Saturday, September 8, 2007

Dandelion Whine.

Formula companies strike again.

This Washington Post article details how the Human and Health Services department toned down a series of ads that promoted breastfeeding after the powerful formula company lobby pressured them to do so.
In an attempt to raise the nation's historically low rate of breast-feeding, federal health officials commissioned an attention-grabbing advertising campaign a few years ago to convince mothers that their babies faced real health risks if they did not breast-feed. It featured striking photos of insulin syringes and asthma inhalers topped with rubber nipples.

Plans to run these blunt ads infuriated the politically powerful infant formula industry, which hired a former chairman of the Republican National Committee and a former top regulatory official to lobby the Health and Human Services Department. Not long afterward, department political appointees toned down the campaign.

The ads ran instead with more friendly images of dandelions and cherry-topped ice cream scoops, to dramatize how breast-feeding could help avert respiratory problems and obesity. In a February 2004 letter (pdf), the lobbyists told then-HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson they were "grateful" for his staff's intervention to stop health officials from "scaring expectant mothers into breast-feeding," and asked for help in scaling back more of the ads.

Again, I don't judge mothers that use formula, but I DO judge formula companies and their nefarious corporate practices.

I also came across this OpEd piece that had some fun snarky commentary on our society talking about breastfeeding titled Talking About (Blush) Breastfeeding:

Meanwhile the nation’s mothers spend nearly $3 billion on breast milk substitutes. Not needing breasts any longer to protect kids’ health, they merrily spend another $1 billion on enhancing them, so they look great.

All with the encouragement of your friendly Bush administration and their consumer-friendly motto:

Better Things for Better Living Through Dissembling.


Dooneybug said...

Cagey - please don't think I'm directing this towards you but I have to say....Wow, bringing politics into the breastfeeding arena. Now that's impressive!

I generally consider myself a conservative and I have many other "mom" friends who are also conservative. And not a single one of them formula fed. Cagey, like you've said in the past, the vast majority of formula feeding mothers are usually on some type of public assistance and have been lured into formula through all the free offerings in the beginning. Again, that's just the majority, there are many other women who choose formula for many other reasons.

I bet there are other instances of political-ness that would make someone of the liberal persuasion not look pretty either. Pick a topic, pick a side, go find some facts and make the other political party look bad. 'Tis campaign season after all! It is comical how people are still wasting their energy picking on Bush being this is his last term instead of directing their focus towards the actual future.

I do find the comment regarding breast augmentation funny though!

Cagey said...

Awesome comment! Seriously.

I hadn't really thought of it as "liberal vs. conservative" thing. I guess because where I live, I know so many on both sides and never thought of breastfeeding as a "political" issue.

I chose to link the article because of the subject of lobbying more than anything. I have serious, serious issues with the entire topic of lobbying and regardless of the political party involved, lobbying tends to anger me. That's why this most recent case of it stood out to me.

Modern Day Hermit said...

Oddly enough, I'm on the side of the fence right alongside the formula companies on this one, although I'm sure for different reasons. I find it offensive that someone would suggest that by feeding my son formula I'm basically giving him poison/asthma inhalers and what have you.

I understand that breastfeeding is best, I understand that formula companies are crooked in a number of instances but I also understand that I have a beautiful son that I fed formula who is thriving and has only been sick once in his almost two years. *I* am a person who was formula fed who has been incredibly healthy my entire life, as are my siblings and a host of other folks I know.

I feed my son mostly organic foods, rarely hit the fast food joints or eat out for that matter and his diet is incredible. I know a lot of folks who feed their toddlers pre-processed foods. But, I don't think showing an add with a Lunchable that is prepackaged with arsenic an ad that really gets the message across.

I guess my biggest thing are the people who have no alternatives and who in some cases probably feel guilty as it is...being told by the anti-formula people that they poisoned their children. Well, what's the alternative? Starvation?

After a certain point in time, I ran out of milk. Zilch. Nada. I tried was gone. (Not a surprise as my mother never produced.) Thank goodness for formula.

Cagey said...

Modern Day Hermit,
I don't think that formula feeding is risky behaviour - at least not here in the US where we have a safe water supply. In general, lobbying ticks me off and I could have written the post better. It is scary to me that industry and corporation can influence politicians like this. I have similar concerns in other industries, but at this moment, I don't write an environmental blog. :-)

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

MDH: I get what you are saying but in all honesty these public service announcements aren't aimed at people like you-educated, proper job, intelligent. I'm an incredibly big hypochondriac (shup!) and before I went to law school I was having all these anxiety attacks that I was dying of EVERYTHING they advertised on the train platforms, lol. Anyway, my therapist said that a lot of these PSAs are deliberately set up to be super super scary and dramatic to really hammer in the point to people who simply are unable to take care of themselves or others well. People, in short, who don't usually get the point very well. That's why they're usually so melodramatic.

I actually work above a genuine welfare agency and see people with hordes of infants with bottles all the time. I can't tell you how many times it seems like they're sucking on coloured drinks when they look like they're 4 or 5 months old at a time (do they make coloured drinks for small infants?)...people who are poor and uneducated do really really stupid stuff sometimes.

When I was young and dewy eyed I used to think people who talked in a really mean way to people on welfare were monsters-umm, not so much anymore. You are talking to a wall made up of all sorts of issues and in a LOT of cases a subtle message doesn't get through.

Mamma Sarah said...

Some really good points are made here.

I do have one comment, which is that there are some really educated people out there that do some really stupid stuff and appear to be totally uneducated. There are also poor educated people out there who have been dealt some bad cards. I work for a nonprofit that temporarily houses homeless women and their children. It has opened my eyes to a bigger reality. We have several women who have Masters and PhD's and are living here.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

No doubt, but I don't think those ads are aimed at them either. If I say any more I'm going to go into grossly impolitic territory (despite being somewhat of a bleeding heart) so I'll refrain. All I'm saying is every few days I'll be riding the elevator and watching someone feeding their infant something that looks like Gatorade. Poverty and lack of education breed shocking levels of ignorance. I won't even go near the govt. contractor/lobbying mess but take a solid look at the latest fiasco regarding the Dept of Education. I assure you that sickness affects every last agency (am in the know since I actually work for the feds myself).

Modern Day Hermit said...

Yes, the power that large companies hold is incredibly scary. That is certainly true. I often-times do wonder how many decisions are made based on the power held by others...or 'the man' as one might say.

I'll agree that the ads are probably meant for the individuals who are less educated. And, since that is mentioned it does remind me of folks I went to high school putting SODA in their kids' baby bottles. SODA!!!!

But, that does not change my opinion that the original ads were extremely Chick Little and way overboard. While science certainly has proven that the breast is best, using formula is not an immediate diagnosis for health risks.

But, I do think people need to be educated on the subject, not to mention nutrition on a general level. But, I digress.