“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)
- Smacking or licking lips
- Opening and closing mouth
- Sucking on lips, tongue, hands, fingers, toes, toys, or clothing
- 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
- Moving head frantically from side to side
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.
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!