurate, but companies aren't in the business of doing things that aren't going to make them money. It doesn't make sense for them to give women free breastfeeding advice for them to keep on not using their product. They're hoping that the women will remember them as being sensitive and eventually buy their product.

I am very grateful that formula exists. My first son needed it. But, I don't agree with their marketing tactics, and if they spent less money marketing to women who are trying to breastfeed, formula itself would be cheaper for those who want and/or need it.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMarfMom

Yes!!!! I am so glad that women like Emma are alive and willing to stand up to organizations like Babble.

I cannot stand Babble myself, just seems like an overrated online gossip magazine directed at Mothers.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

Way to go, Emma! I am not surprised at her decision, having heard her speak and read her comments - she obviously walks the walk!

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMilkfacemama

Emma did the right thing and more who are nominated from these ridiculous lists should do the same. The lists are promotional vehicles for Babble and its unethical advertisers.

Note regarding Katie Granju's place on these lists: she is a longtime Babble blogger and sold out on the formula issue long ago. No disrespect intended regarding her work that has arisen from the horror of her son's death but attachment parenting is not a subject about which she can write with expertise anymore. And Babble nominating its own bloggers for its "most whatever" blogger lists? Conflict of interest anyone?

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJake Aryeh Marcus

Hi, Alisa from Babble here -- I’m Rufus’ wife, Co-founder of Babble and a breastfeeding mom of three boys. The post above contains some inaccurate information. I’ve provided below my note to Emma, which should provide a little more clarity on Babble’s editorial and advertising policies. We did move quickly to modify our advertising policies last year and since then have had a clear policy of not running formula advertising in breastfeeding sections of Babble. We are strong supporters of the health benefits of breastfeeding and always appreciate constructive and reasonable feedback.


Hi Emma,

Thanks again for reaching out.

As mentioned in my earlier note, we would be happy to remove you from the Mominations program if that’s your preference. We appreciate your offer to assist us with our breastfeeding support materials – we are always looking to improve Babble and would like to reach out to you when we are preparing to revise and expand those sections of the site.

With regard to our advertising policy, it is true that we have run advertising campaigns on Babble with formula companies in the past and we expect that we will do so again in the future. We are firm believers in the importance of breastfeeding children when it’s possible for mothers to do so – it’s clearly the best way to nourish a growing baby - and certainly don’t want any part of the Babble website to suggest otherwise. That said, we also believe in the right of mothers to make individual choices with all information available to them and that includes information about different formula options, provided both by our writers and advertisers themselves.

A year ago, we got useful feedback from the Lactiivst community regarding the Similac campaign and made adjustments based on that feedback. We’re discussing internally the possibility of assembling a board of breastfeeding advocate advisors to review the Breastfeeding resources we make available to women on Babble and would be happy to consider you as a candidate if that would interest you.

Thanks again, let us know how you’d like to proceed.


September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlisa Volkman

I give Emma props for being so noble. That is a hard decision. I breastfeed and I support moms who choose bottle feeding, and I expect the same respect.

With that being said, when I had my daughter, Similac sent me breastmilk storage containers. Yes, they also sent formula and advertising, but I was surprised at the breastfeeding support.


September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenna@MomofManyHats

Hi Alisa,

Thank you for the comment. Other than my direct quote from Rufus, I can't see anything in my post that is inaccurate based on the comment you just posted. The only change that has been made (which I did mention in the post directly after the quote from Rufus) is not running the formula ads in the breastfeeding section of Babble.

Otherwise, as you noted, "it is true that we have run advertising campaigns on Babble with formula companies in the past and we expect that we will do so again in the future" (emphasis mine). That is, essentially, the problem. Like you, I support the right of mothers to make individual choices with all information available to them, which includes information about different formula options. However, I disagree about what the appropriate source of that information is. Formula companies are not in the business of providing unbiased information on feeding in general, on breastfeeding, or even on formula feeding. I would be happy to discuss this with you in further detail at any point. I would not (and I know Emma would not), however, consider being part of a board of breastfeeding advocate advisors unless you were willing to commit to following the WHO Code guidelines.


September 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Props for Emma!

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTara

I have, in fact, called the hotline out of curiosity before. I admit, they didn't push formula on me. They didn't give me terribly great advice either. It didn't seem directly intended to undermine, but I generally consider it to be a questionable source of advice, bias aside, simply because the operator didn't seem particularly well trained in lactation issues.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen

I don't know that I could ever respect an "advocate" that makes jokes about how she felt 'sorry for the beetle' during the Similac recall. She leaves a bad taste in my mouth. A true advocate would realize that tact plays a big role in her work.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKelly

I bet that 5000 moms out there might just be willing to donate $1 to the cause. That way we could champion her in the best way possible!

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMandi

When I was researching this subject last week I asked some US friends to check to see if Babble.com was running formula company ads alongside breastfeeding information on their website. I received quite a few samples of the following current ad placements:

- Similac ads on the newborn guide (one with the caption "I just fed her, why is she still crying.")
- Similac also the newborn guide
- Similac ads come up when you type "breastfeeding" into Babble.com's search window
- Gerber ads on Babble.com's breastfeeding guide. Gerber is one of Nestlé's brands

I have launched a Twitter petition. You can find it at the link below, or you can cut this phrase and tweet it out: Petition @BabbleEditors to keep Babble.com free of infant formula ads http://act.ly/483 RT to sign #breastfeeding

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJodine Chase

Oops, sorry, I mean to say for point two
- Similac also sponsors the newborn guide**

When I get a chance I'll put examples up on flikr.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJodine Chase

And yet, Alisa, I screencapped the "Common Breastfeeding Problems" page yesterday with an ad for Gerber juice...a brand name that is well-known for its formula. (Nestle=Gerber) http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6190/6141760847_0ddd429200_b.jpg

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmber Mc.

Honestly, I'm trying to care and am finding it difficult. I was once a loyal follower and believer in all of this but have come to realize that a select few of you are on a dangerous witch-hunt and will stop at nothing. Post pictures? Really? Have you even seen or even care about what this post was originally related to? A program on Babble's site called Mominations. Have any of you taken the time to even look at this program? It should make you feel ashamed -- while you waste your time and others, there are moms out there with dying children, fighting rare diseases and asking for people's time and prayers. Babble is shining a light on their stories and meanwhile you want to take what they are doing and drum up an old and tired and honestly, senseless and unreasonable fight and pitted against other moms, many of whom are in support of breastfeeding (and Babble stated clearly that they are as well, along with the Founder). Where is the support for fellow moms? We're all survivors and all deserve support and a pat on the back for the job we take on everyday. Instead, Annie, you're encouraging hate, anger, darkness. That's no way to live and I'm not inspired. I'm going back to Babble to read more about the moms in real need. The moms who need real support and encouragement.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKristine Clemmons

It is always just a matter of the time before someone makes the "but think of the children who can be helped" argument. How about thinking about all the children who die each year because of unethical formula marketing? Don't they count? Oh wait! They don't have blogs.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJake Aryeh Marcus


I have to admit that I'm finding it difficult to follow your logic.

Do you know much about what Emma Kwasnica does with Human Milk 4 Human Babies? She has created a worldwide network to match moms with excess breastmilk with moms in need of breastmilk. She is one of the people who is out there fighting for moms with children who, for example have diseases and allergies that mean that they cannot tolerate formula. She is the one out there fighting for moms who cannot afford to buy formula and getting them free access to breastmilk to nourish their babies.

Yes, I know exactly what Mominations is about and I understand why Emma cannot consider offering the money that they are giving out. It is a conflict of interest.

I'm not encouraging hate, anger or darkness. I'm asking companies, one of which is Babble, to reconsider their stance on formula advertising by adhering to guidelines put out by the World Health Organization. I'm also highlighting the ethics, values and work of an activist and advocate who said that she could not accept money that came from formula advertising.

September 12, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

[...] – that accepts advertising from formula companies. The money that I earn is, on this view, “blood money,” because it comes from a company that accepts such advertising. Formula advertising is, after all, [...]

I agree with @Jake. Good Point!

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLance @ Identity Direct

[...] now – that accepts advertising from formula companies. The money that I earn is, on this view, “blood money,” because it comes from a company that accepts such advertising. Formula advertising is, after all, [...]

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterThis Is Why We Can’t Hav

Since Alisa has replied and posted her side of our correspondence, I figure it could shine some light if I posted my reply to her e-mail, in which she explained Babble's rationale for continuing to promote formula on their website and therefore accept revenues from two companies, Abbott (makers of Similac) and Gerber (owned by Nestlé), and in which she also offered to incorporate me into a not-yet-existing breastfeeding advocate advisory board.

Here is my reply to Alisa:

>Thank you for following through on my request to have my nomination pulled.

The thing that needs to be understood, Alisa, is that women cannot count on formula ads to give them unbiased information about formula feeding; it is an impossibility for women to make any kind of an informed choice regarding the feeding of powdered infant formula, or learn about its inherent risks, simply from seeing/reading formula adverts. The only way I would consider working on an advisory board for Babble (and I would consider it), is if Babble were to instigate a zero tolerance policy for all formula advertising across the site --no exceptions. This is a question of ethics; the advertising of formula to pregnant or new mothers, in any capacity, is unacceptable.

There is good reason for this. Please learn about the WHO's International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes, and understand that this is fundamentally a health issue, and nothing less. The existence of advertisement codes like the WHO Code is our only hope to protect the health and well-being of the mother-baby dyad as it stands currently, since legislation regarding infant formula advertising has not (and likely will not any time soon...) been effectuated in the USA.

Thank you again for your understanding in this matter. I would be pleased to speak to you and am at your entire disposition in the future regarding the upgrading of your website to a health-friendly venue for the mother-baby dyad.


September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEmma Kwasnica

I can understand her decision to withdraw herself from the nominations and i respect anyone who can stand firmly for what it is they believe in. i have my own conflicted feelings but am going to keep them to myself - just agree to disagree with some points.

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDevan @ Accustomed Chaos

[...] has been a lot of attention recently about a popular website having ‘formula advertising’ on their website. A spark [...]


I spent a lot of time thinking about your comment last night. I don't like losing people who are loyal followers. I'm used to people disagreeing with me, but in the case of people that I am generally on the same page as, I would like to find a way to repair a rift if possible.

So, I thought I'd take a look to see what else you had commented on in the past, so that maybe I could find some common ground. I didn't find any comments on my blog under your name or your e-mail address. I also couldn't find you on twitter or find a blog by you that might help me to understand who you are or what your perspective is on issues like this.

I did, however, find two comments from the same IP address. They were comments from Rufus Griscom on my post last year.

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Wow... very telling indeed. keep up the good work, Phdinparenting!

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLidia

Wow that is VERY interesting. And a pretty common PR tactic... get some schills or fake names to go attack and try to shame those that are pointing out legitimate issues.

Methinks it is time to share this link with my own community of moms.

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKJ

Changed my mind, I decided to blog some more instead of just putting up the pics. The pictures are in the blog post, "Shame is the new guilt" http://jodinesworld.blogspot.com/2011/09/shame-is-new-guilt.html?spref=fb

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJodine Chase

I'm torn on this issue. I respect Emma's decision, but I also understand Babble's decision to accept advertising revenue from formula companies.

I actually used those free breastfeeding lines after my first child's birth in 2008. I used them in the middle of the night because I was so worried that my son wasn't getting enough milk, worried about why my nipples hurt, worried about everything. At 2am in the morning, I didn't want to wake my friends, but I needed someone to talk to. I think I was actually hoping they'd recommend formula to me because breastfeeding was causing so much anxiety for me. (It turns out that I had severe PPA/PPD, which I thankfully got treated before I had a complete meltdown.) But they didn't recommend formula. They told me what I was going though was normal, that it got better and reassured me I was making enough milk because there were wet diapers, etc.

Do I believe the formula companies offer these lines out of the goodness of their hearts? Of course not. They offer them because it makes them look good to consumers. When I eventually decided to switch to formula (after several months of breastfeeding) since I needed a different medication for my PPA/PPD (many but not all medications can be used while breastfeeding), I actually picked the formula company that listened to me on all of those calls.

I respect your position, but I also really like the Mominations on Babble. I am disappointed in their choice to run it as a voting contest, but I enjoyed reading all of the entries and found some amazing new blogs to follow as well as some inspiration. I can understand their decision to take advertising from Nestle, Similac because it enables them to pay their writers, keep the site free and run programs like the Mominations.

I understand your belief that formula advertising undermines breastfeeding, but I also think that advertising for chocolate or high-sodium foods undermines healthy eating-- particularly when I'm on a diet. Obesity is a public health issue too. So I suppose I'm just more comfortable with advertising -- as long as it's clearly presented as advertising. I subscribe to several parenting magazines, and they all have formula ads.

Frankly, I believe we're focused on the wrong issue here. Formula ads and gift bags in the hospital didn't push me towards formula. But inadequate maternity leave and PPD did. So let's put more of our resources towards getting women maternity leave and improving treatment for PPD. With the help of a PPD specialist, I was able to breastfeed my second child. With my first, I didn't have the help of a PPD specialist, so I was prematurely switched to a medication that was dangerous for breastfeeding. I just wish that we'd focus on things that will directly help women rather than symbolic issues.

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie


Thank you for your very balanced comment.

I agree that maternity leave and addressing PPD are incredibly important issues. I am in Canada, where we do have access to maternity leave, which certainly makes things easier for mothers. However, it also means that we have an environment where we can test the impact of formula marketing in a more neutral environment (i.e. moms are not being forced back to work).

For example, http://www.phdinparenting.com/2010/03/17/new-study-on-impact-of-free-formula-on-breastfeeding-rates/" rel="nofollow">one study looking at formula samples provided by the hospital to women who were being discharged. It found that women who didn’t receive the free formula samples were 3.5 times more likely to be breastfeeding exclusively after 2 weeks. I think this demonstrates the impact that formula promotion can have. It is very tempting when you are struggling to offer "just one bottle" to see if it will satisfy a colicky baby. It can be a slippery slope from there.

Instead of making a concious decision to give up breastfeeding or a medically-indicted decision, these moms are likely often reaching to formula out of desperation and convenience. When I say that, people accuse me of saying that moms are stupid. I don't think they are stupid, because I know how hard breastfeeding can be and I know how strong the temptation is when you just want to see your baby happy and fed.

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Wow. Just wow. It is so sad how mothers are just pawns in the game. It is never okay to lie to mothers. The internet is a strange place. It's bad enough that formula companies stalk mothers on the internet by pretending to be something they are not. But this is too much.

September 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlison Barrett

[...] And then she writes the following: “The money that I earn is, on this view, ‘blood money,’ because it comes from a company that accepts such advertising. Formula advertising is, [...]

I was wondering if Babble accepts advertising for tobacco or alcohol companies? If not why not?
There is abundant evidence that advertising of infant formula increases its use- you only have to look at the difference in sales over time between India (which has very strict regulation, breaches of which can result in gaol terms for execs) and China (where anything goes). India's consumption of infant formula has not increased at all over the past decade while China's continues to increase. Advertising works. Infant formula is massively over consumed in countries such as the US, Canada, Australia and the UK where virtually all infants are exposed to infant formula at some time and virtually no infants are exclusively breastfed. The cost to the health and well being of children and mothers of commerciogenic illness is massive.
I'm sure that Babble doesn't advertise tobacco because it is recognised that such advertising harms the people who are exposed to it. Similarly, exposure to infant formula advertising is harmful. It should not be a surprise that those who advocate for the well being of mothers and children might refuse to support those who facilitate such harmful advertising.

September 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKarleen Gribble

Thanks for weighing in, Karleen. I agree with you about the massive over-consumption in some countries. It is ridiculous that in this century, we are still fighting to have our children be exclusively breastfeed immediately after birth - that goal is often stripped form us before we are even discharged!

September 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJodine Chase

Oh, wow. Sock-puppetry? Really? How distasteful! That's one of the cardinal sins of social networking!

September 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMolly A.

Hi Debbie,

I remember struggling in the middle of the night as well. It always seemed like it was 2 AM on a Friday, didn't it? So difficult. No local IBCLCs or family members to help at that hour.

Thankfully, though, I was able to call my La Leche League leader. I also found 24 hour support through the Kellymom.com website and forums. The main La Leche League website also had great support that I could access 25/7.

I think these are much better choices for seeking unbiased and evidence-based support, rather than contacting a formula company.

Why can't Babble.com link to these kinds of resources instead? Why must they steer breastfeeding moms to formula companies?

September 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMolly A.

I think that many people, including the owners of Babble, don't understand the special situation that breastfeeding finds itself in. It is not like other "products". If you "chose" to feed your infant formula and you change your mind about that product, you cannot (usually) just simply go back to the other brand: breastfeeding. Many times a decision to try formula becomes the end of any breastfeeding, and many women come to regret this decision. And the advertising works. If you click on the Similac site, you can join their special club for "strong moms" and recive hundreds of dollars of special offers and savings, along with (so called) expert feeding advice. I think it might take a strong mom to walk away from that.

September 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlison Barrett

[...] from PhD in Parenting wrote this very excellent post, explaining what happened and applauding the stance that Emma and Jodine took in not accepting what [...]

Thanks for sharing the study. I wasn't aware of it.

September 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDebbie

Further developments. See what was reported to Emma this morning by one mom, Jamie Parker. I have her permission to share and I've blogged on it again (link below).

"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."

My followup comments are here: Babble.com's Similac hotline is a big fat #fail

September 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJodine Chase

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