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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Power of the Blogging mum!

Last week The Toronto Glove & Mail released a news story on the Old Navy "formula powered" onsie shirt fiasco. While I was pleased that this article at least mentioned the WHO Code (World Heath Organizations International Code of Marketing Breastmilk Substitutes), it just skimmed over the greater issues involved:  That any marketing and promotion of Infant Formula is wrong.

   New resolutions by WHO on the Code are working hard to strive to end all infant formula advertising, marketing and promotion, and encouraging all governments to put the Code into federal laws to protect infant health.
The WHO resolutions go on to URGE countries to:

  -to develop and/or strengthen legislative, regulatory and/or other effective measures to control the marketing of breastmilk substitutes in order to give effect to the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and relevant resolution adopted by the World Health Assembly;
- to end inappropriate promotion of food for infants and young children and to ensure that nutrition and health claims shall not be permitted for foods for infants and young children, except where specifically provided for, in relevant Codex Alimentarius standards or national legislation.

Sadly though, marketing gurus and advertising moguls do not seem to understand the devastating effect that mass marketing of infant formulas have on the health of infants.  They do not see that marketing baby T-shirts with logos like "Formula Powered" are a desperate attempt by formula manufacturers to continue the social delusion that feeding infants formula is normal. 

Sadder still is the fact that there are those out there that would argue that the company has a right to promote whatever they want on their t-shirts.  Really? Would people be as complacent if the t-shirt read "Beer Powered"?  or "Ritalin Powered"?

The article in the Globe & Mail does point out something that is very important though:  The power of the written word.  The power of moms (and dads) to influence companies and to bring about change through blogging, chatting, texting, and emailing about companies that are not toeing the line and in need a wake up call.

A number of mom bloggers have linked to the $5 (U.S.) item on Old Navy’s website while calling for a boycott of the chain, casting the item as a propaganda tool of the formula industry.
Cate Nelson of the green parenting blog wrote about the outfit on Sept. 13: “As if the formula industry didn’t have enough power … now your baby can empower it with this adorable onesie. Yuck, right?”
She and others are posting both the Old Navy corporate contact information for complaints and the form letters they have received back from the company.
Canadian breastfeeding expert Jack Newman has also waded into the controversy. A letter he wrote last week about being “shocked” by the logo is being circulated on websites including and

And formula companies are often under fire, with activist bloggers reminding them of the World Health Organization’s international code urging member states to curb the advertising and promotion of “breast-milk substitutes.” In a recent case, alarm bells were sounded by blogs - such as the Canadian - after formula samples were included in gift bags given to guests (including several mom bloggers) at an event hosted by StrideRite/Robeez last month in New York.
It’s a climate that presents a major challenge for companies, observers say. A few years ago, social media was considered the new frontier for effective viral marketing. Now, the virus can infect back.
“This is handling fire. It’s not just a cheap, easy way to get to your customer, but it’s a very volatile medium,” said Jay Handelman, an associate professor of marketing at the Queen’s University School of Business.
 We do have the power to bring about change.  Thanks to the internet we have voices that can be spread far and wide and be heard by thousands, if not millions, of people world wide.  Breastfeeding activists have managed to get Nestle sponsorship of Health conventions cancelled, they have gotten formula samples pulled from gift bags, they have worked tirelessly to change societies perception that formula feeding is a "choice" and that breastfeeding is a "choice".  Breast is not best- breastfeeding is normal.  You don't "Choose" to do something that is completely normal- you just do it.  Like Hearing.  Seeing.  Walking.  It's normal.  There may be those out there that can not do it for medical or physical reasons, but that doesn't mean that they "choose" not to. Yet Formula companies lead people to believe that they can choose.  They lure the unwary parent with statements like "Closest to breastmilk" or "Only you can decide how to feed your baby. Talk to your physician and the people you trust. Get the information you need, and feel good about every decision you make - because you'll always do what's best for your baby. After all, only the best is good enough."... this last one is from the breastfeeding page on   With every piece of breastfeeding advice that Nestle offers, there's their comments about how their formula can also offer wonderful benefits for babies. 
"DHA and ARA (omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids) are nutrients naturally found in breast milk, or made naturally by baby (and you) from two essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids: alpha linolenic and linoleic acids. These essential fatty acids are also found in breast milk and are currently added to all infant formulas so that babies can make their own DHA and ARA.
Experts believe that DHA and ARA are essential for healthy brain and eye development. In fact, long-chain fatty acids like DHA and ARA accumulate in the brain and eye tissue of babies before birth - especially during the last trimester of pregnancy. For these reasons, in addition to the added alpha linolenic and linoleic acids that babies use to make their own DHA and ARA, some infant formulas are now enriched with pre-formed DHA and ARA....
Some studies have shown that infant formulas enhanced with DHA and ARA have positive effects on mental and visual development over the short term.(1, 2, 3) But other studies do not show any additional benefit compared to infant formulas without added DHA and ARA.(4, 5) And long-term effects have not yet been reported. What this means is: DHA and ARA enriched infant formulas may be beneficial to infants' mental and visual development over the short term". 

Strange, I thought I was reading an article on Breastfeeding ?  Why is it all about Formula? Did you notice the subtle twisting of the words in the last sentence? "DHA and ARA enriched infant formulas may be beneficial to infants' mental and visual development over the short term".  Nestle seems to forget that DHA & ARA are naturally found in Breastmilk, so shouldn't that sentence read "DHA and ARA are beneficial to infants' mental and visual development"? I mean, it is an article in a section of their website that is supporting breastfeeding, right?

...You didn't really think that Nestle was going to write something to encourage women to breastfeed, did you?   But apparently many people think it's a good place to get breastfeeding advice. Strange. Maybe they'll start up their own clothing line too!

But I digress (as usual.... you know me, can't stand to let an opportunity to bash Nestle go by!)

We have voices and our voices can be heard EVERYWHERE!!!  So next time you see a flagrant violation of The WHO Code, or a horrifying example of formula marketing, let the world know!!  If you don't have the time, shoot it over to me and I'll yell it from the rooftops for you! Seriously! Let me know!