Why Boobs Don’t Stand a Chance

Because of where I work, I’ve heard the rhetoric about how the formula giants are hitting mothers over the head with free samples at hospitals before they’ve had a chance to get out the door and get the hang of breastfeeding. Personally, I believe there is a place for boobs and a place for formula, and I think it’s up to each woman to decide where that place is for her and her baby. But last Friday, I came home to this:

Unsolicited free sample at 5 1/2 weeks pregnant

Seriously, Similac? Free infant formula samples at 5 ½ weeks pregnant? I admit I’m an obsessive planner, but this is ridiculous. That’s some serious, hard-core, guerilla marketing.

To their credit, Similac did include a free infant feeding guide comparing the benefits and conveniences of breast milk to formula. However, the guide included a good two pages of information about the nutritional content of Similac formula compared to one generalized sentence about the nutritional content of breast milk. I can’t say that’s a fair and balanced presentation of the facts.

What do you think? Is this ridiculous, or am I overreacting?


About The Preconceptionist

Where personal experience meets clinical and cultural preconceptions about birth and women's health.
This entry was posted in First Trimester, Pregnancy, Rants and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

38 Responses to Why Boobs Don’t Stand a Chance

  1. Sara says:

    What makes me curious is how did they even know to send you that??

  2. angeci13 says:

    I agree RIDICULOUS!! It’s way too early. Wow!

  3. Laura says:

    Waaaay too early. I received the same box, but it was AFTER my child was one month. It was something along the lines of “having difficulty? This can help” type mailing. Thanks….

  4. Pishyah says:

    Nope, you’re getting the full treatment here. They bombarded me and everyone I know. Nestle, Enfamil, Similac, all of them. Even Walmart. When women say that breastfeeders are fighting a losing battle, they’re serious. Doctors give out WRONG “information” and “advice” and it mostly hurts the breastfeeding relationship. Formula companies hound moms. It is ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous! The majority of us who succeeded without formula did the opposite of what we’re told by most doctors. In fact, most of the moms I know quit going to well checks because the doctors were constantly pushing formula and bad advice.

  5. Jennifer says:

    Over the top! Breastfeeding is sometimes very tough, but it is worth it! It is healthier, MUCH cheaper, and it helps you to build a special bond with your little one. If you are planning on using formula, keep it. But if you plan to breastfeed, either donate it or throw it away!

    Congrats on your new pregnancy, BTW!

  6. I ‘love’ the tag line on the side of the box: “The best plans start with good nutrition.” WHAT?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Maybe they should include a gift certificate to a milk bank if they are truly concerned about infant nutrition.

    We HAVE to do something. This is unbelievably ridiculous. It’s no wonder only 13% of infants were exclusively breastfed thru 6 months of age in 2007, as the AAP recommends (source: http://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/data/NIS_data/).

  7. dawn says:

    If you say you’re planning to breastfeed they will send MORE. Then they will send another box around the time your kid hits their first growth spurt (3 weeks-ish) because that’s when a lot of women don’t think they have enough milk. Actually when the baby growth spurts and is at your breast CONSTANTLY they are letting your breast know to start making more milk. If you don’t limit their time at your breast, your supply will build back up and in a day or two, your baby will be back to regular feeding. If you supplement during that growth spurt your breasts may never catch up to your baby and that’s how a lot of women I know ended up weaning to a bottle without meaning, too.

  8. Congrats on your pregnancy! No, I think it’s disgusting and we certainly don’t have such aggresive marketing here! I received one small envelope of growing up milk or something, which I never used. I think if you have formula on hand you’ll probably end up using it at some point…

  9. dawn says:

    Ugh I mean meaning to, of course. (Sheesh.)

  10. Same thing happened to me with my first, during pregnancy the formula swag started showing up! When he was born, the coupons started showing up weekely, and when he turned one, I started getting “toddler formula” (talk about a REAL marketing scam). With my second son, I got not one thing, but I did not go near any of those baby sites, like Babycenter, etc.

    It is a shame, and I hope that if enough of us lactivists band together and help push for more education about why breastfeeding should be the preferred method of feeding a baby, this madness will end.

  11. The same happened to me after I gave a local maternity store my information. I was SO upset!

    Not only is this type of marketing rediculous, but it goes against the World Health Organization’s code for the marketing of breast milk substitutes which has been signed by countless countries but sadly is not enforced.

    If you ARE planning to breastfeed. (which I suspect you are because you weren’t happy about your free samples) I suggest picking up the book ‘the womanly art of breastfeeding’ I read it while pregnant & refer to it almost weekly when I have questions or concerns. You may also like to attend one or two Le leche league meetings before you give birth to hook up with other moms who are also breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is SO much easier when you’ve got other women around who know & understand what you’re experiencing. Some chapters even have meetings for your partner to attend!

    Congratulations on your pregnancy! Good luck!

  12. Tanya says:

    I recieved 1 free can of Heinz Nurture formula (366g size) and 1 Nestle Alsoy formula (730g size). My husband also recieved 1 Nestle Alsoy formula (730g size) congratulating him on his pregnancy and the benifits of feeding his baby Nestle Alsoy formula. I was soo angry.
    With my first son the hospital told me I had to formula feed my son because of his size and the fact that he lost weight right after birth. My doctor also said I should nursing my son not long after his first birthday because he was ‘old’ enough.

  13. Sarah Clark says:

    If that isn’t illegal, it is most certainly unethical- they care only for money- We need to keep that in mind.

  14. Jennifer says:

    I got the samples too, and both of my children were exclusively breastfed… What I don’t get is why more people weren’t brought up to question advertisements, do their own research, and respect themselves and their hard earned money by spending it on what is really necessary or saving it. Yes it is sad and horrifying the lengths to which many large companies will go to promote their products, but it also pretty disenheartening to me to see that so many adults are not capable of making educated, informed decisions. Are they really all so ignorant, or do they choose not to know?

    • Wow, talk about judgmental. The reason these formula samples are so dangerous is not because of a world filled with people too stupid to do the research (unlike you, natch) but because moms will reach for the formula samples when they are having trouble with breastfeeding (which happens quite often in a world where breastfeeding is no longer the norm) and it can ruin their breastfeeding relationship. As Dawn pointed out above, they send the samples strategically. First they give them to you while still pregnant (typically through your OBGYN) to sway your decision. Then you get free samples in the hospital, to get you supplementing from day one (those bottles are 2 oz when a baby’s stomach is the size of a marble for a reason!). Then they start showing up at your door around 4 weeks, when most babies are growth spurting and nursing around-the-clock and mom begins to think she “doesn’t have enough milk.” Then they show up around 12 weeks, when most women are going back to work and will either be unable to pump or unable to pump enough to feed their babies. This has nothing to do with research or intelligence. It has to do with marketing that targets women’s fears and insecurities and inability to believe that their bodies, which they’ve been judged and ridiculed for their entire lives, are able to sustain their babies just fine, thankyouverymuch.

      • Elita said “This has nothing to do with research or intelligence. It has to do with marketing that targets women’s fears and insecurities and inability to believe that their bodies, which they’ve been judged and ridiculed for their entire lives, are able to sustain their babies”

        I’m quoting this for truth.

  15. Emilee Newton says:

    Definitely Ridiculous!

  16. Julie says:

    I signed up for a week by week pregnancy email somewhere around 6weeks… and then I miscarried and then 2 weeks or so later I received a 6 pack of formula at my front door.

    Insult to injury.

    Congrats on your pregnancy! I second checking out LLL for breastfeeding support and information, and I also highly recommend you check out the Holistic Moms Network (www.holisticmoms.org) for awesome support during pregnancy and beyond!

  17. A says:

    Holy crap! I’m not even pregnant yet, and I’m already dreading the breastfeeding drama. I know 90% of my coworkers (mostly college students and young gay dudes) think its totally disgusting (no idea why it’s been discussed at work, but it has), and there is no appropriate places for pumping or what have you and ugh… not looking forward to that.

  18. Sandra Mort says:

    I only received formula once out of my four kids, since I used homebirth midwives rather than doctors’ practices (they often sell names to formula companies). I was able to trace the source back to Motherhood (a maternity clothing store) because I had recently purchased a nursing top. I guess they figured anybody buying nursing clothes must have a new baby, but since my “baby” was two years old, I had no use for their swill.

    • yeppers. says:

      and this is why I don’t give out my information to Motherhood. EVER. And complain every time I’m in the store. Fortunately have avoided the formula train of mail so far, hoping to continue in that success with #2, who is 1mo already.

  19. Lauren says:

    HOLY HECK! A little early, ya think?? And a little “big brother-esque,” too… right? Wow.

    Your post brings up an interesting point. I think I read somewhere on your blog that you tore through a whole mess of pregnancy books even before you were trying to conceive, so maybe you’ll relate to this…

    I’m reading a couple of week-by-week books, and superstition is governing my every move at this point so I try not to “skip ahead,” but even in these early weeks, the books are saying to begin thinking about breastfeeding vs. formula, natural childbirth vs. epidural, hospital vs. birthing center. I don’t know, seems to be jumping the gun just a bit. ?

    I mean, my doctor won’t even see me for another few weeks, and I’m overwhelmed with statistics about the risk of pregnancy loss in the 1st trimester, so shouldn’t I wait a few weeks to begin planning out my labor, delivery, and postpartum? I’m not in denial or anything. I know what’s (hopefully) going on in my tum, and I’m really excited about it, but maybe because this is my first, it seems like I have to actively resist pressure to put the horse before the cart to avoid a major potential emotional letdown.

    Like you, I’m naturally a person who thinks and plans ahead, so I already formed some loose ideas about all of those topics even before we began thinking about babies (no point listing them right now — and to each her own). But at this delicate stage it’s just too much. Long story short, I’m making a very concerted effort to live in the moment right now and enjoy it. I’ll start really thinking ahead at least once I’ve seen my doctor and confirmed that everything is okay.

    And thankfully no formula samples have landed at my doorstep…yet.

  20. Lauren says:

    Oops, meant “cart before the horse”… can’t think straight… drinking a small half-caf… need a large full-caf…

  21. Whoa, hi, everybody! Thanks for all the great comments.

    Jennifer, I put the samples under my kitchen sink not really knowing what else to do with them. I do plan to breastfeed, and am considering throwing them out now. It’s so tempting to keep the samples “just in case” I have a bad day postpartum. Not quite sure what I think about this yet.

    Julie, the thought of miscarriage also crossed my mind. What if I miscarried and it showed up afterward? It’s ridiculously inappropriate that that happened to you.

    Lauren, I have to say that I am at an advantage when it comes to researching pregnancy and birth because of where I work. Even so, I still find it a bit overwhelming to make decisions that are right for me. There is A LOT to learn, and it’s never too early to start. I would recommend continuing to read and ask questions, but not from a place of fear. Easier said than done, but if you can approach it like a research project, you’ll come out with more objective answers. No matter what you choose, there will always be someone to tell you why it’s not a good idea. Heck, my father-in-law is already questioning my choice of a health care provider and I’m still a mere 6 weeks along. But I’m gonna do what I wanna do, and I don’t wanna do what everybody else tell me to do. So there! 🙂

    • First, Congratulations! What an exciting time this must be for you. 🙂

      I would recommend throwing out all “free” formula samples every time they show up and keeping nothing on hand for “just in case”. Passing them along might seem like a good option to some (it’s what I would have recommended 5 years ago) but what that actually does is turn a formula company’s “cold call” to you into a “warm call” (one more likely to succeed) as you will give them to a person more likely than yourself (obviously – you are giving them away! LOL) to use them and possibly buy their product in the future. So, your impulse here to throw it out is something I’d second. It has the added benefit of costing the formula company money as the product never reaches an end user.

      If you decide that you need to use formula it is likely that you will have a store that is open 24 hours that you can purchase the formula from. Formula companies count on those moments when parent’s doubts are greatest (where we are “weakest”) to “save the day” or the night as the case may be. When confronted by a upset, crying baby that you love so very, very much and only want the best for it’s understandably hard to remember that you are living the moment where a formula company can insert themselves into your breastfeeding relationship and greatly impact your breastfeeding success.

  22. Keri says:

    Where I shop there is a rewards program that gives out coupons for certain products. I have no idea how they figure out what coupons you get. I keep getting coupons for Nestle Good Start. First off my child is breast fed, second she is 18 months old. I have no need for formula. It is very annoying.

  23. Holly says:

    Our Pediatrician is pushing the boob 🙂 LOL… I told him that I am getting pressure to use formula and he straight up said he wants us to continue to breastfeed… he had a reaction to the two years but that is ok 🙂

    WIC on the other hand (who you would think would be great advocates for breastfeeding) has pressured me on several occasions to use formula! Not gaining weight, formula; not over the jaundice, formula… it is sick!!!!

  24. jim dorey says:

    i commented to my fiancee that being a nice guy, i’d have no choice but to return them to the head offices, individually, with a thank you on each… and it gives me an excuse to build a potato cannon.

  25. So I’m assuming the potato cannon would be to send the formula back? That’s an interesting response. 🙂

  26. Valorie says:

    I think you’re overreacting. It’s no big deal. If the company wants to waste their money by sending you samples then it’s their problem. (I’ll take them.) Don’t take it personally it’s just a company trying to run a business and for those of us mothers that couldn’t nurse their babies it sounds pretty selfish to react in anger that a formula company sent you FREE formula. The funny thing is I could have used the formula but never got samples in the mail. LOL

    • Valorie says:

      Oh, and I also received several mailings of formula samples while my husband and I were having fertility issues for years (not sure why I was getting formula anyhow) but I didn’t take it personally. Yes, it made me sad but I was able to give the formula to people that needed it. I think it’s sad that women who easily breastfeed seem so quick to judge those of us who don’t without knowing why and see the formula companies as the devil. But if it weren’t for formula my babies would have starved to death.
      Honestly reading all of these replies made me feel worse about not being able to nurse my babies. It’s almost like we HAVE TO be sensitive to nursing mothers but not so much to non-nursing mothers. 😦

      • jim dorey says:

        for the small, very very small number of moms that truly need to give their babies formula, it’s a true boon, but when a formula company engages in predatory practices, they should be shamed. if you truly needed formula for your baby, fine, nobody is going to care if the formula companies send you a free pallet of the stuff every month.

        for mothers that can feed their babies, and want to, should they have formula and misinformation thrown at them? should everything be done to sabotage their efforts so that they fail utterly in their endeavour to feed their child the best food for them?

      • Dana says:

        Neither of my babies was an easy breastfeed. Because, guess what? It’s not easy to start. My first baby wound up fed formula, my second was extended-breastfed and I mean she is almost six and still asks for the boob because she was old enough to remember when we quit! But they were both hard to begin. It’s not popping a bottle nipple into their mouth. The simple fact is you were capable and you did not have the support and advice you needed to tough it out. That is exactly what happened with me and my firstborn. It sucks. But don’t blame moms who are nursing for the difficulty that you had. We’re right there with you wishing you’d been successful.

        Unless you are dead, your boobs are missing, or you don’t have adequate ductwork, there’s no reason you physically cannot breastfeed. Even women with inverted nipples can do it. The trouble is when you don’t understand what is going on. In my case I did not understand that my babies cry to help bring my milk in, even though they’re getting fed and wetting diapers. It was realizing the thing about the wetting diapers part with my second child that encouraged me to continue trying.

        Something to think about if you ever have another one.

        I personally don’t understand moms making a *conscious* choice not to BF. Hello? You’re a mammal. Deciding not to BF is like having working eyeballs but deciding not to see–and don’t tell me “personal choice”, it isn’t just about you, try thinking about someone besides yourself once in a while. And don’t tell me “reproductive choice,” you were “reproduced” the second that egg was fertilized. The baby’s here, you reproduced, now feed the poor little darling. End of story. Women who can, but refuse to, make absolutely no sense to me and you better bet I will judge them. If you wouldn’t yank your own working eyeballs out of your head, don’t tell me it’s too much trouble to be what Nature adapted you to be. Seriously.

  27. Pingback: Simple Saturday « pureMotherhood

  28. This controversy has everything to do with predatory, unethical, and illegal marketing practices by the formula companies, and absolutely nothing to do with the very small percentage of women who are not physically able to produce enough milk for their babies.

    Breastfeeding is best for babies. Period. Out of over 4,000 species of mammals, humans are the only ones to feed their babies the milk of another species. Formula feeding just doesn’t make sense on so many levels that there isn’t enough space in this forum to elaborate. The bottom line here is that formula companies have a captive market – moms will continue to have babies, and the majority of them will attempt to breastfeed because they’re aware of the benefits of human milk over formula. The sad part is that most of them will fail to nurse nearly as long as the AAP recommends for optimal development, largely due to the fact that big budget formula companites throw billions of dollars at them and the doctors who counsel them, so they don’t receive the information they need to make informed decisions about how to feed their babies. You can’t be too judgemental about a mom who chooses to bottle feed, when she is receiving mixed messages from health care providers, formula companies (who have huge budgets to promote their cause), and breastfeeding advocates who are often accused of being “lactation nazis” and laying guilt trips on them if they don’t attempt to, or are not successful, at breastfeeding. Becoming a mother is hard enough without misleading and deceptive advertising campaigns waged by a multi-million industry whose best interests lie in keeping ours a society where bottle-feeding is the norm. Not all moms are as agressive about finding out the truth about the benefits of breastfeeding as they should be, and standing their ground in spite of all the obstacles put in their path..but who can blame them when the people they trust the most (their doctors) have bought into the bottle feeding propoganda that says that “formula is just as good as human milk, especially since we’ve added_______________.” Fill in the blanks with just about anything that they think will make artifical breast milk substitutes sound more like breastmilk – the latest additives are DHA and Probiotics, which, of course, human milk has always had.

    Formula companies run expensive, sleazy ad campaigns designed specifically to undermine mother’s confidence in their ability to breastfeed. I signed up for a baby newsletter, and soon started received free and unsolicited samples of formula and propoganda. Those of us who are breastfeeding advocates need to be more judgemental of the formula companies who are very effectively brainwashing a whole generation of new moms, and less judgemental of the moms who buy into it because they genuinely believe the lies the formula companies are telling them.

    Just my two cents worth, as a LLL Leader, IBCLC, mother of six bf kids, and in the business of helping nursing moms for over 30 years.

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