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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why am I bothered when celebrities endorse formula milk

In late May, I posted a newspaper ad about Gladys Reyes becoming the new endorser of Abbott's Grow toddler formula.  Fellow LATCHer Mec posted the link on her Facebook page which resulted in an interesting and busy discussion on her wall.  Several moms didn't see anything wrong with Gladys (and Juday) endorsing toddler formula milk even when they breastfed their own babies.  Gladys has a 6-month old baby while Judy Ann has a 7-month old baby boy.   According to these moms, if the money was good, why not?  Besides, what they are endorsing is formula milk for toddlers (not babies - of course they can't that's prohibited by the Milk Code!) so there is nothing wrong with that, especially if the money being paid for these endorsements would really be substantial.
Gladys endorses Abbott's Grow
Judy Ann and Boy Abunda endorse Mead Johnson's Lactum
Let me try to explain why I am really bothered by these endorsers.  Number 1, regardless of the fact that the milk is for toddlers, it is still formula milk.  I had previously explained why formula milk is not necessary for toddlers so I'm not going to bring that up again.

Number 2- Gladys Reyes signed up to be a "breastfeeding friend" of the DOH Breastfeeding Tsek program and even hosted the launch! Seriously now, how can you be an effective breastfeeding advocate when you are also endorsing formula milk?

Plus, the people who look up to these celebrities should also be considered.  Have you seen this article from the Jakarta Globe?  As the article explains, "Her response is one shared by many mothers in Indonesia, who either through lack of choice or awareness feed their babies formula milk, often chosen on the basis of advertising hype, unfounded claims of health and mental development benefits and cost, doctors say. "

Advertising really plays a huge part in the choice of product that parents give their children.  And in this case, the decision of Gladys and Judy Ann to endorse formula milk will definitely have a huge impact.  As I previously shared, the milk companies spend P1B in marketing and advertising their products for a share in the P42B pie that Filipino consumers pay for milk formula.

Breastfeeding campaigns usually have very limited marketing budget and celebrities who appear there do so for free.  It is really an advocacy (and no money!).  As Mec emphasized in her post, with power comes great responsibility.   Unlike you and me, what Judy Ann or Gladys say or endorse on TV has a big effect on the buying public.  So it is not same as saying, if I were in their shoes I would do the same - as ordinary people we don't have that much of an influence as these celebrities do!  As Benz shared, had these celebrities chosen to endorse breastfeeding instead of formula milk, they would've inspired the masses and left a legacy for humanity.

After I posted the advertorial of Gladys for Grow, I received a twitter message from her:
My reply: glad to hear that ms. gladys! but it is a concern to be endorsing a milk company regardless of age AND be a breastfeeding advocate. toddlers do not need toddler formula.
I've racked my brains how to explain to moms what is wrong with endorsing formula milk - even for toddlers.  I asked for help from friends in marketing, fellow breastfeeding advocates, fellow moms and here are some of their replies.

From Jen CC Tan of Next9 - Companies are involved in subliminal marketing.
*Me - Milk Code expressly prohibits promoting milk for 0-12 month old babies.  So how should companies get their brands out there?  Market the milk for the older kids!  Think of the timing.  Claudine was asked to endorse Lactum just after she had her son Santino.  Same with Judy Ann - she endorsed Lactum after Lucho was born and again Gladys - her baby is just 6 months now.  However, the milk they are endorsing are for their older kids but why the timing?   A play on consumers' minds perhaps - hey if they think this brand is good for their older kids then they are probably giving this brand to their babies, too.

From Judy Dytiandu of Planet Noah:
As moms who advocate breastfeeding as well as REAL PROPER NOURISHMENT for young kids, we're naturally bothered by all these marketing tactics of milk companies. Here's what the general audience hears when celebrities espouse milk formula: "This is the best form of nutrition you can give your child, trust me." This, we all know, is totally FALSE! Nothing can replace whole nutritious foods and continued breastfeeding (until mutually desirable). Formula ads are creating a generation of kids that is highly dependent on powdered formula for their nutritional requirement. The health consequences of such a trend is alarming. There are several studies linking milk to a long list of diseases... osteoperosis, diabetes, allergies, asthma, and even breast cancer! There is no doubt the formula milk is NOT the best nutrition for kids. It's NOT ok to say that it is!

There are three players here: 
Many corporations are just plain greedy. You can't count on them to have a real concern for the health of the general public. They are only after one thing-- bigger profits.

Is there even such a thing? shouldn't there be one to guard the health of the public? 

This is the goose that lays the golden egg. Just as celebrities have a moral obligation to set a good example to the public, they should also be bound by this obligation when it comes to product endorsements. But aren't they also like the corporations? Aren't they just professionals that are after the big bucks? What I'd really like to know is Do they feed their kids formula everyday? If they do, then we're all in bigger trouble.

The sad fact is, there are only a few of us who are really aware of the consequences of giving formula to toddlers. Most of our friends and relatives think nothing of it because they believe what the companies have long been claiming. We are being spoon-fed by food companies with LIES and everybody is swallowing.

From Benz Rana of Weddings@Work (Benz wrote a note in Facebook which I am reproducing below):
While reading Judays advertorial on Lactum I commented to hubby how sad I was, sagot niya pang toddler yung milk, I said same thing kasi it makes the 'masa' believe formula is good, sagot niya 'ay di ko alam hard core ka na pala' nyeks explain tuloy ako, no di ako hard core it's just that sobra sobra sobra sobrang sayang yung tulong na maibibigay niya sa bansa if only she promotes breastfeeding. Di naman niya need yung money, hay if I have it in my power to elevate breastfeeding sa poor I'd do it in a heartbeat. Sa mga may pera kaya na niya mag isip para sa sarili nila.

And just for the record, am not a snooty breastfeeder, I have no issues with mommies who feed their babies formula, most of my friends fed their kids formula, issue ko yung mga hirap sa buhay at wala nang pangkain eh di pa mag breastfeed. For them status ang formula kasi endorsed ng idol nila. I wonder if Juday knows what she threw away :( 

Until now nasa-sad pa din ako when I remember Juday and Lactum! Am not affected kay Gladys or sa iba si Juday ako affected kasi hawak niya yung masa eh. Tapos ang impression ko super hands on mom siya and I know she breastfeed/breastfed her son so I know she knows eh...She knows diba? She still chose to take this road... I like her pa naman :( super like her talaga.


And this is why I am bothered when celebrities endorse milk formula.

*Update: Just had to update this post.  I shared this post to Daphne Osena-Paez, a UNICEF Special Advocate for Children.  Previously, she had endorsed a milk company via voice over but I received information from some quarters that she regretted such an endorsement.  Check out her Twitter messages below.
Her second message is very clear: Milk endorsed was for older kids then she saw a 4-day old baby drinking toddler milk.
AND LET ME REPEAT: this is why it matters even if milk being promoted is for older kids!

Update: 8/10/11
Here's a Tweet from Tintin Bersola-Babao.

From Daphne and Tintin's Tweets, I realized that sometimes they just don't know about the Code (how the milk company's try to get around it) and the repercussions of their actions.  Maybe someone can share this post to the milk-endorsing celebrities AND include links to FORMULA FOR DISASTER.  That should open their eyes.  Part 1 below.  Parts 2-5 are also available in Youtube.


Oro Jack said...

hay mommy nakakalungkot talaga,,
i agree with you 100%

applesanddumplings said...

Ditto! Very well said. I like this post!

Faye said...

Great points raised here Jenny! Sayang talaga ang influence nila. :(

ceecee1300 said...

Gosh, I thought it was illegal now to endorse any formula. But I have seen toddler and even infant formula commercials on TV lately and it makes me so mad!

jencc said...

CLEAR and to the point. Great post, jenny! will share!

Anne Margaux Quezada said...

One time I had a mother who came to see me tagging along her 5 kids. Of all her kids I was concerned with the youngest who she claimed was 3 months old but looked newborn to me. I asked her what she was feeding her baby and she said "Nido" kasi raw mura. I asked her if she was breastfeeding, she said that only on one breast because no milk would flow on the other breast. I didn't wanna be furious but I had to tell the mother straight up. I didn't care if she thought of me as supladang doktor but looking at her baby then, I just couldn't resist.

Jenny said...

illegal to endorse from 0-12mos. old formula.  so they go for the bigger kids 

Jenny said...

Your comment is straight on!  Not all moms read that the label sa 3 years and up or x years and up.  Sometimes they just look at the brand, price and choose what suits them.  So really - advertisements for formula milk including older kids should prohibited.  

Ethel Bernales said...

I love this post Jenny! Naiiyak ako just thinking about very young babies in poor communities drinking Bear Brand because that's all they can afford.  When in fact, they could have given their babies the BEST NUTRITION thru Breastfeeding.  That is why whenever LATCH has a seminar for these communities, I always try to go.  They are really the ones who need all the information we can give.  

Chini, n@wie said...

I am sharing this on my FB wall, Jenny.  I get bothered every time I see that Lactum ad with Juday.  Sayang talaga yung opportunity --ang laking bagay sana kung breastfeeding na lang ang in-endorse nya. :-(

Chini, n@wie said...

a batchmate of mine who is a nurse told me na sa totoo lang (she apparently did a study on this), marami naman nag-breastfeed pa rin na moms who cannot afford formula, but the problem is the nutrition for the lactating mother.  the mother's health is so poor that she is not producing enough milk for her baby's needs. Siguro, together with advocating breastfeeding, we could also focus on the mother's health.  

Topaz Mommy said...

Hmm. That's true. I know a lot of women who don't breastfeed because as soon as they give birth, they diet diet diet. Their milk dried up daw. 

Judy, breastfeeding advocate said...

you've started a very good discussion here jenny. i hope your message reaches these celebrities and they realize the repercussions of their action.

maricel said...

I'm expecting a baby in 2-3 months, and definitely plan to breastfeed. It healthy for the baby. I'm afraid that if my baby will drink formula milk in the early months, bka sakitin lang sya in the future. 

Mimilk_s said...

i am happy for babies and toddlers who have smart moms!

Bless Ang Ong said...

with you on this Jenny! will share :)

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