Booby-Apped!

“There’s an app for that!”

That’s becoming true of so many things, and now we can add breastfeeding to the list.

Similac’s Strong Moms Baby Journal is touted as a way to “get in sync with baby’s needs.” Like all savvy formula marketing, it seems harmless enough at first glance. What’s there, though, is thinly veiled breastfeeding sabotage. Marketing Mama’s post on this is great, as are posts from CBS BNet article, Dagmar’s Momsense, Mamadweeb and CafeMom’s The Stir.

No formula company truly wants to see you breastfeed. It’s in their best interests for you to fail and start buying their products. Period.

They’re dressing up this wolf in the sheepskin of breastfeeding “support.” Their goal is for moms to believe that they care, that they only want to help them succeed at breastfeeding. But when we read even a cursory description of the app, it becomes clear that they’ve got ulterior motives:

With the free Similac Baby Journal app, you can easily track baby’s eating, sleeping, and diaper changes. You can predict the next feeding time. And see connections between what goes in—and what comes out. When you know what to expect, you can make the most of your time. And your time together.

Let’s break it down.

“You can predict the next feeding time.” That sounds harmless enough, but it’s not. This will inevitably leave some moms torn between following their baby and following the app, since we know that babies don’t run on schedules. Follow your baby, not the clock. This is a really important concept and everything about this app flies in the face of what we know is good for breastfeeding. Your baby should determine how long he or she feeds and how often – not an app.

“And see connections between what goes in – and what comes out. When you know what to expect, you can make the most of your time.” This is where things get really dicey. Moms need to follow their babies, not an app. Some moms will be left wondering why Feeding A didn’t produce Diaper B in a timely fashion. The app doesn’t give info on breastfed baby stools (which are quite different than those of formula-fed babies). Every baby is unique and no app can provide a blueprint for how to parent that child.

The best way to know what to expect from your breastfeeding baby? Ask other successfully breastfeeding moms–go to a support group like La Leche League, or join the Facebook pages Best for Babes, Kellymom, and The Leaky Boob. No app can replace a community of smart and caring moms who have been there and will help you navigate new territory!

The app gives sleep advice, too. This is a formula company, whose expertise is artificial breastmilk substitutes. The sleep advice in the app is a version of “cry-it-out,” as though that’s the only option to which parents can turn. It’s unlikely that we’d take advice on getting a good night’s sleep from the company who makes lunch meat; parents shouldn’t look to a formula company for infant sleep advice, either.

Here’s a quote from the app itself: “Whenever you decide it’s time for formula, you can supplement without worrying.” Whenever you decide. Not, “if you decide”, but whenever you decide . . . this marketing tactic leads women to think that everybody uses formula and they should too. They want moms to think exclusive breastfeeding is for the Select Few and that Average Moms – moms like them – are all using formula. This app is aiming to encourage formula introduction by masquerading as breastfeeding help.

There are also sections for “Gain per day” and “Growth Increase,” but there’s no indication of whether they’re basing their recommendations on the CDC’s new growth charts (based on breastfed babies) or the old ones (based on formula-fed babies). This is downright dangerous, since breast- and formula-fed infants gain at different rates, and tracking a breastfed baby on the old chart can indicate a need for supplementation where there really is none.

So Similac’s claim in the video overview of the app that, “New babies and a predictable schedule have never mixed” [next slide] “Until now,” isn’t just a nice marketing line. Whether a mom is formula feeding or breastfeeding, she needs to follow her baby’s cues, not an app. Nothing in even the smartest of smartphones can tell a mom if her baby is hungry!

What are hunger cues? (from Kellymom.com)

Early
  • Smacking or licking lips
  • Opening and closing mouth
  • Sucking on lips, tongue, hands, fingers, toes, toys, or clothing
Active
  • Rooting around on the chest of whoever is carrying him
  • Trying to position for nursing, either by lying back or pulling on your clothes
  • Fidgeting or squirming around a lot
  • Hitting you on the arm or chest repeatedly
  • Fussing or breathing fast
Late
  • Moving head frantically from side to side
  • Crying

What’s also worrisome is that the app actually says breastfed babies must be fully wakened to feed, which is simply untrue; sleepy babies can actually make for great breastfeeding! The advice throughout the app is so poor, it’s riddled with boobytraps.

The app also allows mom to track which side she last fed on. Again, it’s not as much about which side was last as which side she feels like she needs to start with. If she does need to track it, there are lots of ways – from hairbands on your wrist to bracelets to bra clips – that don’t involve being subjected to formula marketing.

...by the Mass Bfing Coalition is great!

Breastfeeding 2 app

If breastfeeding moms are looking for a breastfeeding app with robust and correct information on breastfeeding, the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition created one that’s great! Mass BFC is a Best for Babes supporter. They’re out to help Babes breastfeed, not sell formula (or anything else!). We don’t think moms need an app at all to breastfeed, but some might find this helpful. You can find their app in the App Store (search “Breastfeed 2” – it’s a little hard to find). It’s really made for clinicians, but if a mom must have a breastfeeding app, this one is great. It’s $1.99 (well worth the price!) and is available on both the iPhone and Android platforms.

We also asked our Facebook moms for their favorite apps, and you’ll see that a lot of moms didn’t use them for very long. But for those who are app-happy, one of the most frequently mentioned was Total Baby. This is not a breastfeeding app as much as a baby journal app that lets you track everything, (diapers, breastfeeding, bottles, solids, sleeping, bath, milestones, doctor visits, growth, vaccines, allergies, medications). What we like is that it includes the WHO and CDC growth charts, handy for showing your pediatrician when they use the old charts (which is a booby trap). On the down side, pumping moms had to make do with using the “other” category to track pumping and have asked for a better pumping feature. Total Baby is $4.99 and it has been picked by Apple as a staff favorite.

If you want to skip the app and go the old-fashioned journal route, we like: A Nursing Mother’s Companion Breastfeeding Diary, $11.01 on Amazon.com, and the Essential Breastfeeding Log, $13.46 on Amazon.com. (We love the latter–click here for our review). There’s something very comforting about an old fashioned journal, and these can be used by caregivers too, allowing you to take your iphone with you.

The bottom line is that no book or app, regardless of who created it, is going to teach a mother her baby’s cues. Getting caught up in recording everything and watching the clock can lead to moms second-guessing themselves, which can derail breastfeeding. You can’t follow your instincts if you’re glued to an app. Nothing gives a mom confidence like knowing her baby!



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16 Comments | Last revised on 02/27/2011


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16 Responses to Booby-Apped!

  1. Elissa says:

    I found your blog a few weeks ago and really love it. I’m starting the process to become a La Leche League leader, so I will definitely take a closer look at the app from the Mass BF Coalition. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Janine says:

    Love this post – I was just trying to explain this to someone.

    We kept track of feedings and diapers with our first but I doubt I will need/want to with our next baby. I will admit that an app might have been easier for that first week, but a sheet of paper wasn’t exactly difficult, and it wasn’t covered in formula ads!

  3. Kathy Mc says:

    I breastfed my chilren and allowed them to set their schedule. My grandmother couldn’t believe that I would breastfeed. She said “it’s inconvenient and ties you down”. To that I said “At three in the morning, what is more inconvenient – pulling out a breast or getting up, fixing a bottle and then heating it up”?

    I realize that in this day and age, woman are much busier but with proper planning (and a good breast pump) there really isn’t any need to give a healthy baby manufactured formula.

  4. Dana says:

    Love this posting. Hate the Similac website. I can see mothers or fathers just clinging to the blackberry instead of clinging to their babies. This just reinforces that parents should not trust their own instincts because they are just not smart enough without a smart phone. Sad, just so so sad.

  5. You ladies are awesome. Great post.

  6. Greta says:

    Thank you for outlining the Booby Traps in this app.

    I think it’s important for moms to realize that this is also in direct violation of the WHO code. This isn’t just something lactivists are upset over, this is a public health issue that, for the sake of increased sales, Similac is willing to risk the health of both mom and baby.

    Hey, AAP – it’s time for the US to adhere to the WHO code. We want to see better breastfeeding rates? This is what moms are up against! Take note and help us Mamas out!

  7. Katie says:

    I work full time and pump at the office, and use the Milk Maid app to keep track of how much I pump and how and where the milk is stored. It’s great for managing my freezer stash.

    I used the Baby Connect app for our daughter’s first few weeks; I simply tracked when she nursed and for how long as well as diaper contents. The app didn’t give “advice” or tell me what to do, nor were there ads. The breastfeeding log that the hospital gave me was helpful but once we went home I found I always had my iPhone with me while nursing and it was easier to keep track on the app because of that. I stopped using it as we established our nursing relationship and I got more confident (and less exhausted!). If I had known about the app from the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition I would have spent the money on that rather than Baby Connect.

    I don’t think apps are wrong, or that a nursing mom shouldn’t track things if she wants to – but sponsored by Similac and with so many built-in booby traps? No thanks!

  8. Thank you for all the kind words! :)

  9. I just found out that you mentioned me in this post — I’m honored, thanks :)

    This post is excellent in how much info you cover. This says it all and also was a point in my post: “You can’t follow your instincts if you’re glued to an app” — especially if you are hoping to succeed with breastfeeding.

    Dagmar

  10. Marci says:

    I have a Palm and I’m using the Baby Care application:
    http://developer.palm.com/appredirect/?packageid=com.clearwater.babycare

    My girlfriend also recommended TrixieTracker which can be used from any smartphone.
    http://go.trixietracker.com

  11. Selfish Mom says:

    I breastfed both of my kids for a year each. For the first six months I tracked when they were fed and it helped me a lot. It wasn’t about putting them on a schedule, it was about helping me figure out the best time to do what I had to do to with the least disruption to my kids. It worked great, and sounds suspiciously like what the app is advising moms to do. Except I got it from a book, long before apps were around. An app would’ve been a hell of a lot easier than a pen, paper and time-tracking charm bracelet.

    Some parts of this post stretch so hard to find a problem with the advice and app I can’t help but think that no matter what the app had said to do, you would’ve found a problem with it, simply because it was developed by a formula company.

    If I were a formula company, I would position myself so that if a mom did need formula, she’d think of my company first. Sounds like what this company is doing. Sounds like smart business. Even though I breastfed, and even though I’m a huge supporter of breastfeeding, I needed formula for several periods with each kid: twice when I was really sick and on medication, a few times when I was going out and hadn’t had time to pump. I was glad the formula was available.

    I understand the evil things that formula companies do, trust me. But assuming that every single thing they do is evil doesn’t help anybody. And maligning a tool that could help some moms seems silly. More choice is better.

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