Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Formula Marketing Exposed

The 2010 Pediatric Products Handbook by Mead Johnson boasted of a "new" formula.  What is this brand new miracle in a can?  It's a sleep aid for children.  Well, it doesn't read exactly like that, but the actual words under "Product Features" are even more frightening.  I photographed the page, because as skeptical as I am, I would want to see it for myself and I believe my readers deserve the same consideration.
The product, Enfamil Restful "contains a rice carbohydrate that is designed to gently THICKEN IN BABY'S TUMMY."  They say it like it's a good thing!   Enfamil is marketing this product "For Bedtime Feeding."

The product claims that this is a "natural way to help keep baby feeling satisfied"'s all there, read many times as it takes to believe it.  Since when is throwing starch into a bottle "natural"?  
As you are still shaking your head, read the section about "Long-Term Usage"...yep, they say it..."it can provide a sole source of nutrition for infants UP TO AGE 6 MONTHS! Moms are being encouraged to start their newborn out on this stuff in order to make "better sleep a better possibility."  This formula is also available at local WIC agencies.  I think more counseling needs to be done during appointments concerning this product.

What problems do I see with this marketing scheme?  Where do I start?  First, we are setting moms up to think babies are supposed to sleep through the night.  Most of us know, or have heard, about the importance of brain development during the waking hours.  We should not encourage newborns to go several hours without waking right after they are born.  This is detrimental to their growth and development.

Also, formula is supposed to mimic the gold standard, which of course is human milk.  What do we know about human milk and digestion?  The proteins in breastmilk are easily digested and human milk is processed quickly--requiring regular feedings (small, frequent meals--spaced out throughout the day--is even a recommendation for children and adults).  These small, regular feedings do not require the stomach to stretch to hold an abundance of food that must be processed over a long period of time.  Formula is far-from replicating breastmilk in this instance.

This type of formula and teaching is contributing to the obesity problem in our country.  A big meal before bed and letting an infant "sleep it off" is absolutely ridiculous.  

Why do I think Mead Johnson created this formula...because moms wanted it and it would be a huge money maker.  Parents are exhausted.  They want and need sleep.  Then they hear about a company that makes a product that will "help them get better sleep..." and the geniuses in the marketing division have a slogan to get these cans flying off the shelves.

The funny thing is, this formula has been around quite awhile.  Look back at the printed page.  Let me draw your attention to the bottom of the first paragraph.  "Enfamil Restfull is the same fourmulation as Enfamil A.R."  Really, this miracle has been around?  Yes, and it was successful at helping with spit up and doctors would often recommend it for reflux...okay, so why wasn't it a best seller?  The name.  Parents may not remember what AR does and what it stands for, but "Restfull" they understand.  Sleep...that's a word they would like to have back in their vocabulary, so... "A Star is Born" a gold star...confusing parents and causing them to rely on a sleep aid for their child.  The company did not invent anything new, they re-purposed something old...gave a face lift to a can, revived a recipe with a "sleep better" slogan.

What's in this can that helps a baby sleep so well?  According to the rules of ingredients, let's just check out the first four, to see what constitutes the greatest percentage of this product:
  1. Nonfat milk
  2. Vegetable oil
  3. Rice starch
  4. Lactose
Okay, it may make an infant sleep better at night, but I sure couldn't sleep knowing I had given this to my baby.  It is crucial that we educate well-meaning parents about the marketing tactics being used on them.  Parenting is a difficult job...we lose sleep when our children are infants, when they have the flu, when it's thundering outside, when they learn to drive...parents will have some sleepless nights and sacrifice a lot more than sleep for their children, but what they get in return is priceless.

It is not my goal to target formula in general, but the deceptive marketing strategies being used on new parents.  I believe we must be informed in order to make "informed decisions."  I hope you can use this information as a teaching tool for prenatal and new moms.  I have not had a mom, nutritionist or dietitian disagree with me about my concerns once I shared this information with

If families need additional breastfeeding help, share a link with them or encourage them to contact a Lactation Consultant.

I have some more marketing and advertising tactics I am looking forward to sharing in the near future.  Stay tuned as I reveal what I have found in my research...

Christy Jo Hendricks, IBCLC, RLC CD(DONA), CLE

I will be providing a CAPPA CLE Training in October.  Would love to have more Lactation Educators sharing this information.  Find out about the Training on my Website.


  1. thanks for posting, but i hate to say that if i re-posted this particular article it would do more harm than good for the general population of people i know. i could see all first time preggos saying well i was thinking of nursing but now... or man, breastfeeding/ baby not sleeping is hard, its just not really worth it. i think the best way is to get this product removed from the market or at minimum get wic to start paying for it.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this!

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