Yes, it IS possible to support formula-feeding moms AND fight formula marketing. It’s important to distinguish the existence or use of formula from the way it’s marketed.
We support formula feeding moms because not all moms are physically able to breastfeed or make enough milk. Although the vast majority of moms are able to breastfeed successfully when given the right support, some moms may have no or low milk supply due to mastectomies, insufficient glandular tissue (IGT), breast reductions, polycystic ovarian syndrome or other reasons. A very few babies have a rare, inherited disease called galactosemia and cannot tolerate milk at all–these babies need a special formula to survive.
We support formula feeding moms because some moms take medication that is contraindicated with breastfeeding (though many, many medications are safe), or are HIV-positive (though in underdeveloped countries, the risk of not breastfeeding is higher than the risk of breastfeeding with HIV), or have been sexually abused (though counseling has helped some of these mothers successfully breastfeed and include breastfeeding in their healing journey).
We support formula feeding moms because many, many moms who wanted to breastfeed exclusively are Booby Trapped®, and end up supplementing or switching to formula. Only 16% of mothers are breastfeeding exclusively at 6 months, so that means 84% used formula at some point or are still using formula.
We support formula feeding moms because as much as we wish human milk or donor milk or milk-sharing was a viable option for every mom, that day has not yet come. (See the Miracle Milk™ Mother’s Day Stroll). We need to help more moms breastfeed successfully so there is a greater supply of available milk, especially for the premature, sick or compromised infants who need it most. As long as donor milk is not easily available and affordable for everyone, formula is the next best option for mothers who can not breastfeed, pump or make enough milk.
We support formula feeding moms because we support moms. We respect mothers’ decisions. We believe that all mothers want the best for their babies, and do the best they can given their circumstances at that time. Some mothers choose to feed formula exclusively. We support them, period. We believe that they deserve the best, unbiased information on choosing and using formula, best bottle-feeding techniques, and compassionate, evidence-based support groups. See our Guide to Bottle Feeding. We support formula feeding moms because WE, like most moms, have formula-fed!
We fight formula marketing because the formula industry spends billions on marketing formula, a cost that gets passed directly on to the consumer who buys formula. Formula marketing makes formula expensive! Those freebies? Their cost is reflected in the can or bottle someone else buys. It may be free for you, but someone else is paying the price. If formula companies upheld the International Code, formula would be a lot more affordable for those who need it. Formula is like bread. It doesn’t need to be marketed; moms who need it already know where to find it.
We fight formula marketing because it perpetuates myths and misinformation about breastfeeding, human milk AND formula feeding. It is in the formula companies’ interest to sell as much product as possible, to compare formula as favorably as possible to breastmilk (although there is no comparison) and to make formula feeding look as easy and carefree as possible even though correct preparation of powdered formula, the most affordable and commonly used version, is anything but carefree. Formula companies sponsor “infant feeding hotlines” and create “breastfeeding support” materials that omit or distort information.
We fight formula marketing because it undermines breastfeeding moms. Formula companies claim they market to compete with each other, but studies show that mothers who are targeted by formula marketing are less likely to breastfeed exclusively and quit sooner than mothers who are not targeted by formula marketing.
We fight formula marketing because formula companies are directly responsible for some of the biggest Booby Traps moms encounter, for example free gift bags and sponsored information about breastfeeding in hospitals and doctors’ offices. Formula companies providing healthcare professionals with gifts, incentives, free lunches, swank conferences and “training” them on how to supplement “when breastfeeding doesn’t work out” which means that formula companies are training health care professionals on how to supplement so that breastfeeding DOESN’T work out.
We fight formula marketing because it results in higher rates of formula feeding. If increased breastfeeding could save the U.S. billions in healthcare costs, then it stands to reason that increased formula feeding is costing the U.S. billions in healthcare costs. Remember, this is not about individual, anecdotal “I was fed formula and I turned out fine” but about vast numbers showing that in general, formula-feeding increases health risks for babies and mothers.
We fight formula marketing because it fuels the “Mommy Wars.” Booby Traps created by formula marketing (for example health care professionals that lack basic education on breastfeeding management and who push formula) are insidious and frequently invisible. There is a profound lack of awareness of how formula marketing creates Booby Traps! As a result, all of the intense emotions surrounding pregnancy and infant-feeding decisions snowball into an avalanche of defensiveness, guilt, shame, and anger that is unleashed at other moms, instead of at the Booby Traps. Mothers who use formula should not feel guilty or defensive–and they should NEVER be made to feel that way, they are doing the best they can! But formula companies should feel guilty and ashamed. If we want the “Mommy Wars” to end, we need to band together to fight the Booby Traps, not each other!
If you would like to support formula-feeding moms, AND fight formula marketing, please participate in the Day of Action by signing the Public Citizen Petition, changing your profile picture, posting pictures of yourself holding a sign on the Event Facebook page, and posting messages on formula company Facebook pages.