When I wrote my last post about #beststartswithdad, several people asked me why I was so bothered when the campaign was for growing up milk?  Was I against thanking the dads?  Am I making formula feeding moms guilty?

I am not against companies thanking dads for their support, etc.etc.  But when the campaign undermines breastfeeding, then I take a stand.

How does the campaign undermine breastfeeding when it is trying to sell growing up milk (3+ and 6+)?
This article from UNICEF UK best answers this question.  Access the full article here:
http://www.unicef.org.uk/BabyFriendly/News-and-Research/Research/Miscellaneous-illnesses/Legal-loophole-allows-banned-formula-advertising-to-mothers/

“When the advertising ban was introduced, it didn’t cover follow-on formula,” said Andrew Radford, Director of UNICEF UK’s Baby Friendly Initiative. “The manufacturers have since changed the way they package and promote their follow-on formulas so that they’re almost identical to the regular infant formula. This means that a supposedly legal TV or magazine advert for a follow-on formula will also promote a company’s infant formula.

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The survey also reveals that many mothers are unclear about the distinction between the different types of formula milk. Of the mothers who had used follow-on milk, nearly one in five said they started before their baby was three months old, despite the product’s higher mineral content, which is unsuitable before six months.” 

In fact, there was someone who commented on my blog about how advertisements affect breastfeeding mothers – most especially C, D, E:

So even if the products being promoted here in the #beststartswithdad campaign refer to growing up milk, IT DOES affect breastfeeding.

In fact, this campaign just emphasizes or reiterates what the UNICEF write-up says about the way manufacturers market their products.  And I do not just refer to the “BEST STARTS” tag line, which I have already discussed in my previous post.   Look at the campaign poster:

Nowhere in the poster is there ANY mention of the products – Lactum or Enfakid.  Instead, what is right in your face is “MEAD JOHNSON NUTRITION.”  Why is that?  To associate the campaign with MJN and not with any specific product.  Why?  Because MJN also manufactures infant formula.  To explain further, let me just quote Jen’s comment below:

Think about this. Mead Johnson, a milk company (yes, the ENTIRE RANGE from forumla to older people milk), focuses on dads. Dads feel good (marketing nga eh, diba?)! And who wouldn’t with the carrots they’re dangling (gadgets, etc). One day Mom has a new baby and she might be having a difficult first 2-3 days. Dad remembers MJN and says “honey, bili nalang tayo ng ********, para di ka mahirapan.” Then that can RUIN the REAL BEST START ng baby — ang Breastfeeding. When Dads do this, MJN HOPES that the dads remember them. (this is where it translates to sales for MJN).

Another common refrain? Do you think consumers are THAT naive? Well not all but yes there ARE people who get confused – like purble’s maid.  And we are waging this campaign for them.

Why the need to criticize Mead Johnson and the campaign? And why not focus your energy on extolling the benefits of breastfeeding?
Because IT IS NOT ENOUGH to just educate parents about the benefits of breastfeeding.  There is a recent news article about the current situation in Mexico – you can access the link here
http://www.montrealgazette.com/health/Breastfeeding+woes+Mexico+sees+dramatic+drop+moms+nursing/8483401/story.html

Despite the well-known advantages to breast milk and vigorous campaigns around the world championing breast as best, Mexican mothers say the bottle is better.  

In a dramatic decline over the past six years, today only one in seven mothers in Mexico breast-feeds exclusively in the first six months, the standard recommended by the World Health Organization. That leaves Mexico with nearly the lowest level of breast-feeding in Latin America.  

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Officials blame an invasion of baby food ads, little regulation of formula companies and the failure of doctors to promote breast-feeding for an overreliance on formula.  

Mexico has become the example of what not to do. It’s the strongest case of a setback in breast-feeding,” said Marcos Arana Cedeno, a child nutrition expert and health adviser for the state of Chiapas. 

It has to be hand in hand – breastfeeding promotion plus regulation of marketing.  The regulation of marketing is very important which is why there is even a World Health Organization International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes.   So should we wait until our breastfeeding rates be like Mexico’s?

Breastfeeding advocacy is not just a single approach – it is three-pronged:

  • PROTECT – against marketing/advertising that undermines it
  • PROMOTE – breastfeeding information, classes, educate public
  • SUPPORT – provide support, counseling to the breastfeeding mother

To end, this campaign to turn around #beststartswithdads into a #breastfeeding campaign is not an attack on formula feeding moms.  However, I am not about to assuage any formula feeding moms’ guilt by not talking about a campaign that undermines breastfeeding.  It is only by writing about the campaign can we make people stop and think about it.  See, if people simply stop, even just consider not buying growing up milk or even just be open to talk about the perils of advertising/marketing of growing up milk – and even if they do not necessarily agree with me, half the battle is already won by virtue of discussion.

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