The earlier a company can obtain a loyal customer the better. Many ads and products vie for the prenatal shopper. Brand loyalty can begin with a selection of prenatal vitamins or supplements. Many pregnant women are succumbing to the offers of registering for baby formula for baby showers and collecting coupons before they even deliver a baby.
Perhaps the most disturbing trend in formula marketing occurred this month with the release of a new product directly targeting and undermining breastfeeding moms. The May 11, 2013, release of a Similac for Supplementation confirms the company is desperately trying to increase its customer base. This blatant attempt to sabotage the breastfeeding relationship is outrageous. This new product states, "for breastfeeding moms who choose to introduce formula" compared to the other formulas which are only for "formula moms who choose to introduce formula?" This is a pathetic bid for the breastfeeding audience. Unfortunately, it could just work, especially since this message is being perpetuated by a new study released two days later in Pediatrics. The article's release date (occurring the same week this formula hit the shelves) is highly suspect. It may seem like a conspiracy theory, but as well-equipped as the strategists are, the timing is not a coincidence and neither is the correlation between Abbott and the co-author of the study, who was previously employed by the maker of Similac.
The timing could not have been better orchestrated. It would be interesting to see if an advertisement for Similac ran in some of the major papers who posted the flawed supplementation study.
Formula companies seem to have an uncanny way of acquiring prestigious spokespeople for free. First, the doctors in the hospitals, now researchers for Pediatrics. No wonder the companies boast billions in profit annually, they have inside help.
The flawed, and poorly-constructed study published by Pediatrics sent the media on a sharing frenzy. The article made its way into nearly every large newspaper with headlines proclaiming that formula helps to breastfeed (an oxymoron exemplified). Similac, Enfamil, and other artificial human milk companies could not have been handed a better gift. Few editors critiqued or even read the study prior to plastering the headlines across front pages. The study, released online May 13, 2013, and published in Pediatrics, consisted of forty subjects-- an anemic sample size. The conclusion, after confirming that 15 of 19 mothers were still breastfeeding at 3 months, compared to 8 of 19 in the control group--a difference of 7 babies--was that babies given formula continue to breastfeed at higher rates. Not only was the study not supported by a clear hypothesis, the subjects were not homogeneous.
The clear conflict of interest was also document by a disclosure statement by the co-author, who "served as a paid consultant for Abbot Nutrition, Mead-Johnson, Nestle SA and Pifzer Consumer Products." Obviously, he must have a bias towards the necessity of formula to serve as a consultant for these companies. In fact, a more responsible study could have centered around supplementation with donor milk, if marketing formula was not one of the goals of this study. Pediatrics and its peer review council will surely continue to come under fire for publishing such an insult to true research. They acted in an irresponsible and unethical manner by endorsing this premature study. Although much of the damage has irreversibly been done, there are several rebuttals and informative articles being shared that are well thought out and deserve recognition It is unfortunate indeed that newspaper editors will not be publishing any of them. Dr. Alison Stuebe a member of Breasfeeding Medicine provides a response to the published study. Dr. Jack Newman added valuable insight to the study by posting his own commentary.
As a service to breastfeeding mothers, and a way to expose the flawed research Birthing, Bonding and Breastfeeding conducted a survey asking mothers to respond if they were able to exclusively breastfed without formula supplementation. Within 24 hours over 340 moms confirmed their breastfeeding relationship was protected by choosing not to supplement. Maybe from this result we could conclude that 99% women who use Facebook exclusively breastfeed. As ridiculous as this statistic is, it shows the parallel to how numbers can be manipulated and the erroneous conclusions which were drawn from the Pediatrics study.
Formula companies are missing out on a large portion of the infant-feeding market. Breastfeeding moms stay vigilant. If you desire to breastfeed exclusively, the evidence is overwhelming in support of avoiding supplementation. Babies are born to breastfeed and the protecting the relationship by keeping Mom and Baby together is the best practice for success. Women who need additional support or medical advice should consult with their breastfeeding-friendly physician, Lactation Consultant and Peer Support Groups.