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Monday, June 3, 2013

Breastfeeding: #beststartswithdad

I was supposed to start off June with a feel good post about our summer vacation.  However, with the launch of this devious underhanded marketing campaign of Mead Johnson, I have to start June with this not-feel good post.

Some weeks ago, some blogger friends received this invitation and sent it to me.  I was not invited (for obvious reasons!!) and I wasn't the type to crash an event just to find out what was going on.

Then last night, Jen shared this article with me.  The author talks about is experiences with his dad and how he is raising his own son.  La di da, it is a well-written article targeted for Father's Day.  But what  made my temperature rise was this blurb at the end:

Mead Johnson is actively launching this sneaky campaign, this time targeting dads!  With social media, more and more moms are aware of the Milk Code and constantly keep an eye on the actions of milk companies.  Perhaps the milk companies are aware of this and decided to shift gears to focus on dads.

This is very disturbing, devious and sneaky.  Most disturbing of all, it undermines breastfeeding.  We all know how big the role of a dad is in a successful mother-baby relationship.  My own husband, Stanley, has been instrumental in my extended breastfeeding relationship with my kids.  N nursed for 5 years while E is still nursing at almost 18 months.  I never doubted my decision to nurse my babies beyond toddlerhood because Stan fully supported my decision.

In one of the forums I am part of, one of the moms, Eliang Sanchez, shared this story (translated from Filipino):
My sister and some of her friends visited my house today.  They saw my 3-months old baby boy and one of the male friends, "A"asked me if I am breastfeeding my baby.  I proudly said yes and proudly showed off my healthy baby.  Then A suddenly shared to us about how his child is 1.5 years old already and still breastfed.  I congratulated him and expressed my own hope to breastfeed my child for that long as well.  Unfortunately, he expressed disgust - saying that his wife's breasts were now sagging up to her tummy and he was wondering if it will still go back to normal.  Plus he also shared how he was disgusted when his baby feeds on one breasts and plays with the other one while nursing.  I expressed my disappointment and told A that I pity his wife because everything his wife is doing is for their child and it is sad because it just shows that A doesn't love his wife with these things that he is saying.
As Velvet pointed out, this ignorant man-specie is the perfect example of society's sexualization of the breasts.  So how does this relate to the campaign?  Mead Johnson's tagline for this campaign is #beststartswithdad and through this Facebook page asks for submissions of father and child photos offering entrants the chance to win popular tech prizes.

If you visit the "About" of the page, this is what is written there:
Mead Johnson Nutrition's mission is to nourish the world's children for the best start in life. This year, MJN Philippines launches the BEST STARTS WITH DAD campaign to pay tribute to all fathers for wanting to give the best for their children. 
We all know that the "best start" to life is BREASTFEEDING.  But this campaign would like you (most especially dads) to think otherwise - it aims to convince dads that the best start to life is "Mead Johnson Nutrition."  Sure, MJN will claim - hey what we are focusing on here is milk for 3+ and 6+ but we also know that they manufacture infant formula Enfalac and Enfapro.  This is subliminal marketing at work!

By convincing dads that the best start to life is Mead Johnson Nutrition, they are undermining breastfeeding by removing a crucial factor in the successful breastfeeding relationship - the dad!  How many moms do you think will stop breastfeeding if their husbands are convinced (and convince them) that MJN products will be the best start for their children? Couple that with image issues like what that ignorant man-specie had imputed on his wife.  Dads can make or break the breastfeeding relationship!

The campaign is up and running and Rappler will be hosting a #beststartswithdad conversation on June 16 and MJN is sweetening the pie by offering enticing prizes.  So what can we do?

1. If you are a blogger, check your ad units.  I have a nuffnang widget on my blog and I asked them to put down the Mead Johnson ad - otherwise, I will remove the nuffnang ad unit.  Please do let me know if you still see the ad on my blog.

2. Report this campaign as a violation of the Milk Code because it undermines breastfeeding.  I called the IAC and was informed that because this is growing up milk (milk for 3+), there is no pre-monitoring of the ads but only post-monitoring.  However, if there are enough reports that the campaign undermines breastfeeding, the IAC can take action.  You can report the violation in this website.

3. Participate and share your stories how dads helped breastfeeding relationships succeed.  Use the #beststartswithdad hashtag.  Visit Rappler's IG photo - and comment.  Tweet about breastfeeding being the best start with dad and use the #beststartswithdad hashtag.

Let your voice be heard and make it clear that the best start with dad is not Mead Johnson but breastfeeding.

Update:  A Pia Ranada from Rappler has been actively commenting in this post (see below).  I find this comment very interesting:
If a company wishes to greet fathers on father's day and the company happens to sell infant formula, it is a stretch in logic to say that they are asking dads to make their wives use infant formula instead of breastfeed their babies. I think consumers are smart enough to know the difference between celebrating father's day and choosing how to nourish their babies.
I ask you - do you think that a milk company with a promotion giving away IPads, a MacBook Air, paying ad units and sponsoring advertorials - is just going to greet dads a "happy father's day" out of the goodness of their hearts?

As very well explained by fellow LATCHer Sylvia, this "Best Start" is a sly marketing campaign by Mead Johnson to promote their bread and butter - infant formula.  They cannot advertise their products for babies 0-12 months so they focus on WHAT they can advertise - growing up milk.  Strangely though, the hash tag is "BEST START" why not "BEST TIMES" or "BEST MOMENTS"?  Why focus on "START"?   "BEST START" is implicitly linked to babies and this campaign really conditions the public to associate "best start" with Mead Johnson - who by the way makes infant formula (contrary to what Pia Ranada claims below - that MJ does not manufacture milk for children below 3 years old).

Read my follow-up post here, with answers to common questions raised about this post.

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