Do you remember Phdinparenting’s fantastic post, “Similac and Babble.com Team Up to Dupe Breastfeeding Moms“? In the aftermath of outraged reader comments, letters to Babble.com, a flurry of Twitter activity and a frenzy of posts on various Facebook pages (including ours), Babble.com quietly removed the formula ads from the whole breastfeeding guide except the “Supplementing with Formula” section. I was still not happy with the some of the content of the breastfeeding guide itself, and disappointed that Rufus Griscom, CEO of Babble.com never responded to my email (although he responded personally to several others) but decided to let it go. We would have applauded Babble.com if they had taken ownership of their actions but even though they didn’t, I was relieved that at least, the millions of parents that read their website would not be lured into the boobytrap of calling a formula company for breastfeeding “answers”.
Well, the Babble.com/Similac Booby Trap is back. In the process of writing a post on influencing the media (haha, ironic, I know), I noticed that Similac ads are now rotating throughout the Breastfeeding Guide again, along with Huggies, Target & Medela ads (keep clicking, eventually you’ll see the formula hotline ads again). If you need a refresher on why this is so damaging, and why both breastfeeding AND formula-feeding moms are so angry, I encourage you to read the 205 comments to Phdinparenting’s original post, including the comment from Rufus Griscom and the response he got.
Because ultimately I feel that Rufus Griscom and his wife Alisa Volkman, Babble.com Co-founder/VP of Sales Strategy, didn’t hear the concerns of moms, I thought it would be a good time to share the email that I sent them, in the hopes that they will respond this time around.
September 9, 2009
Hi Rufus & Alisa,
First of all we wanted to thank you for commenting on Phdinparenting.com’s post about Similac advertising on your website, and for visiting our Facebook page and posting comments there too over Labor Day weekend.
We appreciate that Babble does have content that is truly supportive of breastfeeding, and regularly share it with our 10,000+ followers on Facebook and Twitter. We are also very grateful that Babble helped us spread the word about our new PSA Ad that launched in USA Today, and our upcoming BYOBoobz(tm) house parties. We rely on hugely popular websites like Babble, and our friends at AOL News, People.com and Fit Pregnancy to help us give breastfeeding a makeover and get the word out that it’s the Booby Traps that we need to fight, not moms! (What are the Booby Traps? See http://www.bestforbabes.org/breastfeeding-booby-traps/) So I am asking for your help*.
Would you be open to gaining a better understanding of why so many moms, both breastfeeding and formula-feeding, are upset about the new Similac ad campaign? These ads are not just on your site but everywhere expecting and new mothers can be found. Unfortunately, the WHO Code (created by the World Health Organization & Unicef) in the U.S. has no teeth—it is simply not enforceable legally. Therefore, although most medical organizations, policy experts and health professionals agree that mothers and babies deserve special protection from predatory marketing (similar to children in our schools), there is not much in place to stop these types of ads, or to compete with them. Breastfeeding non-profits simply do not have the funds–yet–to fight predatory marketing and to mount large scale PSA advertising campaigns; although Best for Babes hopes to be able to fill this role eventually.
We understand that competition among parenting websites is fierce but I see this as an opportunity to for Babble to separate itself from the pack. Breastfeeding is a hot topic and Babble could establish itself as a media leader by declaring an editorial and advertising policy that protects the rights of parents to make an informed decision and to achieve their personal breastfeeding goals (whether that goal is to breastfeed for 2 weeks, 2 months, 2 years, or not at all–we support all parents, and look to increase access to donor milk if needed). You have already begun the first stage of implementing that policy by removing the Similac ads from the breastfeeding guide! We understand that it would take some time to wean Babble off of formula ads (sorry for the bad pun) but believe that some of our corporate sponsors could potentially help fill in the gap; insurance companies also stand to benefit from increased breastfeeding rates.
Best for Babes would love nothing more than to help and to rally the entire breastfeeding community, including the United States Breastfeeding Committee, behind Babble if we can find a way to work together.
Thank you for your consideration!
Bettina & Danielle
Co-Founders, Best for Babes® Foundation