Monday, May 12, 2008


Disclaimer: This is not a post about parents who feed their children formula. This is a post about the way formula companies, in this case the makers of Similac, try to make their product appear to be comparable to breastmilk.

Take a look at this coupon page in yesterday's paper (click on image for a larger version):

Do you see what I see?

(For the record, I added "breastmilk is free!" to the coupon for two reasons: first, it is because I don't want to get sued for electronically reproducing a coupon, and second, it's because it's true. So I'm not talking about that part.)

I was about to dismiss it as a "just another formula coupon", when the "nutrition to go" slogan caught my eye. (Well, it was supposed to catch my attention, duh!)

So, what's the problem with that?

If they want to make formula more convenient, then fine, but if you pay attention, all the themes in the ad (primarily nutrition and convenience) have always been applied to breastfeeding.

Nutrition: Formula may be adequate, but you can't get any closer to meeting an infant's nutritional needs than breastmilk. Formula companies are still trying to catch up by adding "special" nutrients found in breastmilk. A fairly recent discovery in breastmilk composition is stem cells. Given all the other reasons to use stem cells, I can't forsee this being added to formula any time soon. Nonetheless, having some of the same components doesn't make it equal to breastmilk. And as Henry Dwight Chapin stated, "there is no difference between a diamond and a piece of charcoal chemically."

Convenience: "great nutrition on the go", "ready when you are", "perfect for travel, late night feedings, or when you're just out and about. It's the easy way to keep you and your baby happy." Breastmilk does all those things and more. It appears that formula feeding isn't as easy and convenient as once thought.

But this is what bothers me the most: their trademarked slogan: "Strong babies start here". If they put that slogan on their label (which it doesn't appear they do), I would think they'd have to put the disclaimer, "this statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration." It just seems ironic that when a breastfeeding advocate says "breast is best", people get all offended because apparently we are not promoting choice. But if a company (with the intention of increasing revenue) implies that if you want a strong baby, you should start using their formula, then anyone who dares criticize that statement is dismissed as a nitwit making much ado about nothing. (And once upon a time, any claim about the benefits of a formula had small print saying that breastmilk was best. No small print in this ad. I guess it's not important to know that anymore.)

So in summary, this advert is lacking in many ways, especially accuracy. Yes, it may have nutrients that adequately support the life of an infant, and it may be convenient, but it isn't the way to maintain happiness, it's not perfect, and there are plenty of strong babies that never have touched this stuff. All these statements are quite worthy of the hall of shame.

A funny coincidence: guess the name of the product coupon is on the other side? "Sure" anti-perspirant. So you can read the Similac statements and turn the page and read, "sure".


  1. This is such an excellent post! I really need to add you to my blogroll, many apologies for not having done so yet! I read several other posts and your blog is just EXCELLENT! :-) It definintely warms the heart of a lactivist like me and since I also am very careful and concerned about food, I love the posts about it too...

  2. Thanks Nicole :-) Every time I read your comment I can just hear you say it. I sure do miss you.

    Lilian: Obrigada! I take your comment as a very high compliment. Congratulations on the completion of your PhD!