WHO Code, Old Navy, and the Case of the Renegade Onesie

Last week, I got a text from a friend (and FFF reader). “Saw this and thought of you,” said the message. Here is what the attachment revealed:

I immediately texted back to ask where she’d seen such a thing. “Old Navy”, she responded, making my mouth drop even farther than it already had. A retail giant like Old Navy was selling this? Were they mad? I mean, I loved the shirt (obviously), but I could already feel the anger swarming around the internet, and I was at least 50 feet away from my sleeping laptop.

Needless to say, I have since witnessed a vast amount of Tweets and blog buzz sprouting up as a result of this onesie. I wasn’t surprised at the reaction, but I was surprised – and maybe a little disappointed – to see some of the lactivists I admire most invoking the WHO code as an argument against this shirt’s right to exist.

I don’t think we’ve discussed WHO code (aka the International Code on the Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes) on this blog before, which probably seems odd, considering. But it’s been a conscious choice, because I’m skittish about confronting this particular issue. Why? Well, to understand that, you first have to be acquainted with the basic premise of the code….so here you go, courtesy of the World Health Association, itself:

The World Health Organization and UNICEF have for many years emphasized the importance of maintaining the practice of breastfeeding, and of reviving the practice where it is in decline, as a way to improve the health and nutrition of infants and young children. A variety of factors influence the prevalence and duration of breastfeeding. The 27th World Health Assembly in 1974 noted the general decline in breastfeeding related to different factors including the production of manufactured breast-milk substitutes and urged Member countries to review sales promotion activities on baby foods and to introduce appropriate remedial measures, including advertisement codes and legislation where necessary.

The 33rd World Health Assembly, en May 1980, endorsed in their entirety the statement and recommendations agreed by consensus at this joint WHO/UNICEF meeting and made particular mention of the recommendation that “There should be an international code of marketing of infant formula and other products used as breast-milk substitutes”.
To develop the code numerous and lengthy consultations were held with all interested parties. In May 1981 the Health Assembly debated and adopted the Code.

The Code is basically a number of rules that formula companies and health care providers are supposed to follow; there are sneaky ways that the companies get around this code, and the manner in which it’s policed varies  from country to country (the USA, for example, doesn’t really adhere to the Code).  The provisions of the WHO Code are as follows (copied from CompleatMother.com):

  • NO advertising of any of these products to the public
  • NO free samples to mothers
  • NO promotion of products in health care facilities, including the distribution of free or low-cost supplies
  • NO company sales representatives to advise mothers
  • NO gifts or personal samples to health workers
  • NO words or pictures idealising artificial feeding, or pictures of infants on labels of infant milk containers
  • Information to health workers should be scientific and factual
  • ALL information on artificial infant feeding, including that on labels, should explain the benefits of breastfeeding and the costs and hazards associated with artificial feeding
  • Unsuitable products, such as sweetened condensed milk, should not be promoted for babies
  • Manufacturers and distributors should comply with the Code‘s provisions even if countries have not adopted laws or other measures.

 My problem with discussing the Code is that I understand from whence it came. In third world countries, bottle feeding can indeed be dangerous, and improper marketing and lack of education within these countries are a dangerous mix (for evidence of this, consider the reasons behind the ongoing Nestle boycott – a situation which was primarily responsible for the conception of the WHO Code). I’m always afraid that digging up the Code’s particular can of worms is going to do more harm than good to the cause I’m trying to promote, which is simply better support for all women, in their given situations. (And following that, in a third world country with no access to clean water or adequate supplies of sterile formula/bottles, the given situation would not be conducive to formula feeding).

All chickens must come to roost, though, and I was being a ginormous chicken about this issue. One of my absolute favorite breastfeeding advocates and bloggers, AccustomedChaos, asked me via Tweet the other day what my stance was on WHO Code, and I agreed to email her an answer. I’m going to share with you now what I wrote to her, because, well, it’s just time. So here it is, a slightly edited (and cleaned up for profanity, since my mom reads this) version of my Big Fat WHO Code Confession:

In terms of WHO code… this is a tricky one for me. It’s not that I have any huge problem with formula companies not being able to advertise, but it’s more what the code implies. The only other restrictions like that we have are for alcohol and tobacco, and I do not see formula as being anywhere close to comparable to those products. And actually, if we were to unilaterally adhere to WHO code, formula would be more policed than those substances (for example, I still get tobacco promotions in the mail, b/c I participated in some bar promotion 100 years ago. It’s crazy. And you still see ads in magazines and billboards for cigarettes and snuff, which carry so much more risk than formula, it’s ridiculous.

I see WHO code as resulting from the mess with Nestle, and I understand why they felt the need to implement it. But I don’t think it is appropriate in western, affluent nations with clean water and social services. I also believe in individual responsibility and power. For instance, I get coupons for McDonalds every flipping day… but I haven’t bought anything except 1 cup of coffee (out of sheer desperation – I had a sleeping baby in the car and they had a drive-thru) from them in about 10 years. I also resist the lure of all those ads I see for Radiesse and Botox, even though it would be nice to zap my wrinkles… but I don’t think it’s cool to put chemicals in your body like that. I received formula samples in the mail before my son was born, and it didn’t phase me; I kept the little booklet they sent on breastfeeding and threw out the formula (dumbass move, considering what happened ultimately, but that is how dedicated to breastfeeding I was).

Now, I do understand and appreciate the argument that having formula samples around can be tempting or discouraging to new moms struggling to breastfeed. Which is why I have my own personal theory on formula freebies, which is that they should only be sent/given ON REQUEST. To me, that is the easiest solution to the problem. I feel like if we lobbied for that, and the formula companies fought it, then it would expose them as being truly anti-breastfeeding, which would be a great gain for the lactivist cause, right? And if they didn’t fight it, then everyone would win – the companies could look better, formula feeders could still get their freebies and coupons, and breastfeeding mamas wouldn’t be thwarted.

Anyway – it’s obviously more complicated than that, but those are my “basic” feelings on WHO code. The bottom line is, I don’t like that formula is being treated as a harmful substance, when it isn’t. We should be encouraging breastfeeding and yes, keeping formula promotions out of hospitals (unless the mother has requested them, that is), but I don’t think that means treating formula like a controlled or damaging substance. Following the same logic, we should ban all soda and candy from public places, goodie bags, and they shouldn’t allow these products to be advertised, since these are too “tempting” for people on diets, and we have a national obesity epidemic. Does that make sense?

Okay, we clear? Good. Let’s move on to more important things, like cute onesies from Old Navy, shall we?

My problem with claiming that Old Navy is going against WHO Code (and yes, some breastfeeding advocates are already encouraging people to conduct letter campaigns or personal boycotts of the company) is that they are not a formula company, or a health care organization. They are not responsible, at least through the lens of the Code, for promoting or discouraging formula feeding or breastfeeding. So in my mind, this veers into the scarier territory of the code (like how, on Unicef’s site, they celebrate “innovative strategies of implementing the Code” in countries like Iran, where “Government has taken control of the import and sale of breastmilk substitutes. Formula is available only by prescription”, and India, where “legislation requires that tins of infant formula carry a conspicuous warning about the potential harm caused by artificial feeding, placed on the central panel of the label.” Considering there are affluent populations in both these nations with the proper resources for safe bottle feeding, this all rubs me the wrong way; plus, essentially celebrating control over women’s choices in Iran, even if it is in the name of breastfeeding promotion, is kind of offensive, if you ask me).

To clarify – I respect anyone who decides not to shop at Old Navy because this shirt offends them (and hey, more for me – they are always running out of my size, so the less people that shop there, the more I can benefit from their goldmine sale racks). That’s absolutely your right, and trust me, I’ve conducted personal boycotts for far less noble reasons (like when Maybelline stopped making my absolute favorite undereye concealer. I’m still pissed, so I won’t buy their products anymore, despite my penchant for Great Lash mascara. Petty? Sure. But if you’d seen the bags I carry under my peepers, you’d understand). I saw one blogger commenting that she would have no problem with the onesie if it had been offered with a breastfeeding counterpart; this made a lot of sense to me, and was probably the best argument for onesie-related anger I’d come across.

But I also saw one Tweet about how finally, the women who couldn’t breastfeed had a cute shirt to buy. I relate to that. I’ve often wondered if I should start a line of FFF paraphenelia, just so we could be out and proud like our breastfeeding sisters. I love those Got Milk? shirts; how about, Got Hypoallergenic, Incredibly Stinky but Absolutely Lifesaving Formula? (Guess that wouldn’t fit on a onesie, though, huh?) I think Old Navy did a pretty knock-up job of creating a shirt that formula fed babies could wear, without it being necessarily PRO-formula – it’s not saying “Formula Superpowered” or anything; yeah, there are angel wings attached to the bottle, but it’s supposed to be reminiscent of a tattoo, not implying that formula is heaven sent, even though some of us might rightfully feel that it was heaven sent, considering it was the only thing that kept our children alive. It’s simple. It’s cute. I wouldn’t feel embarrassed or anti-breastfeeding putting it on my bottle-fed child.

I guess, for me, it comes down to what’s behind the anger over this shirt. I can see how, if you were a breastfeeding mom living in a bottle-feeding society, this could be rubbing salt in a fresh wound. I sympathize with that, I truly do. I’ve heard enough stories on this blog and from other sources about the pressure some nursing moms feel from their friends and relatives to know that this is a valid and worthy emotion. Certainly just as valid as what we here, on this blog, feel in the reverse. But I’ve never felt so offended by a breastfeeding t-shirt that I wanted to write to a company or boycott it or threaten it with an international law – and I think it’s pretty clear that I feel more passionate than most about formula feeding rights. And I’ve seen slogans that are far more in-your-face about the superiority of breastfeeding than “Formula Powered”. Hell, for all we know, the kid wearing it could have terrible skin, or be super chubby, or be coughing and wheezing his way through the Food Court, munching on french fries in his stroller. That wouldn’t be the most effective way for a pro-formula message to be spread, would it?

I hope that Old Navy won’t bow to pressure and remove this item from its inventory. I also hope that there are some FFFs out there, who will have the chutzpah to buy such a shirt. I think it’s actually delivering a profound and positive message: your baby is “formula powered”. Not good, not bad, just fed, nourished, cared for, thriving. You were able to provide sustenance for your child, even if it couldn’t come from your own body.

And that’s something to feel proud of, too. It’s at least worthy of one measly onesie.

Suzanne Barston is a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP. Fearless Formula Feeder is a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents. It exists to protect women from misleading or misrepresented “facts”; essentialist ideals about what mothers should think, feel, or do; government and health authorities who form policy statements based on ambivalent research; and the insidious beast known as Internetus Trolliamus, Mommy Blog Varietal.

Suzanne Barston – who has written posts on Fearless Formula Feeder.

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39 thoughts on “WHO Code, Old Navy, and the Case of the Renegade Onesie

  1. Interesting.

    My first thought when I saw the shirt was that I wouldn't put it on my kid even if I was formula feeding. I was going to buy my second baby the “Boob Man” onesie because I thought it was funny, but then I had a girl. And I'm not entirely sure what the point of advertising how you feed your baby on a shirt is, unless it's specifically to be in your face.

    Anyway, I agree with you. Old Navy doesn't need to adhere to the WHO code because they are a clothing company. And I'd much rather see people boycott them because they can't seem to manufacture a white tank top that is not so thin as to be virtually see through.

    I felt the same sort of way about the “An epidural is in my future” maternity tee that Target eventually pulled. What's the big deal? Don't moms have the brains to not be influenced by what they read on someone else's teeshirt?

  2. i think the shirt is adorable! my only issue with it is that i 'can't' put it on my kiddo because he's bf'd, so i'd love to see a match bf'ing version.

    also, this – in countries like Iran, where “Government has taken control of the import and sale of breastmilk substitutes. Formula is available only by prescription”, – makes me want to vomit. how can anyone celebrate the fact that innocent babies are going hungry while their moms are being forced to wait around for a doctor to get them a prescription to feed them?! i can't even fathom the amount of stress it would've caused for me to have to jump through hoops when it became clear that my son was not getting any milk from me! it was bad enough that i had to wait the 15 minutes for my husband to get to the store and back with a can of formula. outrageous. absolutely outrageous.

  3. I bought it 🙂
    I'm proud that my son is formula fed, he is thriving and doing well, and with so many people around me giving me hell for not BFing, I am proud to advertise that this is how I feed my child.

  4. First, I just love that onesie! Wish they had it when my boys were small. Then again, I love Old Navy kids clothing. 🙂
    Second, the thing that absolutely kills me about the WHO Code (well at least in this context) is that here in the USA, we have *not* adopted it as law. Whether people like it or not, getting up in arms about violations is completely meaningless. Any of these companies have *not* broken any existing laws.

  5. I don't find the shirt offensive (or any BFing message shirts either), but I agree with previous posters who mention that wearing a shirt advertising your parenting choices just seems silly. I mean, when I walk down the street, and see mothers with babies, I don't even think about how they might be feeding their babies. I don't care how they feed their babies, as long as their babies are fed. Same with anything else (like the epidural shirt, or a shirt advertising cosleeping or something).

    Anyway, it doesn't seem like Old Navy is subject to the WHO code, and therefore, can sell whatever they want about babyfeeding. But it does make me curious about their market research—as FFF pointed out, thanks to the internet, there's already people boycotting the company over this. Is it possible that the “lactivists” who would boycott over this never really shopped at Old Navy in the first place?

  6. I agree with previous posters in that having to advertise how you feed your child seems silly, but unfortunately, it has come to this because of the pressure and guilt moms are made to feel because of their choices (some of which really aren't a 'choice'). I applaud the shirt and wish they had a breastmilk/formula powered t-shirt for the moms that do both (although I still may buy this one; after all, she is still formula fed, even if only at night).

  7. Where have you been all my life??? I so appreciate your informed and kind approach to your subject matter.

    I love that onesie – I wish it came in older kids shirts, for my normal weight, non-diabetic, ear-infection free, highly creative, averagely intelligent, moderately irritating, non-nipple confused formerly both formula and breast fed children.

    I'm so on board with those who advocate tirelessly for good nutrition for all children. I wish it was not so often reduced to a counter-productive you're-not-good-enough-because-you're-not-doing-it-my-way-for-my-reasons drama.

    Thank you, again, for doing all you do to encourage parents to love their children well.

  8. “I don't find the shirt offensive (or any BFing message shirts either), but I agree with previous posters who mention that wearing a shirt advertising your parenting choices just seems silly. “

    I agree 100% with Amy and everyone else – I'm not advertising how I feed my child because, well, why? I don't have shirts that tell everyone I prefer pizza to chinese do I? And honestly, I feel like lactivists just make themselves look bad and silly by getting their panties in a bunch over it. It's just a shirt, and the phrase implies nothing – like a car is gas powered, the kid is formula powered. Woo hoo. Honestly, I would never have stumbled across it had THEY not brought it to everyone's attention! And for those women who can't breastfeed and want to feel proud of how they feed their children, why can't they? I will never ever understand why so many people feel the need to butt into other people's business (at least here in the US where I see either option as a relatively healthy one).

  9. Yeah, I agree with just about everyone else– the need to advertise how you feed your kid is kind of silly. What I found interesting about this post is the details about the WHO code and the stance India and Iran have taken. Sad is how I feel, learning these things. It reminds me of the first few weeks of my son's life, when he was so miserable, hungry all the time because breastfeeding was going so poorly. He needed formula. He was starving without it. And I was too scared to give it to him. I had bought into the propaganda I had been fed that formula was poison. It was worse than giving your baby crack cocaine. And I didn't want to do it, hungry as he was, until our lactation consultant finally suggested that we supplement with formula. It seemed like the worst day of my life. Remembering all that now just makes me sad. Anything that portrays formula as something like poison just seems cruel now, when really, it can save lives. If we lived in the time of wet nurses, my son would have needed one to live. But we have formula instead, and many, many babies are happier and healthier (and alive!) because of it. It makes me so mad to read that the poison message is still coming through, loud and clear.

  10. So I am the one who saw the shirt and sent the pic to FFF. I was surprised to see a shirt out there that didn't say something about being a “Boob Man” or something of that ilk and though she would be as well. But seriously, there is a Twitter fit happening because of it? (I don't Twitter so I had no idea any of this was happening.) Come on people, fight for better maternity leave or laws that provide women with clean, private spaces to pump, or any of the other issues that will actually help women who want to breast feed rather than wasting their energy on a onesie.

  11. I love this post, and I agree 100% with the comments about not needing to advertise how we feed our kids. In this case of this shirt, I'm not annoyed, like I am when I see the breastfeeding ones because I feel like those have an inherent anti-formula and snobbery tone, whereas I wouldn't think this shirt would be worn in such a way. But, that's probably just in my head.

    @ Kayris- Amen about the white tank top! Or any white shirt from Old Navy, for that matter. And then if you wear a white cami under it, you look all lumpy. Annoying!

  12. I agree with pretty much everyone else. It's just a shirt. It's not saying what type or brand of formula they are using at all.

    That said, I wouldn't put it on my son. Even if I had succeeded at breastfeeding I wouldn't put a breastfeeding lingo shirt on him. I just don't feel the need to advertise how I feed my son.

    Seriously though, why on earth are people picking on such random little things. There are more serious matters out there.

  13. When I was a teenager, and a new vegetarian, I had several tee-shirts that announced this to the world. There was one with a cartoon pig that said, “Please don't eat me,” or one with a brachiosaurus that said, “Vegetarian.” I was so pleased with my own sense of moral righteousness that I just had to proclaim it on my body for the world to see. Eventually, I outgrew this attitude (thank goodness!).

    That's how I have always viewed the onesies that say “Got milk?” or “Boob man,” too. So pleased with themselves, which is fine, to point, that they must announce it to the world. This onesie, I feel like, is a retaliation of sorts. We've been told that we shouldn't be proud of formula feeding, and I'd reckon many of us still aren't proud that we did (I know I'm still not). Getting your kid this onesie, feels, to me, like you're saying, “Take that, world! My kid is healthy, happy, and ALIVE because of formula.” I can jive with that 😉

  14. Cheers to FFF for her take on the WHO code and stating the obvious fact that just because there's an ad for something, doesn't mean we're forced to buy that thing.

    Also, I'm wondering if Old Navy had Formula 1 racing stickers and decals in mind with that shirt. It might explain the bottle with wings, the number on the bottom, and why they would specifically use the word 'formula'.

  15. You know at first I thought it was tacky, but there was a time I was tacky too. Before I had DD I got a onesie that said “mmm boobies” then I got my husband a matching shirt just to be funny and no he never wore it. This is how serious I thought I would be able to breastfeed and never once considered any other kind of scenario in my life. Then I breastfed DD which ended up being a short-lived venture and ate my humble pie and the shirts are archived away now with other mementos.

    Really, when I start to really think about it though I get an overall message saying let's stop the guilt and yes the formula has angel wings because for many us here “Yes! The formula is heaven sent” Really lactivist (the ones who are upset about it) should be grateful we do not have to resort to dangerous concoctions like they had to hundreds and even thousands of years ago.

    you wrote:
    Anyway, I agree with you. Old Navy doesn't need to adhere to the WHO code because they are a clothing company. And I'd much rather see people boycott them because they can't seem to manufacture a white tank top that is not so thin as to be virtually see through.

    -OMG! I couldn't agree with you more! *LOL*

  16. It's been almost a year since we gave up formula (he's almost 2), but I sure as hell would have bought that shirt. I was a FFF, and my son is healthy, beautiful, well behaved and smart as a whip.

    One of these days, when I have time (haha) I'll write you my story.

    Old Navy better brace themselves for a sudden onslaught of nurse-ins, huh?

  17. Also–this is sort of off topic, but I'll try to keep it short.

    I've read a lot of blog posts encouraging people to take photos and send emails about WHO Code Violations–like formula adverts, samples at doctor offices, etc, and I fail to see how that is helpful. IMO, that would be effort better spent working for better maternity leave, better access to specialists or better support in the workplace.

    When my milk allergic son needed formula because my milk dried up, I was happy that my pede gave me a sample can of formula at each visit. That shit is expensive! I know the argument goes that if formula companies aren't spending money on advertising and providing samples and coupons, they can afford to lower the price of their product. But puh-lease. That is not going to happen. When do companies in the business of MAKING MONEY actually LOWER their prices? So I feel like radically enforcing the WHO Code in the US would adversely affect many families who rely on formula for whatever reason.

    And with regards to Nestle in particular, I've been avoiding reading posts about the Nestle boycott, and I feel like boycott “issues” as a whole lead to more judgement issues. If a person wants to actively boycott and work against Nestle (or Old Navy) in the name of babies health, that's fantastic. But don't look down on me as a “traitor” because I don't do the same. We all have our issues that are important to us and we can't all get involved in every issue, KWIM?

    Finally, at the beach last week, the planes flying over the beach were pulling the usual signs advertising beer, beach parties and restaurants, but I also spotted one that said, “Babies were born to be breastfed. MdWIC.org”

  18. I saw a comment about this onesie on a forum that said something to the effect of “why would a mother *want* to admit that their kid is on formula” I cannot respond to that in any way that won't get me Banned For Life on that forum, so I have chosen not to. No woman should be ashamed about breastfeeding OR formula feeding.

  19. My old judgemental self would have scoffed at such a shirt and I would have been quite offended and disappointed in its existance. Now that I'm a formula feeding mom – I look at that shirt in a whole new light. We do need balance – balance that takes away guilt for moms who do have to bottle feed and maybe this onsie will help. Guess I'm off to Old Navy this week. 🙂

  20. There are MANY adult shirts and onesies with catchy phrases about breastfeeding, now the lactivists are up in arms about ONE onesie that would dare to mention formula? Um, hypocritical much?
    Plus, it's cute.
    Plus, it's just a baby onesie, get a life!

    About the WHO code, it scares me. It is right in line with similar laws for women in Iran. And we all know about the conditions of human rights for women in Iran, don't we? Why would we even think of implementing something like that here???!!

  21. While the onesie is not my taste, I don't see how it can be considered a violation of the WHO Code. Personally I don't see this matter as boycott-worthy, but, as FFF pointed out, everyone's entitled to their personal consumer causes.

    I have a lot of trouble understanding objections to limiting formula marketing. I'm not pregnant, nor do I have a nursling, yet I receive formula samples/mailers almost every day. Friends who've lost their babies have received unwanted calls from formula companies conducting “infant feeding surveys”. This week a well-known blogger started receiving formula samples after her hysterectomy http://twitter.com/QueenofSpain/status/21190144246. How is this OK?

    The number of brands claiming to be “closest to breastmilk” and the dizzying array of unproven designer additives is simply overwhelming. Do any of these claims improve health outcomes? Do they help mothers make evidence-based feeding decisions?

    I was very surprised by the comment on Iran and India's “affluent populations with proper resources for safe bottle feeding” when an estimated 40% of Indians live under the poverty line of $1.25/day (http://bit.ly/b28wzP). It's exactly in developing regions like these where the WHO Code is a critical tool in protecting the most vulnerable families. When a formula rep dressed as a nurse gives out samples and tells a mother that formula is the best nutrition for baby, what mom wouldn't want to provide it for her child? Restrictions on formula marketing curb the number of families feeding babies heavily-diluted formula with unsafe water.

    On a final note, I'm disappointed by the comments somehow trying to equate the WHO Code with the human rights situation/totalitarian regime in Iran. Eliminating formula marketing, as outlined by the WHO Code, has nothing to do with restricting access to formula or dictating how a mother chooses to feed her baby.

  22. @Kate/Lactivista,

    First of all, I'm really happy you stopped by. While I know we don't agree on most things surrounding this issue, I respect you immensely and value your opinion.

    Perhaps my writing was not as clear as it should have been regarding the demographics of India/Iran. I'm fully aware that the majority of these countries live in 3rd world conditions; however, I meant that they also have relatively significant upper class populations (sadly, the divide between the haves and have nots in these nations is extreme, to say the least), who do indeed have access to the necessary elements for formula/bottle feeding. This doesn't negate the fact that WHO Code is relevant and (at least from the little I know about it, as someone who has never been to these countries, or worked on these issues as an advocate or aid worker) helpful within the poorer communities of Iran and India. But I do think the “success stories” I quoted went beyond WHO Code – far as I know, nothing in the Code specifically mentions making formula available by prescription only, just like you said. Yet, here is Unicef, applauding Iran for doing just this – making it impossible for women to get access to formula without a doctor deeming it necessary. And my fear is, in a country where women's rights are not safeguarded as they are here, this is a slippery slope. That is all I meant by that. I'm not equating the inability to formula feed with rights for those who are raped, or abortion rights, or anything like that – but I do think breastfeeding falls under the category of “things a woman has to do with her body” (obviously), so in a nation where a woman's body is not completely her own, I worry.

  23. From my perspective this onsie is not silly or frivolous. It is in fact the only pop culture image I have ever seen that validates the practice of formula feeding. It says “babies can grow and be happy and healthy on formula”. And I for one appreciate the validation of my 'choice' to formula feed.

    Helen from New Zealand

  24. I went and purchased this onesie for my son Erik today. I had to stop breastfeeding due to my PPD and often got depressed when I saw a baby wearing an “I love Boobies” onesie as I felt like we were being exluded from some sort of club. Now my son can wear a onesie that shows how he is fed, though it's truly no ones business. It is fun none the less.

  25. One of my good friends and confidents is the Blogger “Accustomed Caos” and she actually directed me to your blog after I wrote her a very emotional response to her “WHO” blog entry. I just want to say “Thank you”. I am expecting twins in December and because of my crohnic illness' and the meds I need to be on to function and to be the best mom that I can be, my husband and I have chosen not to breast feed. It is such a relief and a breath of fresh air to read the few entries that I have on your blog. Thank you!

  26. @NorthernRose –

    I'm so glad AC sent you here. She's wonderful! For whatever it's worth, having to make a decision like that, and making a strong, informed one, is putting you worlds above most people, in my opinion. Best of luck with your twins, and please feel free to email me anytime at formulafeeders@gmail.com if you have any specific questions or concerns…

  27. ??? the only type of baby feeding slogan that should cause uproar is “my mum doesn't feed me”

    formula = food
    breastmilk = food
    food + baby = good

    what's the big deal?

  28. I understand where you and your supporters (who are obvlously supporting you on this website!) are coming from, but aside from the violation of the WHO code, which I don't think this shirt is, I hope some of you can see the other side of the issue. Many of you said you were happy that the shirt said your baby was fed by formula- it doesn't say that, it says powered. Which is a very strong image. As a breastfeeding mom (one who supplemented briefly at one week and 10-12 months), who was formula fed herself I know that kids turn our normal and smart. Formula isn't poison-it's a necessary second alternative to bfing. That isn't the issue. The issue is that despite what it appears, there is actually very little national or media support for breastfeeding. How often, compared to bottle feeding, do you see bfing in a movie? Sure, we don't know what's in that bottle, but when is the last time you heard a character say “I put breastmilk in this bottle,” or saw a woman pump? And how many baby dolls come without a bottle in order to support breastfeeding. Again, hard to know what's in the bottle but safe bet that Hasbro isn't thinking breastmilk. Yes, the cultural written, talked about, and preached about norm is bfing, but in actuality, there's very little support for us bfing moms. I have never seen a person ask another person to stop feeding their baby formula in public. It's not poison, I am a normal, smart, witty, healthy person and I was formula fed BUT by selling this shirt, Old Navy is inevitably marketing formula and more importantly IMPLYING that ffing is the natural, common,and best way. There is no other option when you go to the store. And for that reason, I am boycotting and I am asking all my peers to do the same.

    If you choose to ff for whatever reason, great, but you all must admit that you know that bfing is normal, healthy, and best. No shame in ffing- sorry for those that make you feel that way. I just think that either they offer a shirt with a boob saying momma powered as well or offer neither. We'll never agree but we can see each other's point of view, I hope.

  29. @NYC Mama- I get where you're coming from. As a breastfeeding mother in a bottle-feeding area, I never felt that what I was doing was accepted as “normal”. I never sat at a playgroup nursing my daughter while happily chatting to other nursing mothers. I sat there, fumbling with my nursing cover and trying to ignore the weird looks I got from all the bottle-feeding moms. So, even though I fully support this onesie, it does also bother me that there isn't a breastfeeding counterpart available.

    The only thing I take issue with is your (insensitive?) suggestion that the breastfeeding onesie say something like “Momma powered”. I understand the pride that comes with feeding your child from your body, but I don't agree with the implicit suggestion that a baby who is fed formula is not “powered” by his momma. You know?

  30. @NYC Mama,

    I absolutely understand where you are coming from, which I think would be clear if you read this blog on a more regular basis (I'm assuming you just read this one post). We've discussed these issues ad nasuem; my readers are well aware of the obstacles facing nursing mothers, as many of them started out breastfeeding.

    I think I stated above that I agreed there should be a breastfeeding counterpart. However, I have to point out that most of us were happy to see this onesie for the very reason that there are no other popular stores offering this type of paraphernalia for formula fed babies. Just yesterday, I was in Motherhood Maternity, where they had a giant display of breastfeeding-related goodies and onesies/bibs with slogans like “I'm a boob man”, etc, etc. Old Navy was the first major retailer I'm aware of that has offered a shirt that my children could wear. So I think it is arguable that there ARE numerous options in the mother/infant fashion world, at least (baby-related companies, other than formula companies, tend to be quite careful about coming off as anything but vehemently pro-breastfeeding, for fear of inspiring such boycotts as you are currently encouraging) which promote breastfeeding.

    Having said that, I have no problem with you or anyone else boycotting Old Navy over this. As I said in the post, I support that type of peaceful protest. You absolutely have a right to your opinion; my post was in response to the myriad of identical opinions I'd seen on this issue across cyberspace. You are certainly not alone in feeling this way!

  31. @NYC Mama- I also find the phrase “you all know… breast… to be best” a bit insulting. As the FFF said, if you read this site, you might be a little more sensitive to the issues that a number of us endured. For many, formula actually was best.

  32. Just agreeing with Brooke. Many of us here have tried, and been through the wringer. Some of us faced supply issues. Some a complete lack of support or truly helpful facts. Lillily and I are sexual assault survivors, which impacted our feeding choice. To say we “have” to admit breast is best is quite frankly preaching to the choir. We wouldn't carry the guilt we do otherwise.

  33. I was so excited when I found this onesie (before all this controversy). As a foster parent, I can't bf, but I sure as hell take good care of the babies placed with me – I've gone through more screening than most people to ensure I have my head screwed on right. And while I still think breast milk is great, I'll take formula over the crack cocaine that would be transmitted to baby if they were to be breast fed by mom (which is funny, given a previous commenter saying she felt pressured to believe formula was worse than crack).

    I'm tired of being the only one in my circle of mom friends who formula feeds and isn't afraid to say it. Thank God for this website, I'll be back often!

  34. I know I'm late to the game here but I felt compelled to comment on the WHO Code. I understand the reason behind the code, but I dislike the tone and hate the frequency with which it is mentioned by lactivists. I do think formula companies could scale back their marketing so they are advertising only to their market, but I don't see anything wrong with offering a goody bag to new mothers in the hospital, they are welcome to politely decline. I also have no problem with samples going to medical professionals. At every appointment I'm asked if my child is breast or bottle fed, my ped is well aware of who the formula feeders are and most of us would be thrilled to get freebies. I definitely don't think the relationship between formula companies and healthcare providers should end because I don't feel that it isn't just about marketing and freebies, I feel that it is also about promoting SAFE formula feeding and that information is passed on to the patients. While I'm not offended by formula companies marketing to individuals, I would be perfectly happy if they did away with that advertising, but I do believe they need to maintain a relationship with healthcare providers.

    I feel the tone of the code and the implication that formula is so dangerous that it's promotion must be heavily regulated could be dangerous itself. I think it reinforces the idea that formula feeding is some taboo subject that can't be discussed and that can lead to unsafe formula feeding. When my daughter was discharged her paperwork had a brand of formula to feed if we needed to go that route and a note about preparing it according to package directions. The directions say to follow doctor's recommendations. I had no clue whether to boil tap water, use nursery water, do I need to boil nursery water, fluoride or no fluoride, how long do I need to sterilize bottles, does a high temp wash cycle sterilize equipment, isn't there debate about even needing to sterilize bottles, etc.? I know we have clean water in the US, so this isn't nearly as important as it is in other areas of the world, but I also had a preemie, which is a bit more sensitive situation, and the information on safe formula feeding just wasn't there. I could summarize all the info I found as “ask someone else.” I feel that if a company or provider makes this information available people start screaming that they are promoting formula feeding and damaging breastfeeding efforts, and there's a code to prevent that! Follow the code or we'll boycott!

    When it comes to the media's promotion of bottle feeding, dolls are child's play and movies/TV are fictional entertainment. I think saying that breastfeeding isn't supported because it's never seen in movies is a little short-sighted. When it comes to actually researching and getting real information on infant feeding it's all breastfeeding, breastfeeding, breastfeeding. Yes, there are some real cultural barriers to BFing — like maternity leave, pumping conditions, and NIP — but I don't think characters mentioning breast milk or babies wearing got milk or mmm boobies T-shirts will fix any of those issues.

  35. Why are people saying there are no breastfeeding counter parts? I formula feed my baby and my sister in law best feeds hers. And every time I see her, her baby is in a bib that tasks about how thankful she is that she is breastfed. I think the bib lists all of the benefits of breastfeeding. Anyhow, finally we have a shirt…good job Old Navy!

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