Why the debate still matters

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Registered: 07-11-2006
Why the debate still matters
Wed, 06-12-2013 - 9:54pm

Sometimes the messenger makes you question the message.

Similac, maker of infant formula, recently sponsored a StrongMoms Empowerment Summit as part of the introduction of its StrongMoms campaign…StrongMoms is a call to create a more supportive and less judgmental environment to empower moms to be confident about the decisions they make for their children and families.

Who would argue with the idea of moms supporting rather than judging one another? The Motherlode contributor Kimberly Seals Allers, writing for The Broad Side, for one:

Mothers aren't fools. Even those of us who are "fearless formula feeders" and those who don't give a second thought to a woman holding a baby and a bottle find the public-service message "Don't judge one another for feeding a baby formula" a little laughable when "brought to you by Similac."

We get it. We may not want to judge one another….But Similac itself, in whatever corporate form it has, wants people to buy more baby formula. When the message is from a marketer, it's never just about the message.

That's why Allers is right to encourage us to look harder at what it means when a company with a financial interest in our infant-feeding choices tells us not to "judge" them. That there is a line between judging and talking is something Similac has no interest in our thinking too hard about.

Similac's message sounds benign. Instead, it's only feeding the fire. The emphasis on "not judging" suggests it's impossible to talk about breast-feeding and formula-feeding without judging unless we try really, really hard -- and parents, particularly exhausted new parents, don't have a whole lot of energy left to make that kind of effort.

There's no denying Similac has a financial interest in convincing us that that conversation -- the one in which you try to encourage a friend to breast-feed -- is just too delicate to have. …Because if "no judgment" means "no talking," and "no talking" means, as Allers says, we're not talking about all the social, cultural and societal factors that play into the choices we make about feeding our babies, then we lose.

Truly strong moms ….consider each others' choices and our own without judgment, not because a corporate sponsor tells us to, but because we trust we were each doing the best we could.

And without a pack of brand managers telling us to hush up, lest we be seen as judging, we can talk about what needs to change to ensure that when parents make decisions about how to feed and raise their babies, they really are making a choice.

Posted: May 19. 2013 12:01AM


Motherlode: Maker of infant formula need not open its mouth By KJ DELL-ANTONIA

When a multi-million dollar pharmaceutical giant plows millions of dollars into telling mothers to be “strong” and “non-judgmental,” I think I’m rightfully engaged in a side-eye glance.


The Broad Side Kimberly Sears Allers