Thursday, September 10, 2009

Letter to

I thought I'd give you all a peak into the less glamorous side of lactivism: writing letters. I never know what to write and I try to be tactful and stick to the point. Here's part of a letter I sent to after seeing an advertisement for Similac's "Advance Early Shield" formula.

My husband and I are longtime watchers of Hulu. We don't have cable or satellite so hulu is our main source for television. I think it is great that you offer a way for television shows and movies to be watched with minimal advertising. We don't normally mind watching the 30 second commericials before and during our show. Today, however, I did find one advertisement in poor taste: An advertisement for Similac formula. Not once in the advertisement did it mention that breastmilk is the superior infant food.

Our country is really struggling with breastfeeding rates- lack of breastfeeding costs the country billions of dollars ( We are pitifully behind the goal to achieve an initial breastfeeding rate of 75%, and 50% at 6 months as outlined here:

The advertising of breastmilk substitutes has been found by the United Nation's World Health Organization to be so detrimental to breastfeeding rates that they created what is known as the "International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes" and can be found here:

The advertising of breastmilk substitutes undermines the health of the American population. Please consider the impact on this nation's health in your decision to run these ads. I really enjoy the television your site offers, but I am definitely reconsidering whether or not I continue to frequent your site.

I wanted to keep the letter short and to the point, so I didn't mention the specifics of what I found upsetting about the ad (use of a baby in the advertisement, no mention of "Breastmilk is the superior infant food", advertising leading people to believe the formula contains immunities- which it does not have). I was afraid if I went into that direction, I'd be rambling.

I personally feel that there should be no formula ads whatsoever. I understand formula is a necessity sometimes, but the families that must depend on it will seek out the formula companies on their own because it is a necessity for them. All it does for the rest of us is undermine our ability and dedication to breastfeed.


  1. "but the families that must depend on it will seek out the formula companies on their own because it is a necessity for them. All it does for the rest of us is undermine our ability and dedication to breastfeed."

    yeah, this!

    Great letter! Wonder if they'll respond. nak

  2. I think that's a great letter, and very to the point. From the other side of the fence, though, I'd just like to say that as a reluctantly formula feeding mom, I get tired of being made to feel like I'm a bad mom, and hurting my child by not breastfeeding...

    I kinda like seeing those ads every once in a while because it lets me know I'm not the only one, if that makes any sense.

    Not trying to be combative - I fully support breastfeeding. Just wanted to put in my 2 cents.

  3. I'm definitely not trying to make anyone feel like a bad mom. That must have been a difficult decision. All moms need support and understanding.

    Unfortunately formula advertising does negatively affect views towards breastfeeding and breastfeeding rates.

    Be assured that you aren't alone- many women deal with that every day and breastfeeding isn't the only way to nurture the bond you share with your child.

  4. To me it has some of the same ethical issues with marketing medications... but I guess that hasn't stopped anyone!

  5. The ads are not there to make people feel better about their decisions (which may not have been their favorite decision, but necessary at the time). Formula ads are there to get people to spend money, and damn the consequences.

    The ethical issues with Similac go far beyond pharmaceutical advertising ethics.

    We just sat and complained when we saw the commercial. Didn't even think to write a letter. Way to go Heather!

  6. I LOVE Similac! It saved my baby from starving to death and I am glad that some of my money went to support their development of quality food for my baby! I'm definitely all for breastfeeding and I do believe it is best, but I am grateful for their advertising, free samples, and coupons.

  7. I've never felt my ability and determination to breastfeed was undermined by formula advertisements. Then again, I saw my mom nursing my siblings ALL growing up. It was a given, I would breastfeed. Period. Luckily it worked out for me. If formula companies are guilty of false advertising, that is a problem, but I agree with Amber, that often statements about breastmilk being "superior food" makes mothers who don't nurse feel like they are being called "inferior."

  8. For the most part, I don't think people consider the affects of marketing on public health. I don't think most people see ads like that and think, "Wow. Imagine what that ad will do to the resolve of women trying to breastfeed! How awful!" I think most people just go, "Oh look, another ad." We see ads all the time and don't consider the social effects. I'm guessing hulu saw Similac's request for ad space and said, "Ok... Another company who wants to pay us to show their ads, great!" instead of thinking, "Hmm... This ad might have detrimental effects on the health of America, let's think about this..." A lot of times we just see ads that way and don't think, "Wait. This can hurt people!" "Wait- that's offensive to ____" "Wait. That's prejudiced!" A lot of the time we just accept advertising as not really harmful, no big deal. The entire marketing industry gives off that vibe and we accept it. Advertising can be harmful: prejudiced, undermining of our confidences, and in this case can have negative affects on health, but we don't recognize or see it because we're conditioned not to.

    The WHO would not have created the Code of Marketing Breast-milk substitutes if there wasn't a real reason to- marketing DOES have an effect. Babies have died because of the way formula is marketed. Studies have shown that this does undermine the resolve to breastfeed. If advertising didn't work, companies wouldn't do it.

  9. "A lot of times we just see ads that way and don't think, "Wait. This can hurt people!" "Wait- that's offensive to ____" "Wait. That's prejudiced!""

    Wait. That's the First Amendment. They have a right to say what they want just like you have a right to disagree. While Similac might not be the best for every baby, it's not cigarettes, LSD, or even alcohol.

    Anyway, Enfamil is definitely better.

  10. Well, advertisers certainly can't say whatever they like- if enough people stand up and say something- ads will be removed. A good example of this was the Paris Hilton ad for Carl's Junior. Enough people demanded it be removed from the public airways and it was.

    The marketing of formula does have a negative impact on the health of this nation, and we as consumers can certainly demand that the companies take some responsibility for this and advertise in healthier ways.

  11. Thank you for posting this. Do you mind if I send a version of your letter to Hulu? I was really upset to see this commercial the first time, and have clicked "dislike" whenever I come across it again, especially during shows that are ostensibly about health. I am glad to see that someone else noticed and was displeased by the ad, as well.

  12. You may certainly use it as a starting point. When hulu wrote back to me I just got a generic letter about talking with their advertising department.


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