Why Formula Companies Love “Breast is Best”

My husband and I often talk to our children about marketing. We want them to be aware of how companies try to get people to buy their product(s), so that they can make more informed choices and don’t fall prey to clever marketing tactics (“Do you think those shoes can really make you fly?”).

I think this is something that we need to be aware of when talking about infant feeding as well. When I get into a conversation about formula companies, I often hear “Well formula companies can’t be all bad because it says right on their website and on the cans that “breast is best!”. This is very true. If you go to any formula company website, or if you look at a can of formula, you will see messages about “breast is best”. Does this mean that formula companies truly believe that and want all moms to breastfeed? The answer to that is a resounding No!  What it does mean is that their marketing division with their millions of dollars has determined that putting that message on their product won’t hurt sales. The formula industry is worth billions, and it is not against throwing it’s weight around to make changes to anything that it feels might jeopardize it’s profits. In 2004, they did just that when they opposed the new breastfeeding ads that the US government was planning to unveil. The ads were eventually replaced with a watered down version due to pressure from the formula companies. So if formula companies believed that putting the phrase “breast is best” on their websites and products would hurt sales, you can be sure that they would be making a fuss about it.

So why do formula companies love “breast is best”? Well, as outlined in Diane Wiessingers very insightful article “Watch Your Language“, “breast is best” frames formula feeding as the norm and breastfeeding as a nice extra if you’re able to do it. The message that parents receive has become “breast is best, but formula is OK too”. “Breast is best” allows formula companies to say “We fully support breastfeeding. See – it says so on our website and products”. It allows the companies to give the appearance of caring about breastfeeding while they go about undermining it. Breastfeeding is after all their main competition! I wonder what the reaction would be from the formula companies if they were required to put messages such as “Formula feeding increases your baby’s risk of obesity” on their websites and products?
Formula companies spend millions on marketing, and everything on their websites is designed to subtly turn mothers off of breastfeeding. The website for the new BabyNes machine from Nestle is a perfect example of their marketing tactics at work.

When you first open the page, you are greeted with a beautiful mother and her (formula fed) baby who are quite literally glowing thanks to the special effects on the page. Underneath, we see a woman breastfeeding her baby. Great that they’re showing breastfeeding right? Well, if we look closer at it, the breastfeeding mom is sitting on the floor, is barefoot, is half undressed and her dark roots are showing through her blond hair colouring (compare that to the beautifully highlighted hair of the formula feeding mom).  All of this is subtle, but it creates an emotional reaction (which is exactly what it was designed to do). The reaction may not even be a conscious one for many people, but it plays on the stereotype of women who breastfeed being barefoot “hippies” who just “whip it out”. It also plays into the fear of having a baby who ties you down and nurses so often that you can’t even get your hair coloured. Even the graph behind the mom with the downward slope to it produces a negative feeling about breastfeeding.

On the right is a picture of this same breastfeeding mom and baby with a doctor standing beside them.  The text surrounding this picture is talking about the service that Nestle offers where you can talk to their “experts” to get customized advice about feeding your baby. In using the image of the breastfeeding mother however, the implication is that breastfeeding is complicated and likely requires the help of a health professional.

Smack dab in the middle of these two pictures of the poor breastfeeding mother, is Nestle’s new “comprehensive nutrition system” to save you from having to expose yourself to the world, miss out on “you” time and spend lots of time at the doctors office due to those cracked and bleeding nipples you’re bound to have if you’re breastfeeding. A wonderful example of marketing tactics at work. Formula companies also use pictures of breastfeeding moms to convey the message that their formula is the next best thing to breastmilk. The breastfeeding mother in the pictures on the Nestle site is wearing white (which implies purity), and so is the formula feeding mom. The emotional message? Our product is just as good (pure) as breastmilk.

Along with the “breast is best” messages, formula websites often contain information about breastfeeding. This information is not placed there due to a desire to help breastfeeding moms however. The information is again designed to undermine breastfeeding. There is often talk of cracked and bleeding nipples, embarrassing leaks, the need to maintain a special diet etc. etc. When I gave birth to my son, I remember there was a “breastfeeding” booklet by the side of my bed (produced by a formula company). One thing I really remember was in the section on pumping where it started out with the  line “First, fully expose your breasts”. Who wants to pump if it means “fully exposing” yourself? Much easier to just go to formula right? It was a classic example of how the language the formula companies use is designed to make moms feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding, feel like it’s too much work or too restricting etc.

Formula companies spend a lot of money on getting their marketing right. To me, that means if the formula companies are happy to use the phrase “Breast is Best” on their cans of formula, then it’s definitely a phrase that we should not be using to try to encourage more moms to breastfeed. Breast is not best, it is normal.



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  5. Jacquelyn says:

    Breast feeding is marketed just as cleverly and misleadingly as formula. I was told over and over: You will not have problems, REAL problems are very rare. Define REAL for me please! I pumped and pumped and cried and was told over and over again, ” Just try this, try that, maybe you’re not….” I felt like a complete failure because ALL of the literature I was given by healthcare professionals told me that breastfeeding was natural and the best way to protect and nourish my baby. Even the pamphlet on poop was pro nursing! “A breastfed baby’s poop will be seedy in appearance and have very little smell. Some even say it has a sweet smell. While a formula fed baby will have a stronger smelling ‘stinkier’ poop.” Give me a break! I’m pro breastfeeding but I am anti ‘Breast is Best’ It was not best for me or my daughter who dropped in weight because public health insisted I was doing something wrong. And is not best for 3 out of 7 women I know who all had babies around the same time. One got mastitus so bad she had to wean immediately after 1 month, one never had her milk come in, and I was never able to pump more than 3-4oz as result of what was later discovered to be a problem with hormone levels. I agree that formula companies have to market to sell WHO is more than counteracting it with their own one sided campaign.

    • Sorry for the troubles you had.
      I just wanted to mention that the smell of breastfed poop is much nicer than formula fed. My little ones smelled like cake batter until she started solids. It is a fact and not a ploy.
      Also, it is normal to only be able to pump small amounts, although 3-4oz is a good amount. Baby is much more effective at getting the milk out and triggering increases in prolactin and oxytocin.
      I’m also sorry for your friends who had trouble. Although it is encouraging that 4 out of 7 of your friends had positive experiences. It is false that you need to stop breastfeeding with mastitis. Actually continuing to breastfeed can actually reduce recover time and is safe for baby.
      It is actually quite rare, (less than 1%), for a woman to be unable to breastfeed until the child weans. It is usually more related to lack of support.
      It is your choice how to feed your baby. Please dont feel like a failure. Formula is not evil and has saved babies lives when needed.

  6. I think Formula cans should state: Can save babies lives when mums are unable to feed baby themselves

  7. One very important decision that every expectant mother will need to make is whether or not to breastfeed. Throughout the last several decades, the practice of breastfeeding has gone in and out of style. Beginning in the forties, women were discouraged to do it by their doctors.

  8. I don’t understand why mom’s who try their hardest to breastfeed and are unable, get so butt hurt over the world “normal”. Normal no way implies that you are a terrible or unfit mother if you tried and werent able. Normal implies that its a natural thing and that literally every other mammal out there does it without question. Yes, without formula, many infant would starve to death, but they dont because we have option to supplement them with. Calm down and stop feeling attacked!

    • Jacquelyn says:

      With all due respect I think FF moms will stop feeling hurt when BF stops being pushed as

      • Jacquelyn says:

        Sorry, -pushed as ‘Best’. It’s a wording issue. If you read FearlessFormulaFeeder’s blog, she does a great job of summing it up. The top of her page reads: Standing up formula feeders without being a boob about it.

  9. As a FF mom of 2, By choice.
    I don’t envy BF mom’s at all. I only seem to see their insecurities trying to point out BREAST IS BEST or how much better they are as mothers. You see them on every baby board, in every parents group or blogs like this one ect.. like how many internet pat of the backs does one need if they felt so secure in their choice to BF??
    I on the other hand am confident in my choice to FF. I don’t feel need to recruit others like a cult lol. Make your choice and stick by it.
    FF, Don’t knock it til you tried it!
    The only cure for childhood obesity is parenting. Get your kids outside and off the damn TV’s. Your the adults. Only you put what food goes into your kids guts. Formula is done by 12 months even sooner in most cases… how can it be blamed for being obese the next 80 years of ones life?

  10. None has mentioned the source of formula milk-the dairy industry. At the moment the cows you get the milk from are more than likely kept indoors all year round so rarely if ever see the sun their health is not good as a result. It’s a cruel industry where the calves are denied the milk and so are also raised on “milk substitute”. The cows only last half the amount of years of their natural lifespan because of the stress of intensive feeding and housing and American cows aren’t even fed grass but genetically modified maize. There’s nothing healthy or natural about the product and that’s before it’s processed. And if your baby is sucking up the misery of the animals involved it’s a pity you can’t see it because if you could you’d never allow it. Emergency measure ? get a goat or find a local goat keeper who loves their animals and looks after them properly.

  11. “I wonder what the reaction would be from the formula companies if they were required to put messages such as “Formula feeding increases your baby’s risk of obesity” on their websites and products?” Made me chuckle. 🙂 Formula cans should have Surgeon General’s warnings, like cigarettes. ;D YES!! Yes they should.

  12. Louise Tiffany says:

    And the English government does nothing to help this encouragement of formula feeding when statistically the people least likely to breast feed are young people and people on a low income who are then given vouchers alongside their income support which can be used to buy formula milk! And I am betting that the ready made bottles of formula that are given to mums in hospital who choose not to breast feed are donated by the formula companies!!

  13. Blair Blycker says:

    Wow. Talk about reading between the lines. Reading this article brought me back to my English Lit classes in High School and College. I won’t argue the fact that formula companies want to promote their product, but c’mon guys, don’t be ridiculous. You went a little too far in your vilification of Enfamil and Similac. The truth is, breast is best, but today’s formulas are also good. This article went so far to prove a point that it became deceptive itself in it’s promotion of breastfeeding over formula. There are many many many families in situations in which breast is most definitely NOT best. There are many factors which play into the decision to breast feed or formula feed. I have had 4 children. 2 were breast fed and 2 were formula fed. Each time we made the decision with careful consideration of our family and what would be the very best choice and twice that choice was formula. All of my children are extremely healthy, none have allergies and the three which have entered school so far have proven to be of high intelligence and academic skill. In fact, my eldest (completely formula fed) rates at the highest level for reasoning, intelligence, artistic ability and behavior.

    We do need to think critically and not be led like lemmings by corporations and the FDA, but don’t swing the other way and become conspiracy theorists!

  14. What is interesting is that the breastfeeding Mum is the same one as the one on a breastfeeding book. http://www.abcsofbreastfeeding.com/

  15. I recently experienced a very obvious(to me) Gerber Advertisement.
    In one line it said ” Breastmilk is complete nutrition” in the next it said “formula is nutritionally complete”
    If this isnt obvious what is?
    It also contained a chart on how to wean your baby.
    day1: 7 breastfeedings, 1 formula,
    Day 2:6 Breastfeedings, 2 fomula.
    and so on day 14 your child was 100% formula fed.
    in the sapce below the chart it read “Some breastmilk is better than none”
    i was ready to puke.
    then i took the $14.50 & $3.50 off of formula coupons and sold them on ebay for $12.

  16. Jennifer Seligman says:

    Fascinating article and conversation. Both my boys weened themselves after about 9 months, and I was fine with it. After about 5-6 months I was doing part formula, part breastfeeding, since their personalities were such that they wanted some independence, and they loved holding their own bottle. I think mtoher hood is hard enough to feel stressed out about all this. Mothers need to feel confident about their abilitiy to parent and feed their children. we have to remember what “natural” means. many man made things, like vaccienes, have saved coutnless children’s lives. Infant mortality before the modern age was tremendous, partly due to malnutrition of both women and children. Women would have wet nurses, etc. We have to be thankful that formula exists because many of our babies alive today would not be so without it. That being said, I dont’ like the idea that breastfeeding in public is still an issue, that people in the grocery store when my boys were infants, and they started crying, were saying “poor baby” and looking at me weird, like I should ahve a bottle or something, and seemed to think it cruel I had to wait to at least get in the car to nurse them (or maybe it was just my exaggerated reaction to their comments, who knows). Breastmilk should be strongly recommended as the initial option, but if a woman wants to bottle feed, it’s her choide and it’ll be okay. As long as she stops feeding the baby when he stops on his own and doesn’t force him to “finish the bottle”…that’s where risk of obesity coems in, I think.

    One more thing…I think the bonding of mother and child, during feeding and other times, is of paramount importance. If a mother is exhausted, in pain, bleeding, and stressed out by nursing, the baby will pick up on that vibe. If she bottle feeds but holds the baby, and looks in its eyes, etc, it’s a beautiful expereince for both. That’s why with my second, I didn’t pump hardly at all ( I was also at home wtih him). When I worked part time with my first, I pumped but hated the time it took to do it as opposed to doing other things, lke eating or sleeping, getting me time so I had energy to be with my baby. What’s more important…the nutrition of breastmilk or the bonding with one’s baby? There was an article in the Atlantic by hannah Rosen addressing this very issue…look on their website, it shoudl be archived there.

    Good night ladies, nice discussion!

  17. BREAST IS BEST is the name of my nursing tea which is all herbal. i had no idea that it was a catch phrase on the cans of formula. i don’t think there is anything wrong with the phrase obviously. i would rather tell a mama that “breast is best” than tell her “breast is normal”. huh? it seems to me that breast is best even though formula has become “normal” (unfortunately). and it seems also appropriate to me because those mothers who want the best for their baby will choose breastfeeding. sometimes we can’t give the best of everything to our children but we try.

    only those who find it effortless, those that have the unlimited assistance of an expert or those who are really committed will succeed. everyone else will succumb to the message that formula is “normal” and just nearly as good. they will even be placated and lulled into a level of comfort by the relief of not having to shoulder the sole responsibility of feeding their child from their own body with all the personal esteem issues attached to that. the pictures described in the blog entry will confirm that the barefooted half dressed woman with her roots showing is indeed the unpleasant story of breastfeeding and they will experience the elation depicted in the fresh glowing image with the dissolution of performance anxiety. it’s not wholly incorrect but deceptively manipulative.

    so many women struggle with this choice….some because they know on some level that they are being misled by the medical community and the formula companies; some because they know on some level that breast is indeed best but they don’t have the resolve; and some because they are caught up in failing to succeed something that they believe in but didn’t have the support and assistance they needed to successfully master breastfeeding. most of the places i turned for support breastfeeding were incompitant at best, destructive and threatening at worst.

    if it were only the women who absolutely could not make enough milk using formula, then there would not be a stigma attached to it. i had months of struggle with my milk supply knowing that i “could” because i had done it before and i had milk. i was bullied by the public health nurses to quit b-feeding and take anti-depressants (when what i really needed was help breastfeeding) and who reported me to the children’s aid society; so that when moms describes to me all the ridiculous reasons the doctor told her to give up because she “can’t” breastfeed, i don’t judge her but i cringe inside knowing that had she taken an informed approach she may also have been made to suffer and fight for the cause like i did. she is weak and emotional and discouraged so the formula companies prey on her through the medical community.

    that being said, there does exist cases where the breastfeeding simply will not work and thank goodness for the existence of formula in those cases. one should not judge bottle-feeding mamas. but to bottle-feeding mamas i give you this quote:

    Women should not feel guilty if they are unable to breastfeed, but they should feel guilty if they are unwilling to do so, and they should be intellectually honest enough to know the difference.” -Elizabeth Gene

    Shame on the formula companies for manipulating women in their most vulnerable state…..a time a woman should be honoured and cherished and protected. and shame on the medical community for supporting yet another denigration of one of the most profoundly empowering experiences a woman can have

  18. Rebekah – love your post, too.

  19. Cat – love your post. Thanks for sharing.

  20. Caroline says:

    Argh! I got some of the text translated from the BabyNes website and even allowing for things getting translated wrongly, its still stupid advice about breastfeeding. One paragraph recommends having everything close to hand when you breastfeed – nappies, blanket, soft music on and even suggests unplugging the phone!
    And the annoying advice about having to eat healthily and get lots of sleep – well that’s a good idea for anyone but not absolutely necessary for breastfeeding.

  21. Wow, that’s some fantastic analysis. Thank you for this article!!

  22. Rebekah says:

    For you ladies whose milk didn’t come in- you tried to breastfeed first obviously, right? Then formula was definitely a godsend for you and your children. However, formula companies are using these tactics to sway mothers before their children are even born. Thousands of mothers never even try to breastfeed because of the perceived notions put forth by formula companies.
    To say that formula feeding isn’t normal is still true. It isn’t normal that your milk didn’t come in. That doesn’t make you bad. That doesn’t make you less of a woman. To say that formula feeding isn’t normal isn’t a commentary on your parenting when you tried to breastfeed. Personally, I am unable to conceive without medical intervention. In this same vein, this is not normal. I had to have c-sections with both of my pregnancies. This is not normal. But I’m still a woman and a successful mother. I’m grateful to modern technology that I have three beautiful children.
    I only comment to address this because your defensiveness suggests that you may still feel guilt at not being able to breastfeed. If you did all you could to breastfeed your children, and you were not able to, then thank God for formula. Please try to move past the guilt because you truly did your best for your child and your best is just as good as everyone else’s. I don’t believe anything about this post was meant to implicate that formula is always wrong and always bad.
    But there are plenty of women out there who use formula because they think breastfeeding is old fashioned, painful, restrictive to themselves, isn’t really any better than formula, and/or embarrassing. These are the negative views formula companies are perpetuating ever so subtly, and unfortunately, it’s working.

  23. I’d love to see warnings on formula! breast milk sure is a miracle substance to feed your child and I’ll never stop praising it but I fully agree with the statement ‘breast is not best, breast is normal’ as a mammal that’s what our babies need. So the natural inclination for every mother (when encouraged) is to breast feed. Wouldn’t it be great if every hospital was able to send an LC to every mom? or heck train your nurses in how to support breastfeeding. In today’s day and age and with all this sneaky advertising I do understand why moms choose formula. I’d rather speak openly and positively about breastfeeding with my friends who are expecting. I congratulate new moms on deciding to breastfeed and even send them links and everything. That’s what really helps new moms

  24. I agree with you, Angie. I do, however, think that all us moms should support each other, regardless, it’s hard enough just to be a parent without worrying about everyone and her sister judging you. The problem here is exactly as described: hospitals and doctors are not promoting breast feeding as the norm. If you choose formula, no one shows you how to do it, but if you breast-feed (even after feeding a couple kids) you must have a lactation consult. Doctors are given promo materials and free formula samples to hand out to expecting women. Besides that, it is very difficult to nurse in public places or to pump at work and any woman who has breastfed a child or knows someone who has breastfed a child is aware of this. But all that can be changed with a little foresight and education. If you can’t breastfeed, you are still a good mom. If you choose to bottle feed or supplement because of work commitments or any other reason that works for your family, you are still a good mom. What always distresses me is the sheer number of younger moms (teens and early 20s) who nearly universally choose to bottle feed. In most cases, they are not unable, but unwilling to breastfeed. They are under the perception that breastfeeding ties you down, limits your diet and is hard. While it can be all these things at times, there are ways to ease the difficulties, you just have to try a little harder sometimes. I wonder if it would make a difference, especially to this group, if they were told (preferably by their doctors beforehand) how breastfeeding helps you lose the baby weight faster, eases postpartum pain and keeps your period away! We need to stress the positives, not just the ones for the baby, but the ones for the moms, and maybe we can get enough young women to give it a try!
    For those who have had a breastfeeding mom put you down for bottle feeding, I am truly sorry, and to those who attempt to nurse in public and are berated for doing so, I’m sorry as well. None of us have the right to judge anyone without walking in her shoes. We all need to learn some common courtesy, and stop putting people down for being different. Let’s all stick together, because we are doing the hardest job ever- being moms.

  25. I always thought that formula companies were mandated by the FDA or whoever to point out, that “breast is best”. Since formula feeding was never an option to me, I never paid that close attention to their ads, but your article was very interesting. Never saw it from that perspective.

  26. Angela, your post is excellent. For all of the moms who’ve taken offense to readers’ posts that breastfeeding is normal, RELAX! To say that breastfeeding is normal is NOT to say that formula-feeding is abnormal. These two things are not mutually exclusive, and many moms use both food sources to sustain their children! The point that we – the breastfeeding moms – are trying to make is that breastfeeding is a normal and nature-intended way to feed babies; it is NOT meant to declare formula as poison. I, personally, have nothing against the moms who made concerted attempts to breastfeed their babies. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Making a CHOICE to do something, and being able to do it are TWO DIFFERENT THINGS, and we all need to consider this. For those of you who tried to feed your children naturally, and it simply did not work out, KUDOS to you for giving it your absolute best shot, AND for realizing when you did, that you needed to find an alternate food source to sustain your children in an optimal way without sacrificing your babies’ health to boost your own ego. These moms deserve as much credit as anyone else. The moms I have a problem with are the ones that choose to formula feed their babies, without trying to breastfeed, because it’s too much of a hassle, or they don’t want to be ‘tied’ to the baby all the time. I know many moms like this – many are my very friends. This is the attitude I don’t agree with, and is largely the target market that the formula marketers are after – the ones that don’t necessarily see added benefit in breastfeeding their babies. Formula started out as a food source for babies when moms couldn’t breastfeed, weren’t lactating, or breast milk wasn’t available. It did not used to be a mainstream alternative for moms who simply decided that feeding their babies naturally was just inconvenient. It is these moms that we’re talking about, not those of you who use formula but wanted to breastfeed your children.

  27. Patrice says:

    After YEARS of infertility and 13 very painful (in all ways) procedures I finally had my son and breastfed him for 18 months (and counting.) For me pregnancy and breastfeeding finally let me feel “normal” after feeling like such a failure and freak when I couldn’t get pregnant. No one made me feel great or overly supported when I was “infertile” – I only felt like part of the normal club when I was pregnant. There are no companies talking about or spending millions to promote infertility treatments as a positive ‘choice’ to conceiving naturally. So I feel great about breastfeeding and I deal with feeling bad that I could never conceive naturally. It’s life and if you feel bad because you cannot breastfeed, well it’s understandable because breastfeeding is normal/natural, just like getting pregnant naturally is preferable to IVFs.

  28. Wow Erica, great find. There is not a single section of Nestle’s “breast is best” section that doesn’t end up talking about how great formula is!
    Well done Nurtured Child, keep uncovering the way that the formula industry subtly works on society to help them grow their business. No need for any mums who have used formula to feel guilty, BUT governments and the medical profession should be utterly ashamed at the way they ignore the evidence and allow the formula companies to manipulate them.

  29. Formula companies should be forced to print warnings the same as alcohol and cigarette companies do, after all they carry the same advertising ban and are harmful to babies increasing cancer risks, poisoning, meningitus risk, ear infections, and of course never allowing full brain devolopment as I’m sure most of us who have researched know.

  30. There are cases where breast feeding isn’t always optimal for the health of our kids. Nobody should be made to feel guilty and then have their kids end up in the hospital for dehydration.

    And just because somebody doesn’t want to breast feed doesn’t mean that they don’t want to be a mom. A happy mom makes for a much happier child and if that means feeding formula I see nothing wrong with it.

    I believe that women should try breast feeding, but I’m going to choose to support a new mom no matter which decision they make. And I will never tell them that feeding their child formula is going to make that child stupid or fat. I will listen because sometimes that’s all they need.

    As for the article, I didn’t feel offended by it. I think formula ads should be treated like any other and looked at critically. It was the comments that got to me. I’m done feeling guilty about doing what I know was best for my kids, but that doesn’t make me immune to getting irritated about people saying that I didn’t want to be a mom or that I wasn’t looking out for their health.

  31. Bridget H. says:

    I am a BFing mama, & absolutely believe breast is best/normal. I also think the formula companies do use marketing to confirm stereotypes of breastfeeding as being hippie-ish, painful, complicated, etc. However, as someone who was forced to supplement with formula at times, I also think it’s important that we, as mamas, support one another, regardless of whether we are breast- or formula feeding.

  32. Thank you, Angela, for responding the way I wanted to about all of the “breastfeeding mothers are judging people” comments. I’d like to add that this is *not* an article decrying formula – it’s decrying the *marketing techniques* used to convince women *not to try* to breastfeed.
    And the blog did a great job of pointing out the subtle details – for those of you who say you weren’t affected that way, then good for you for seeing through the hype… but the effects of the marketing are clearly defined within a psychological framework and are obviously effective on most people, in conjunction with our formula-biased society. And please don’t yell at me for saying that our society is formula based – that’s simple mathematics.
    The World Health Organization (among others) has determined that for healthy/normal mothers the best nutrition is provided by breast milk – but no one here is saying that women who can’t provide that for their babies are bad moms. All anyone is saying is a mother should have a reason (such as milk not coming in, antidepressant medications, trying and not being able to, etc) for using formula. No one here wants formula to be unavailable for families that need it. Everyone here loves babies. Some people express that love by trying to help other parents be aware of the scientific facts.

    • Just wanted to note something re antidepressant use and breastfeeding. There are antidepressants that are safe to use whilst breastfeeding, and if a mother can (and wants to) breastfeed whilst taking antidepressents, it is a better option than switching to formula.

  33. Someone posted this earlier on another page regarding this article:

    “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent,” Eleanor Roosevelt-

    Once again, if you attempted breastfeeding and are simply in the category that is unable to breastfeed, you should have no reason to feel upset at the statement “breastfeeding is normal.” This is an issue inside yourself, and we shouldn’t be basing our language regarding breastfeeding on hurt feelings of adults, instead we should be basing our language on science, and optimal health for our kids!

  34. I’m glad to see others making the points I always want to make whenever I see articles on breastfeeding vs. formula use! Like others here, my milk never came in, so I went with formula because I couldn’t bear to see my daughter starving while I kept trying — I felt selfish to keep trying, but so many articles make me feel guilty for not trying longer. Which is a silly thing to feel since I look at my now teenage daughter who is perfectly proportioned, perfect bmi (according to last week’s doctor checkup) the same as she has been every year of her life, has never had any major illnesses and rarely sees a doctor more than once a year (for her annual checkup), is at the top 5 percent of every class (same as every other year) while maintaining a student leadership position. So it’s obvious that a formula fed baby should not automatically be thrown into a ‘less intelligent, less healthy’ category!! And any sentiment saying not breastfeeding is not normal IS the same as calling it abnormal, no matter what pretty words may be used, so I do resent those sort of remarks, too.

  35. Kathy —> my point is exactly what you said. You are judging the moms that choose not to breastfeed. You simply said that “they didn’t want to be a mom”. I can assure you this isn’t the case for everyone who chooses not to breastfeed. Obviously! That’s great that everyone feels so strongly for those who cannot. My point is you shouldn’t worry about those who cannot or those who choose not. It is really none of your concern.

    You have summed it up very well though that as a breastfeeding mother you know that anyone who chooses not to breastfeed didn’t really want to become a mom. Those kind of comments are the exact one sided, ignorant beliefs that infuriate me over this whole debate.

    You might note, I didn’t say whether I nursed my children or not 🙂

  36. Fleur (Nurtured Child) says:

    I want to emphasize that this post is in no way meant to put down mothers who (for whatever reason) formula feed their babies. I strongly believe that mothers do not fail at breastfeeding, society does (that blog post is coming!). Yes, there are cases where moms truly cannot breastfeed, and in an ideal world, donor milk would be readily available for those babies. There are also many cases of moms not having enough support or information to successfully breastfeed. My son was formula fed from the age of 5 months on due to an undiagnosed tongue tie. I don’t feel guilty about that, I feel angry that no one picked up on it! Angry that I didn’t have better information about the risks of formula feeding, about the wonderful breastfeeding support systems that are out there. Eventually I realized that I had done the very best I could with the knowledge, information and support I had available at the time.
    This post is meant to educate about the marketing tactics used by formula companies, and nothing else. It took me time to come to terms with having to wean my son onto formula at such an early age, and my heart goes out to anyone who is struggling with the same thing.

  37. Sarah Martins says:

    Yes, Lisa, thank you for the other side of the story. I’m a first time mother to a now 10 month old. My supply was never very strong. I worked with Lactation Consultants, drank teas, took herbal supplements, and pumped between nursing. With all that, it was still necessary to supplement with formula. I use Gerber, and visit the company site often. I’ve never felt Gerber tried to subliminally discourage me from breastfeeding. In fact formula helped me to continue to breastfeed at all. Once I accepted that all the tea in the world wasn’t going to improve my supply, I was able to relax and enjoy the breastfeeding experience. In fact, I subsequently noticed a slight increase in my supply.

    Now that I know more about breastfeeding and what to expect, I hope that to exclusively breastfeed my next child. However, if it’s not possible, I know that my child won’t go hungry.

    I had to chuckle at this comment:

    “Breastfeeding is what happens after you give birth. It happens with cows, cats, humans, and every other mammalian species.”

    While animals are driven by instinct, even they have trouble nursing. Sometimes animal mothers reject their offspring outright, or environmental factors such as poor food supply make it impossible for animals to produce enough milk to feed their young. When that happens, the young die. They can’t just trot up to the nearest Wal-Mart to buy formula. Nursing or not nursing is no more a choice in the animal world than it is for us.

  38. Breast IS normal. As in, capable of working in the majority of cases. No one is saying that it works every single time, and I definitely feel for those of you for whom it did not. But we in our society are made to believe that formula is the norm, and a viable place to start. Not every one is normal, and being abnormal should not make you feel subpar. You are still just as much woman, and mother; being unABLE to produce milk for your child doesn’t change that. Being unWILLING, well that’s another matter, IMO.

  39. Cassie, Stacey, and Lisa, I think you are over looking what all the breastfeeding mothers said. Everyone one of them said formula is designed for mothers like you that CANNOT breastfeed, their issue is that too many people are pushing formula on mothers that CAN breastfeed and are choosing to not.

    I was able to breastfeed my 2 boys for the first 4 months with feedings and pumping after returning to work then my milk ran out and I too was very happy for the formula option, I also feel that if I had been able to be a stay at home I would have been able to feed longer then I did as I have a very busy job and found it difficult to find time to pump.

    No one thinks that mothers that can’t breast feed should just suffer that is why formula was designed for mothers like you, all anyone here is trying to say is that it should be a solution to a problem, not just because someone doesn’t want to. Several the young woman that I know decided to formula feed BEFORE their child was even born, when I asked them why the answer I got was “its easier”. To me that told me these women (or children as they were acting) didn’t really want to be a mom, needless to say these same mothers were then complaining the first few day/weeks that their breasts were hard, very painful and leaking, funny I never had that problem when I was feeding my boys. Yes they were able to go out and have a good time on Friday night and I was home with my little ones but it is the price you pay when you DECIDE to be a mom.

  40. I disagree that the sentiment that breastfeeding is normal is not the correct statement. I do truly feel for any momma that does not have luck with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is stressful, and when my milk started drying up early when my daughter was around 10 months, I was devastated and felt like a failure. However, my hurt feelings not change the facts. Breastfeeding IS normal. Whether you were able to breastfeed or not does not change the fact that breastfeeding is normal and formula is man made, which is abnormal. You should not let it hurt your feelings to hear that breastfeeding is normal, because you tried and did your best. It’s so VERY important that our culture looks to what’s best for babies first, which is to be fed the way nature intended, instead of first looking to not hurt anyone’s feelings. It’s OK to use formula if you have no way of breastfeeding, and I never judge a woman with a bottle because I don’t know their story. However, once again, we must start accepting breastfeeding as the only, nature intended norm, or it sadly will never become the norm.

  41. Thank you Lisa! I had the exact same problem and it was horrible the way I was treated. (I wrote a blog post on it which is here: http://farrensquare.blogspot.com/2011/04/being-mom-is-hard-enough-guest-blogger.html)

    I understand the marketing sucks and I am all for breaks at work so women can pump, and decreasing the stigma of nursing in public, but that’s no reason that mom’s who need or choose to use formula should be put down. It’s hard enough being a mom without having to defend all of our choices.

  42. Thank you Lisa!

    “Actually I resent you saying breast feeding is normal.”

    I resent all of the debates, discussions, condescending comments from the breastfeeding mamas who obviously know whats best for EVERYONE’s children.

    I wish that everyone would just worry about themselves!

    Congratulations on nursing your child(ren). I know many many overly smart children who are not overweight or sickly who were raised on formula.

  43. Thank you Lisa for telling the other side of the story. I don’t agree that breast feeding is the only option and the only “normal” way of doing things. If this were the case, both my children would have starved to death. My milk didn’t come in either. I saw lactation specialists, rented pumps from the hospital, and cried for days because I couldn’t produce more than 1 1/2 ounces in an entire day! My child couldn’t live on what I could make. Formula was the only option for me that wouldn’t starve my child. Both of my children are of healthy weight, above average intelligence, and healthy. I don’t understand why anyone would say that they wouldn’t be. Breast milk is the best when you have that option. I, unfortunately, did not. I also think you are reading a bit much into the ads. When I look at ads for breast feeding or formula, I never saw any of those things or felt those “emotional” reactions. I think that you need to give your child what you can and do the best possible job you can whether it’s formula or breast milk.

  44. Crazy! I never would have noticed such things, which is a testimony to how subliminal ads are.

  45. Lisa McCourt Hollar says:

    Actually I resent you saying breast feeding is normal. Is it best, yes. Can every woman do it? No. My milk never came in. I have 4 children and the first 2 I tried my damndet to breast feed. With the 2nd I even bought a pump. No milk. I cried and felt like a failure because I couldn’t do what a ‘normal’ woman was supposed to. Well after that I realized I wasn’t abnormal. There are a lot of women that can’t and I really resent women that try to put down any woman that can not breast feed and act as though we are less than ‘normal.’ Breast is best, but thank God for formula companies, it isn’t the only option or my children would have been in for a world of hurt.

  46. I love your comment, Angie. I, too, wish that it was simply assumed that a woman would breastfeed her child. I think that if hospitals and birthing centers took this approach, many timid or anxious mothers would be strengthened to do it.
    Breastfeeding isn’t a choice; it’s the way our children need to eat. If for some (imperative) reason a mother cannot breastfeed, commercial formula is a rather shabby, inadequate alternative. She ought to first try to find another source of breastmilk for her child. Formula companies have fought hard to make formula incredibly available and convenient in order to be chosen more often, and it has nothing at all to do with the quality of nutrition it offers.

  47. What bothers me most about the messages that, not only formula marketers, but our very society sends is the idea that breastfeeding is even a choice. Breastfeeding is what happens after you give birth. It happens with cows, cats, humans, and every other mammalian species. Since when does any other mammal look for a synthetic alternative because they ‘prefer’ not to feed their babies? Formula is for adoptive parents, moms who experience severe lactation problems – to the point that it jeopardizes the health of their babies – and no one else. When doctors and lactation consultants ask moms who’ve just had babies if they plan to breastfeed, it sends the message that it’s a choice. Well, yes, I suppose it is – as in ‘it’s not illegal to choose to formula-feed your baby.’ Culturally, however, I wish it wasn’t one. I wish that it was assumed that whenever a woman had a baby, she would just feed a baby – the way nature intended, the way her body was designed to feed, and her baby to eat.

  48. It’s funny, if you go to nestle’s formula website and click on breastfeeding is best you get some interesting information. It even has a section about breastfeeding and third world countries. That just makes everyone feel like breastfeeding is sub par. I really dislike how these companies market things.

  49. I linked to your post, hope you don’t mind.

  50. Breast is normal, natural, AND best, artifical milk is just that artifical and a substatute for what is natural, heathy and normal. Now thats not to say bfing is easy, but it is worth the time and effort.

  51. Esther Grenz says:

    This article reminds me of my prenatal appointment last week where the nurse asked if I was planning to breastfeed. I said “Absolutely!” (since I breastfed my first-born for 14 months, I am excited and eager to do it again!). She then asked if I would like a “breastfeeding kit” I said “Sure.” Then she asked, “Do you prefer Enfamil or Similac?” I was stunned. I just stared at her, stuttering for a moment before I could finally say, “WHAT?! Why does that matter for a BREASTFEEDING kit?” She explained that there was a sample included. I said I didn’t want either. So she never brought me any kit at all. Seems just as well. Sounds like it was just another marketing ploy to say, “Breast is best… but when you fail, try our formula.”

  52. Brilliant! As are the very well paid marketing people who work for formula companies. I like to tell people that if you watch “Mad Men” and are disgusted by the behind the scenes world of cigarette marketing/advertising in the 60s, then just think about how many more insidious and subtle ways that ad companies can get to us in 2011 and the formula companies take full advantage of all of them!
    I love that you broke down the ad completely and I will be sharing this post on my FB page!
    Thank you!

  53. This is extremely common in all discussions on breastfeeding versus formula feeding. According to popular culture, breastfed babies are smarter and healthier. This implies that breastfeeding provides an advantage. The reality is that formula provides a disadvantage; breastfeeding simply allows the child to develop normally. Unfortunately with this way of understanding nutrition anyone saying that formula fed babies are stupider and sicker just sounds crass!

  54. Julie Drapeau says:

    I agree, but maybe to take it even a step further…breast is normal, therefore formula is abnormal 😉


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  2. Garnet Blog says:

    Said To Promote Good Will Milky

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  3. […] The breastfeeding moms in the video say it; how rude, right? Funny, considering the fact that formula companies invented and love the phrase “breast is best.” Here’s how it goes: breast is best–the gold […]

  4. […] author Fleur of Nurtured Child explains in Why Formula Companies Love Breast is Best, “‘Breast is best’ allows formula companies to say ‘We fully support breastfeeding. See – […]

  5. […] well documented by research. Having said that, I do not think formula is evil. I disapprove of the marketing tactics used by formula companies, but if a mother’s own milk or donor milk are not an option for whatever reason, infant […]

  6. […] Bickford, of Nurtured Child, wrote this post earlier this year discussing why formula companies like the phrase “breast is best”. In it she breaks down one of the online ads for Nestle’s new Baby Nes instant formula […]

  7. […] from milk companies. Yes, from them. I’m quite grateful and although I have heard of the hidden agendas behind their “Breastmilk is still best …” campaign, it worked for me. I guess […]

  8. […] Nurtured Child, Fleur also deconstructs the message from a media literacy point of view in her post “Why Formula Companies Love ‘Breast is Best’” So why do formula companies love “breast is best”? Well, as outlined in Diane Wiessingers very […]

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