Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Dear Formula Companies, BACK OFF ALREADY!

Be fair-warned: I'm on my soapbox this morning.

I've had about enough of this. I've been receiving propaganda and samples from formula companies for over a year, and I'm seriously tired of it! (And I'm so aware that I'm not the first person—nor will I be the last, I'm sure—to write about this, much less to be experiencing it.)

I've received countless pamphlets with coupons in them, many, many samples, and two full-sized cans of formula. On Thursday, my son turned 10 months old, and the same day, I received in the mail a sample of toddler formula (for babies 10-36 months) that boasts, "With DHA that milk lacks." (I realize they're referring to cow's milk, which unlike breastmilk, is lacking in DHA, but that is not clear from the advertising.)

All of the advertising is misleading (like the DHA claim above), condescending "Strong moms choose Similac!," and it all touts formula as the preferred choice for babies everywhere. Yeah, yeah, the propaganda mentions breastfeeding, but not without a heavy dose of the ease of using bottles and formula mixed in. What's more: I have never bought or fed Daniel formula and I gave birth at home. Why am I still getting formula ads?! (That's rhetorical, of course.)

I know that artificial infant formula is important to have in a developed society. We should have access to it, because breastfeeding doesn't always go as planned. I also totally support the right of moms to choose to never try breastfeeding and only feed their babies formula (or to use any combination of breastmilk and formula). But this barrage of junk mail from these companies should not continue.

First, it's wasteful: The amount of paper used is appalling. The amount of money they must spend on advertising, printing, and distributing has got to be astronomical. Like I said, I received two full-sized cans of formula (in large boxes, shipped right to my door), and they were heavy.

Second, it's just plain annoying: I feel insulted when I see one of these envelopes in my mailbox now, because I've worked hard at establishing and maintaining my breastfeeding relationship, and we're not going to just switch to formula any time soon. More importantly, there are enough "booby traps" out there without adding all this crap that's designed to undermine the breastfeeding relationship. (You can not tell me that Enfamil wasn't intentionally being vague when it designed the above slogan about DHA.)

Even worse, Similac has (fairly recently) come up an iPhone application that supposedly supports nursing, allowing you to time nursing sessions (and also suggesting the next feeding time instead of encouraging on-demand feeding). The formula companies have call-centers staffed with "feeding experts" (not IBCLCs) to answer all your questions about breastfeeding, and they sponsor "breastfeeding guides" on third-party sites with a heavy slant toward how difficult breastfeeding can be. All that, plus the free diaper bags sent home with new moms from the hospital, loaded with formula coupons and samples. It's abysmal.

I'll conclude with a story: I have an acquaintance whose baby girl died within a week of her birth. She received formula samples in the mail while her breasts were still heavy with milk for her baby who was gone. She called the company to ask them to stop sending her samples, because it was a painful reminder of the child she lost (and would never be able to nurse again). The formula company representative she spoke with advised her to save the samples for a future child. Any company that treats a grieving mother that way will never have my business. 

Will somebody please tell Similac and Enfamil: I BREASTFEED MY CHILD!

On a related topic, I am deeply saddened to hear that Bravado (maker of my favorite nursing tank top) has sold out to Medela, a blatant (and unapologetic) WHO code violator. Anyone have a favorite nursing bra recommendation (for someone with a larger bra size) now that I have to find a new company to [help me] support [my rack]?


  1. Thanks for this post! I also despise the aggressive marketing & unclear advertising that these companies use. I absolutely cannot believe that someone would be so heartless to a grieving mother! That anecdote makes me sad & furious at the same time. Also, I'm hoping that someone has a good suggestion for larger sizes of nursing bras as I am now in the same boat as you are.
    On another note, I really enjoy your posts & getting to "watch" Daniel grow. I just had to step out of the blogosphere shadows to comment on this post...

  2. @Sarah: Thank you so much for reading & for "de-lurking" today! I'm glad to know you're enjoying watching Daniel grow. =)

    I know I'm not alone in my hatred of these aggressive marketing tactics, but it's still nice to hear another voice agreeing with me on this one.

    Still waiting for some bra recommendations...here's hoping for both of us!

  3. I got some Similac in the mail the other day. Not sure where they get their info! I rarely get formula samples. The amount you're getting would drive me nuts!

    I am so sad about Bravado's sellout. The essential nursing tank is literally ALL I wear! I have one brand new one that I've been hoarding for after the baby is born, but other than that, my belly has been stretching all of mine out for the past few months. They are showing signs of wear. Here is what I think I'm going to get when a replacement becomes necessary: http://undercovermama.com/

    These things fasten onto any bra to turn it into a tank top, and you can get two for the price of one Bravado tank. I have a few nursing bras already lying in my drawer that I never wear even though they fit, so this is probably just what I need. Oh, and it's mama-owned.

    Also, thanks for your comment on my post earlier! I'm not going to tell *everyone* when my birthing time starts because some people just don't understand home/natural birth, but if I have time I think I might send an email to my birthy friends and the women at my Blessingway. I would love for you to light a candle for me :-)

  4. @Jenny: That would be great if you would email me when you go into labor...but no pressure! =) (anktangle at gmail dot com)

    I have one of those undercovermama tanks, and I do like it very much. The thing I don't like about it is that the clips on it are for standard-size bras, so they don't fit well on the bras that fit me best. (And I still haven't found the right fitting bra, either, but that's another issue.) Other than that, the undercovermama tank is really versatile (you can even unclasp one side and tuck it under your bra to use under v-neck shirts).

    I'm wearing my Bravado tank right now, and it's making me sad just thinking about it wearing out some day.

  5. Thank you for this post. I have two comments. The first is that I was just about to press "place order" on my Bravado cart when I paused to check my Google reader. There was JWOC's post about the company selling out. So I never did click that button. I'm also looking for nursing bra recommendations because mine are way past due for replacement. One of those "big" mama bloggers will hopefully do a comparison review asap!

    My second comment goes to a similar story as your friend. First I'd like to say that I'm sorry for her loss.

    I've had four home births. My second was an unassisted stillbirth. My daughter passed away the day before I went into labor. I had to bring her body to the hospital in order to have her body properly cared for. I did not go to labor & delivery. The only time that I have been direct marketed by formula companies was after this hospital visit. I also called them to beg them to stop and while I was given a sympathetic ear, I too was told to save it for my other children. I don't blame the person I spoke with, of course. But any company that has this kind of policy even when dealing with grief has no place in my life.

    I'm sorry this vent was so long & if it's typo'd I'm tandem naking on my cell phone in the dark :)

  6. Hey friend. Great post!

    It is so weird because I have never received a SINGLE formula add, sample, or anything in the mail. I wonder why. I didn't register at Babies R Us and I know they give your info out... could that be it? It'd be interesting to know if they have anything to do with the sharing of information...

  7. Really love this post, and even though I'm behind in commenting, I'll just say that I lurve Anita underwire nursing bras. They're pricey, but they get the job done, last a long time, and have (nearly) my size at 36H. (I actually need 36I, sigh, but close enough.) I get them at http://www.biggerbras.com/ though I recommend getting measured at a boutique somewhere first so you don't have to deal with online returns.

  8. @Lauren: Thank you for the recommendation! I'm in search of a bra with good support in a larger size but with a little LESS coverage (so I can wear a v-neck without my bra poking out all the time). Do you have a favorite Anita bra? Is it fairly full-coverage, or a little less? Thanks again!

  9. Well, they're no demi-cups, that's for sure. Every once in awhile, I'll happen on one of my neglected pre-baby bras and sigh… That said, I wear almost exclusively V-necks, and I haven't had a problem. I used to with my Target nursing bras, even though they look flimsier (and are), so I imagine the Anitas are low enough cut for most. (Oh, here: http://www.biggerbras.com/catalog5-types/bra-maternity.shtml If you check out that page, you can see the Anitas go down further in front than many of the others.)

    But my previous suggestion is a good one for this, too — find a ritzy maternity boutique and try on what they've got there. I tried on some other brand there that was REALLY high cut, so I knew that wasn't for me. :) If you can't find a boutique near you, I can tell you where to find the Seattle one I used when you visit! Bring your deepest V-neck and go for it.

    As for specific Anita styles, I have the 5035 (a touch of prettiness) and the 5068 (the most basic). There are also softcup styles, and I haven't tried those.


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