Why the Gerber Good Start ad irks me

I’d finally finished my work for the night, and had just settled into bed to watch my DVR’d episode of Once Upon a Time (best show on television right now, by the way). Breasts and bottles were the last thing on my mind, until I was zipping through the commercials and glimpsed a formula can. Of course I had to stop fast-forwarding and watch, and here is what I saw:

Cute baby, but that’s beside the point.

This ad got me very riled up, and – dare I say it – took me out of the (in my case, very willing) suspension of disbelief required to enjoy a show about fairy tale characters come to life.

I am not against formula advertising, any more than I’m against cell phone advertising, or baby food advertising, or car advertising. In fact, considering I still do some commercial acting on the side, I’m fully in favor of advertising as an industry. (Except pharmaceutical ads, because they make me a total hypochondriac.) But this ad rubbed me the wrong way, for one major reason: why is an ad about formula focusing so much on breastfeeding?

Obviously, I know why. Anyone who frequents this blog knows why. In the US, this is about as close as we get to following WHO Code. The formula companies can do pretty much whatever they please, so long as they tack a “breast is best!!” message onto it. I’ve talked about this before, in regards to shady practices like running “breastfeeding support lines” or sponsoring “feeding guides” that talk far more about breastfeeding than bottle feeding. I think it is hypocritical, and demeaning to the intelligence of parents. If you were to ask me (a lifelong vegetarian, sometimes vegan) for a recommendation on the best steakhouse in town, I’d worry about your sanity. Likewise, relying on a formula company for breastfeeding advice is probably not the wisest move.

Nestle, who makes Good Start, has a reverse halo effect that is going to take about 1000 years to dissipate. Anyone who is involved in breastfeeding advocacy thinks the company is the devil, and for very good reason. Saying the words “Gerber knows that breastfeeding is best” comes off as totally disingenuous. It’s not going to make up for the thousands of deaths the company caused by marketing formula irresponsibly. Unfortunately, Gerber probably feels it has to make the requisite breast-is-better
statements because the company is making claims (which are indeed backed by research) that this particular formula has been associated with a lower risk of allergies.  (They even go one step further than most formula ads, subtly suggesting that their customers will most certainly be breastfeeding up until a point with the phrasing “if you do decide to introduce formula…”) Anyway… all this is to say, I get it. I get why they constructed the verbiage of the ad this way.

But this is what hit me last night, when I should have been enjoying some mindless entertainment: the fact that formula company advertising involves so much discussion about breastfeeding being superior, might actually be hurting breastfeeding advocacy. 

By talking about breastfeeding being the best way to feed your child, the advertisers are immediately creating an unconscious comparison between the two feeding methods. Comparisons necessitate qualifications like good, better, best. Parents might decide (quite justifiably, in my opinion, but that is neither here nor there) that better is pretty darn close to best, so why go to the trouble of breastfeeding?Within this model, breastmilk is also seen as a competitor to formula, which inspires subliminal pro/con lists in our heads.

What if Gerber hadn’t mentioned breastfeeding in this ad? The downside, I suppose, would be the implication that this formula could protect against allergies better than breastmilk. But that could be accomplished by making accurate claims, a rule that all advertisements are expected to follow, even if they don’t always do so. (I would suggest simply giving some statistical information, i.e, “Studies have found that breastfeeding exclusively for the first four months is associated with x amount of reduced risk of allergies. Gerber Good Start has been found to decrease the incidence by x,” but that is probably why I don’t write ad copy…)

 If formula could just be advertised as formula, instead of a poor man’s substitute for breastmilk, we wouldn’t lead consumers into a nebulous cloud of comparison. Because honestly, why compare the two? They are two different ways to get a child fed. The benefits and risks of breastmilk are fodder for a conversation between a care provider and patient, not the territory of a money-grubbing corporate conglomerate or over-zealous activists. What if we simply held formula companies to the same standards as, say, pharmaceutical corporations? No false claims; caveats of “talk to your doctor” if there are any statistics or medical studies cited.

Extolling the virtues of what is essentially a competing product (which is why I passionately believe we need to stop commoditizing breastmilk, but that would entail a much longer conversation than I want to have right now, as I have the rest of that episode waiting for me and it’s getting quite late) is something unique to formula advertising, and I wish it didn’t have to be that way. I wish that breastfeeding advocates could see that making formula companies pay homage to the Almighty Breast is serving no one. It just makes for a confusing and annoying ad, and we don’t need more of those cluttering up our DVRs and ruining a perfectly good evening of escapist television.

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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35 thoughts on “Why the Gerber Good Start ad irks me

  1. “Studies have found that breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months is associated with x amount of reduced risk of allergies…”

    I thought exclusive breastfeeding for six months is now beginning to be seen as a CAUSE of allergies, not protective. I know that even though only limited research has shown this, it's enough that for the past couple of years all the docs and nurses that myself and my friends have seen have said to start solids at four months, regardless of breast or bottle feeding, in order to PREVENT allergies, due to the preliminary research showing a link between delayed introduction of solids and allergies.

  2. You are absolutely right that the tide is changing on these recommendations. However, the AAP and other “official” stances haven't quite caught up to the research. But you know, I think I'd like to be a part of changing that tide, so I'm going to go edit that little fantasy ad copy right now. 😉 Thanks for bringing it up.

  3. This ad irked the hell out of me. I think I know the one you're talking about-the one that claims bf'ing is the best way to prevent allergies. Former exclusively breastfed baby here-and I've got the severe allergies to prove that isn't always the case. Yes, I know, anecdotal, but still…

    And it's very true that the research about bf'ing and allergy protection is inconsistent. The most recent that I'm aware of is the PROBIT trials coming from Canadian researcher Michael Kramer. It's as randomized as a feeding study can be (experiment group gets agressive bf'ing promotion info, control group gets none). Almost 14,000 children were studied and not only was breastfeeding NOT found to be protective against allergies and asthma, but there was a suggested disadvantage for bf'ing exclusively for 6 months. This same research has also turned up no add'l benefit for exclusive nursing for 3 months vs. 6 months, and many more interesting findings. I could probably find a link somewhere but I'm sure many on this site are familiar with this research. It also references another study on about 1400 kids out of Australia or NZ turning up similar results (no allergy protection for bf'ing).

    I really should get my butt on the elliptical before I get to work, or I'd write more. (This habit, btw, will do far more for preventing obesity than bf'ing :-P) Sorry just couldn't resist.

  4. “Breast is best, and our formula is the most like breastmilk.”

    That's what they're doing, and honestly, it totally worked on me once. I had planned to breastfeed, but it turned out I had IGT. I knew nothing about formula, and decided (after going through all the samples the hospital sent home with us) I would go with whichever seemed to be the most like breastmilk. It made me feel like I was doing *something* right. (Also, I was deep in the throes of PPD, which is why that one silly, subjective thing stuck so hard.)

    Of course, then I got a hold of myself and we switched to and stuck with Enfamil because it smelled better and it was easier to measure than the super powdery stuff. Priorities, y'all.

  5. Sorry you went through all that. I think the reluctance (and occasional refusal) of healthcare professionals to give formula feeding advice makes parents much more vulnerable to marketing claims like that.

    As you probably know now, all commercial formula in the United States meet the same strict FDA guidelines. The ingredients vary a bit, but the nutritional content is all similar. Some babies with food allergies or sensitivities or GI issues tolerate one formula better than another. Babies with weakened immune systems may need liquid ready-to-feed or concentrate, as they are sterile. But most babies will thrive on any formula (as long as it's meant for children their age– follow-up and toddler formula should not be given unless the child is old enough.) Anywho, whatever formula you wanted to use probably would have been fine. (See caveats above.)

    To tell you a little about my background, I have an accounting degree. As I remember from marketing class, there is a concept known as product differentiation. Basically, businesses try to distinguish their product from the competition in some way. (Product differentiation can also refer to distinguishing a company's own offerings from each other, but that's not really relevant to this discussion.) Nestle/ Gerber is attempting to answer the question, “Why should I choose your formula over the others?” I'm afraid formula companies kind of need to answer that question, just as they would in any other industry. They often do this with some unique ingredient that is supposed to be beneficial to babies. Are these ingredients actually of any value? I honestly don't know. The lines in the commercials usually go something like, “[Our formula] contains __________, also found in breast milk, which some studies have shown may aid in/ reduce to risk of __________.” I wouldn't call these lines dishonest. But, well… they kind of remind me of shampoo ads extolling this plant extract or that vitamin to make your hair softer, stronger, shinier, more manageable, etc. I suppose it's possible their shampoo works better. But I definitely take their claims with a grain of salt. I'm not sure how I feel about this sort of marketing for formula… or comparing formula ads to shampoo ads. I understand formula makers have to compete like any other business. On the other hand, parents are understandably more concerned about and confused by choosing an infant formula than choosing a shampoo.

    Regardless of how you feel about capitalism, we live in a capitalist society. So I'd like to see medical professionals help parents become savvy consumers of feeding products. That way, they can take advantage of the system instead of the other way around.

  6. That one's been debunked in plenty of comments here and elsewhere, heloise. By that one, I mean “exclusive breastfeeding for six months” causing allergies and I'm not referring to the extremes to which a few paranoid mothers go in preventing their babies from having access to solids even after they have shown signs of readiness 😉

  7. BTW, I was a bit quick off the bat here – I was thinking about the gluten issue. However, see my response to another comment on this issue below.

  8. Here's a response to the study you cite with 14 000 children. BTW, only 7.9% of the advocacy group were breastfed exclusively at 6 months.

    Maybe more research will turn up more clarity in this area, but with the truly low rate of women breastfeeding exclusively up to 6 months in western societies, I'm not too sure about this.


    BTW, I agree with you about the elliptical…unless you can breastfeed exclusively into your 70's 😉

  9. When I was told I had an autoimmune disorder and I had to go on medication where I could no longer breastfeed, I went to the store to get formula (actually Gerbers only because my DD tolerated it best) and I felt so offended by “breast is best” on all the formula and baby bottles. Normally I would scoff at it, but because I had this disease and the meds to treat it were unsafe so breastfeeding and breastmilk was completely out of the question. It actually wasn't best, but worse! It was just 3 weeks after having my daughter and it was the first time I can say I felt discriminated against. They don't put “Slim is best” on all the food packages in the store, right? And rightfully so as that would be discriminatory. I wish they would just advertise what they are selling and stop making these almost what seem like false apologies for being formula. When I was at the store there other women there buying formula. Not one of them stopped in their tracks and said, “oh wait a minute! Breast is best?” I don't know why they were buying formula and don't care to, but it just is an empty statement to appease some kind of WHO code. If women need to or want to buy formula why try such a condescending statement like that?

  10. Breastfeeding advocates have hated the 'breast is best' message for a long time, actually. It implies that breastfeeding is an extra special cherry on top kind of choice for families who also plan on sending all of their children to Harvard. Using 'breast is best' has the effect of normalizing ff as compared to the 'best' option, which also happens to be their competition. I completely disagree that the use of this language is some sort of pathetic attempt at complying with the WHO code. It's working well, so they continue to use it!

    The thing with marketing is that most of us believe that we are too smart to be swayed by it. The marketing budget of any successful company selling consumer products tells a different story : )

    I'd like to see medical professionals actually acquire the knowledge and skill to help women breastfeed if they want to, and if not, give unbiased, evidence-based information on all of the alternatives. Real information on ff will not come in the guise of a glossy TV ad.

  11. LAmama – the formula companies didn't come up with the “breast is best” message, and they actually are required to print messages that “breastfeeding is recommended” on formula cans. I can see the argument that the copy for this ad was written as a subliminal ploy to play on the breast is best meme (and hence to “normalize formula”), but I think a far more plausible explanation is that they know all too well what would happen if they (i.e., Nestle, i.e., the Devil Incarnate) claimed to reduce the risk of allergies without giving context to that claim. And that context is necessitated by WHO Code, and the breastfeeding “push” in our country.

    My point, in this post, was that the latter reason was actually helping the former. Nestle is indeed benefitting from the “breast is best” double-edged sword that you mention above. But it is HARMING breastfeeding advocacy for the reasons I listed in this post. I think we both agree that this ad is offensive; we just disagree where the blame lies. I think it is Nestle's fault, yes, but also the fault of misguided breastfeeding advocacy.

    Additionally, I think many of us ARE too smart to be swayed by traditional marketing, which is why marketing teams are always searching for the next best idea, and conducting research to figure out what works. Obviously there is a return on investment with marketing. If there wasn't, why would the DHHS spend money on ad campaigns to convince women to breastfeed? Commercials rely on a multitude of “appeals”, including product comparisons, which is what I discussed here. There's nothing new about that, and I don't think formula companies are doing anything out of the ordinary by comparing themselves to their sole competitor (breastmilk). My point is that by forcing formula companies to talk about breast being best, we are essentially serving them a great marketing strategy on a silver platter.

    I have no problem with formula ads. It is a commercial product. And as long as we allow pharmaceuticals to be advertised, then even if formula is considered a medical product, it should still be allowed to advertise. They should not be held to different standards. I do think formula companies are not playing to their true customer base, and I think it's stupid and cowardly. And unfortunately, very understandable, given the current climate.

  12. FFF: I didn't miss you original point! I'm well aware that formula companies didn't come up with the slogan, but many in the bf advocacy community *do* shy away from it and have for a long time (eg Wiessenger's 1996 'Watch Your Language') because we see how harmful it is.

    As for ad copy, (and yes, I realize I am stepping into treacherous territory here) how about “Breastfeeding is the biologically normal way to feed your baby, but if you can't, or decide you don't want to, GoodStart….”

    If THAT ever makes it onto national TV, I'd be looking out my window for flying pigs.

    I think direct marketing of pharmaceuticals to the consumer should be illegal as it is in many countries.

  13. Yes, it's kind of funny how they put “breast is best” on these containers when for so many of us, it literally isn't! Can we call that false advertising?

  14. Except that for so many…breastfeeding is NOT biologically normal. Breastfeeding as biological norm is, IMO, another booby trap for a long list of reasons, one of which is the endless pressure on women to have the perfect body. If you can't breastfeed, then…what? You're not normal? You're not human? Your child isn't normal? Who wants to hear a message like that? Who's going to try to breastfeed their next kid, or be able to encourage their friends and family as they try to breastfeed, when they're effectively discriminated against so harshly by the breastfeeding activist world?

    As it is, we have the completely fabricated pseudo-statistics that 1-5% of women can't breastfeed…which are commonly weaponized against any woman who even suspects she might have an issue with supply, often in place of real, actual, practical support. I often throw my arms up in disgust whenever I hear people talking about that “stat” and the idea that breastfeeding is the biological norm, because it is so unhelpful as to be not only non-support, but anti-support. The same folks who say that often rant about formula company ads booby trapping people, when they in fact are the biggest booby trap around–no formula company required!

    It's sort of like saying not being allergic to peanuts and tree nuts is the biological norm. All that does is excuse people from bullying, threatening, harassing, and discriminating against people with food allergies. Which, believe me, happens all the freakin' time. Or hey, it's like saying walking/seeing/hearing is the biological norm. Our society isn't NEARLY accessible enough, but statements like walking/seeing/hearing is the biological norm just encourages people to ignore legal requirements to make public places accessible and hire people with disabilities fairly. It's as if you deserve to be treated differently because you are not “normal.”

    I strongly challenge anyone who wants to boil people down to bodily functions in order to determine who's biologically normal or not to visit a forum or support site for people with disabilities (e.g. butyoudontlooksick.com). You will find a lot of people there who aren't “biologically normal” but trust me, they are people just like everyone else, and just as worthy of respect whether their bodies fit some narrow definition of normal or not.

    • Woah. I think we both know that’s not what LAmama meant when she used the terminology “biologically normal.” I can empathize with the pressure, the enormous pressure, put on mothers to be the perfect mom. I have ebf my 7 mo old and am now wanting to switch to ff b/c I think it will improve our lives, so I am def not against formula. However, breastfeeding is the normal method of feeding mammalian infants, including cats, dogs, and baby humans. That is a fact, and it doesn’t make me any less of a mother for choosing to move onto a different form of feeding my baby. Formula feeding has historically been endorsed in this country and only now is breast feeding making a comeback. Even so, I got crap from my in laws for wanting to breastfeed, esp for as long as I did. There is still a ton of unpleasantness around bf, some of which comes from other people. I get that formula feeding moms need a respite from the constant focus on breastfeeding and the sometimes questionable stats that back up the die hard advocates, but not everyone that breastfeeds is looking down on those who don’t. I don’t think you’re abnormal for choosing formula, or even that breastfeeding is the cultural norm in the US b/c stats back up that most moms do not exclusively breastfeed for long, but it is “normal” for humans to naturally breastfeed. That is what we would all do if formula did not exist, though thankfully it does!

  15. God, I hope not. There's enough discrimination against women with disabilities and medical conditions in the lactivist world, I'd hate to see them pile another on us all via forcing the formula companies to jump on their bandwagon.

  16. I completely agree, Teri. I cannot stand the use of “normal” in this context, or in any context comparing people with disabilities to people without disabilities. My little niece has Down Syndrome, and I would be greatly offended if someone told her she is not “normal”, and to me the same applies to feeding methods. I just can't stand the labels.

  17. Yep. The idea of what's “normal” and what isn't is so often used as a pretext to deny proper respect, health care, and rights to people who don't fit these often arbitrary or essentialist definitions that I feel it's a very dangerous way of defining how we should feed our kids.

  18. If we viewed women who cannot breastfeed as having a disability, then they would be offered compassion, support, and excellent education on the alternatives. There would be acknowledgement that the inability to breastfeed is a loss, and the mother would be encouraged to mourn that loss if she needed to. Insurance would be required to cover equipment, donor milk or formula, and other costs associated with the needs of the family that cannot breastfeed.

    The reasons why the above doesn't happen are many, but one problem is that breastfeeding isn't considered the normal way to feed a baby in our culture. The fact that we need laws to protect a woman's right to breastfeed in public speaks volumes about what Americans believe to be 'normal.' Bottles actually symbolize babyhood–you see them on shower invitations, included in most babydoll purchases, and as the symbol for the 'family room' at an amusement park.

    If not being able to breastfeed is a disability, bottlefeeding becomes an adaptive strategy. If you reject the idea that breastfeeding is what babies expect to experience when they come into the world (ie, the normal way to feed), you miss the opportunity to teach caregivers how to feed the baby in the most biologically advantageous way possible (paced, skin to skin, switching sides, etc.) Some women might even choose to use an sns at breast or seek out donated human milk if given the information and support to do so.

    I know most of the women who follow this blog have felt marginalized, stigmatized, and demonized for needing or wanting to formula feed (which is NEVER OKAY), but is it then prudent to reject the idea that breastfeeding is the biological norm? And if that term is hurtful, what should be used instead?

  19. I think there's a huge gulf of difference between calling breastfeeding the “biological norm” (which is completely untrue for a nontrivial amount of women and children) and calling breastfeeding “normal.”

    A lot of the arguments I see in favor of calling breastfeeding a biological norm actually are trying to tackle societal norms. These are two different animals, entirely. One does not need to make one argument in order to make the other.

    I think one of the great challenges that gets thrown down a lot by the regulars here for the greater lactivist world to consider is how to support breastfeeding without making it a biological imperative. Calling it a biological norm has the effect of making it a biological imperative, and we see this among lactivist forums, support groups, and professionals. Even if someone is biologically capable of breastfeeding, if they choose not to, then they are frequently met with horrible scorn and derision even by breastfeeding activist moderates (I'd be rich if I had a buck for every time I saw a commentator at Leaky B@@b or Best for Babes or wherever tell people she gets that not everyone can breastfeed but she reserves the right to judge those who *choose* not to). This is regardless of whatever excellent reasons someone may have not to breastfeed, for example, a prior history of sexual abuse or assault, the need to care for an older child with special needs, or a personal distaste for breastfeeding.

    When we rely on “biological norm” in order to enforce societal norm, what happens is we end up taking away a woman's and her family's right to determine at what point do other factors trump biology. Only in the realm of breastfeeding do I see a slavish insistence that biology must always trump all, and even when you point out that biology isn't as perfect, kind, or consistent as many breastfeeding resources and activists like to paint it (that old non-stat of 1-5%), we still get the insistence that this false biological norm must be used to enforce societal norm. Many, many other decisions are made intentionally to trump biology or because life simply gets in the way–whether that's treating cancer with chemotherapy, changing diet to combat a tendency to have high cholesterol, using fertility treatments, or a HCP prescribing a one-a-day antibiotic because it's harder for a patient to remember to take 4 pills a day.

    Instead of using biology to force society to accept breastfeeding, I believe the better (albeit harder) route is to change the societal norms without creating the expectation that women must be reduced to their biological functions. The overall problem isn't with telling people that breastfeeding can or should happen, it's that women aren't getting proper societal respect for their choices, with all the practical support that entails. Putting it to “biological norm” kicks the can down the street (people may end up accepting breastfeeding as biological norm, but then we end up with a society that only further defines women as good or not based on their bodies, and we're back to the whole body image issue where women are judged based on what their bodies do/look like–how is this a step forward?), with the collateral damage being the many, many women and children for whom breastfeeding is not the biological norm, and who are damaged by the assertion that it is/should be.

    I don't find it acceptable that people become collateral damage in the attempt to force breastfeeding as “biological norm” upon our society, and it doesn't solve the real problems anyway, so to me, it ends up that “breastfeeding as a biological norm” is a real lose-lose.

    • I’d like to preface by saying that I HATE the general use of normal in daily conversation, esp when it marginalizes a group, but I do think that sometimes we as a society try to be so correct and inclusive that we lose sight of the fact that sometimes some people’s feelings get hurt. Sometimes people are on the margins and when we bring them in we push someone else out. I think what’s really important is to try to be honest and respectful and fair. I’d like to take a moment to voice my opinion in what I hope is an honest, considerate, and fair manner.

      You bring up so many good points that it makes me want to agree with you b/c it is sad to imagine so many women thinking of themselves as inadequate because they can’t breastfeed or guilting themselves when they choose not to, but then I can’t deny the truth. Breastfeeding is the biologically normal way to feed infant humans. When mothers can’t or don’t breastfeed there is nothing abnormal about them; they continue being mothers/persons just the same. We can accept that principle as a society without compromising the truth that breastmilk, while not ideal for everyone and not best for all families, is is the ideal food for baby humans. Formula is a wonderful product that has saved so many lives and helped so many families that there doesn’t need to be any shame in using it. And if there’s no shame then there doesn’t need to be guilt in knowing that breast milk IS nature’s standard, even if you choose to go a different route. Just like being un-pierced is nature’s standard for our bodies, though many of us choose to get pierced and are sometimes judged by others by our decisions in how we modify ourselves. I understand this example doesn’t do justice to the criticism ff mothers get, but it gets my point across.

  20. I should add: as far as what terms to use, I see nothing wrong with adamant insistence that breastfeeding is normal, without the biology attached.

    Much of what I see in terms of people not getting that breastfeeding is normal is a complete misunderstanding of how newborns and infants operate. When someone says “why can't she just go home to breastfeed” it tells me “I don't get that a baby's stomach is roughly the size of his/her fist, and something that small needs to be filled up so frequently moms would have to be come hermits if they don't want to nurse in public.” When someone says they don't get why women need the ability to pump, that tells me that they don't understand that for a lot of women, it is painful and dangerous, not to mention probably detrimental to supply, to go more than a certain amount of time without getting the milk out, one way or another.

    In a way, yes, this means that people don't “get” what is typical for most women and most kids. But that means the target of the education has been wrong for a long time now. Right now, the target is pregnant women and new moms. Whether you're talking a formula company advertisement, a parenting magazine, or a poster on an OB's wall, the target audience is…the choir. You're preaching to the choir. A lot, lot, lot of women “get” that breastfeeding is a good thing to do. The problem is when they run into everyone else, whose world doesn't really revolve around how to feed a baby.

    The people we NEED to be preaching to are the ones who don't have kids at all, the ones who had kids a long time ago and have outdated information as their basis for how they treat family members who now have babies, the ones who employ women, the ones who pass laws, etc. THESE are the folks who are getting in the way of seeing breastfeeding as normal. I don't see formula companies marketing to them, and what I've seen of breastfeeding promotion that might be accessible to this kind of crowd tends to be shaming of those who don't breastfeed or doesn't really try to engage them in what the deal is about breastfeeding, which again, misses the point entirely.

  21. I am completely fine with calling breastfeeding normal, as in random people in public should not be calling for moms to stop feeding their babies or go hide in a bathroom, etc. I definitely see the value of the term for this purpose. The problem is, it is also being used to label other feeding methods as abnormal – ie. I have been told on several occasions that my daughter's milk protein intolerance (even to breastmilk) is “abnormal”. That is offensive to me. I also don't buy the line that babies expect to be breastfed when they come into the world. Babies honestly don't know what to expect when they are born, but they respond best to nurturing care and having their basic needs met. This is accomplished in many different ways, and is not tied to one specific feeding method.

  22. Yeah, that's the context of “normal” I'm really referring to. People who don't usually give a thought to how to feed a baby definitely need to know breastfeeding is a normal, sane, healthy, happy option for a lot of people. That it's just not acceptable to paint it as gross, perverted, unnecessary, exhibitionist, intentionally a pain in the rear, etc.

    But when we start getting into the realm of “X is normal so Y is abnormal” then of course we're back to the same problem. Why can't they both be normal?

  23. Some of you should’t have even answered this question if you’re just going to be rude. I was all for bf but my son was in the NICU for a month after he was born. During that time I pumped and he always received breast milk from a bottle. However, once he was discharged he would not latch no matter what I tried. He’s now 14 weeks old and gets breast milk 75% of the time but I have to supplement with formula because my supply has dropped. I have pumped every three hours for the past 14 weeks even while working full time. So to those of you bf nazis, what do you suggest I do? Allow my son to go hungry because I don’t have enough milk to keep him full? Not everyone is lucky enough to have an easy bf relationship.

    • Dear Dinnamilies
      I am a lactation consultant not a Nazi. I think you did a really good job with a difficult situation. Your baby not latching after the stay in the NICU is pretty common. It also sounds like you are still pumping also. Most people do not realize that pumping to feed is triple work, and that maintaining and building a supply with just a pump is not always possible, especially with all the stress and fear and heartbreak of the situation you were in. It is off the charts how much you did, and how well you did to give your baby as much breastmilk as you could. Thats what I call dedication. You are right not everyone is lucky enough and I am sorry for all you went through. Rule # 1 is “feed the baby”. You have done that and more. No one should judge you for giving formula. You are awsome.

  24. Big hugs to you Dinna. Having a child in the NICU just by itself is so hard–I hope he's doing well now! No one here is going to tell you you're doing the wrong thing, you're feeding your child in the way that works for you and that's what matters. Please don't let the naysayers discourage you; they have not walked a mile in your shoes and you're right, many have no clue what it's like to not have an easy time of breastfeeding. If it helps, FFF is always looking for story submissions from people for whom 100% breastfeeding “from the tap” was not best; it may be healing to share your experience.

  25. ” If you were to ask me (a lifelong vegetarian, sometimes vegan) for a recommendation on the best steakhouse in town, I'd worry about your sanity.”

    lol I like!

    “I wish that breastfeeding advocates could see that making formula companies pay homage to the Almighty Breast is serving no one.”

    All clued-up lactivists disapprove of the “Breast is Best” message. A good example is the Analytical Armadillo who wrote about it back in 2010: http://www.analyticalarmadillo.co.uk/2010/07/breast-isnt-best.html

  26. Thanks for sharing this link, Rina. I find many of the replies to the studies to be equally interesting and this one raises an excellent point about the limitations of this particular study. I have found others as well where exclusively, partially, and no breastfeeding children were compared and no protection for breastfeeding was found for allergies/asthma. I had links book marked but unfortunately I'm on a loaner laptop at work so I don't have access to those at the moment.

    Bottom line, in my humble and unprofessional opinion, I think this is another example of where we have some research supporting a breastfeeding benefit and some finding that there isn't one. I honestly don't think a few studies turning up an increased risk of allergy with breastfeeding is enough of a reason for someone to chose not to do it (as we see with your link there are limitations to the studies in both directions). However, I also don't think breastfeeding is going to confer a significant benefit to a child against allergies, at least not in and of itself. I was breastfed as a baby and have severe airbourne allergies and am on long term treatment for it. I asked my allergist about this very issue and I was told that because of my own allergies, my child will be genetically predisposed (50% chance of inheriting my allergies regardless, if my husband also has them, a 75% chance). They told me of course that breastfeeding is a wonderful thing but not to delude myself into thinking it will save my child from his/her genetic fate when it comes to allergies. I think I could breastfeed until the cows come home and it's not going to make much of a difference for my child.

    I think I'd rather be chained to my elliptical 3 hours a day than breastfeed exclusively into my 70's. Can you imagine? 😉

  27. Pingback: Infant Feeding Today Pt. 3: Making a Baby-Friendly Culture Amid Formula Marketing | Mama's Milk, No Chaser

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