Nestlé’s War on Breastfeeding Mothers Takes Shameful New Turn

Infant formula is a medical necessity for those who are unable to breastfeed their infants. There are a host of medically sound reasons why a mother, in conjunction with her physician would choose to utilize infant formula in lieu of breast milk. The regulated manufacturing of infant feeding products has come a long way in recent years, and has saved many lives. When viewed in this capacity, formula is a wonderful thing.

What is not so wonderful is the societal pressure on women to choose bottle feeding as an option of convenience. For years, women in industrialized nations were told that it was a more high tech, simpler solution than breastfeeding their infants. Bombarded with images of bottle feeding from childhood, our society has come to view it as the norm. Over the course of the last few decades,the “breast is best” mantra has been prevalently bestowed on new mothers, and fewer women are choosing elective formula feeding. Formula has been largely demonized by healthcare providers and better educated mothers, and is often viewed upon as downmarket.

The environmental toll of formula manufacturing is heavy: dairy production destroys land and pollutes air and water. The waste created by packaging, bottles and nipples is staggering. Artificial feeding means the use of more diapers, sanitary napkins and tampons. In developing nations, it increases the odds of an infant contracting food-bourne illness, and increases infant mortality rates. The multimillion dollar television ads that formula companies place during your prime-time viewing are always images of a cherubic caucasian baby, and a smiling mother – not of dying infants and destroyed agricultural property.

Shameful.

The increasing trend to return to breast feeding is not in the best interests of the large corporations who command vast profits from the production and sale of infant formula. Flagging sales and decreasing market segments require innovation and rebranding magic.

How do you create appeal for a product that is more and more becoming a virtual societal pariah?

You respin what has previously been spun successfully.

Meet Nestlé’s latest weapon in their war against breastfeeding:

 

That, dear friend, is NOT a Nespresso maker or Keurig.

Those are not pods of designer coffee.

It is a very costly formula making machine: BabyNes

Not only is it designed to appeal to the crowd who would already be buying similar products for themselves, but it bills itself as a revolutionary “comprehensive nutrition system.”

Comprehensive Nutrition System? Who are they trying to fool?

Apparently the wealthy and those caught up in gadgetry.

One of these units, which debuted  for the first time in Switzerland today, will run you approximately $287 USD. Single serving pods of formula will roughly double existing formula costs, as they will come in at $56 – $64 for a pack of 26.

Can you picture the inevitable launch in North America, complete with contests in parenting magazines and on the internet, give aways by  American OBGYNS and peds who finance their golf club memberships via the push of formula on otherwise healthy nursing pairs? Television commercials that appeal to mothers who cannot afford these things, but will spend their money on them anyway, because of the media’s emphasis on convenience, safety and hygiene?

Shame on you Nestlé. The real comprehensive nutrition system? A pair of lactating breasts.

 

 

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Tia is a mystery, wrapped in an enigma and covered in a crunchy candy coating of genuine British Columbian snark. She is currently exiled to Winnipeg for an unknown duration of time.

39 thoughts on “Nestlé’s War on Breastfeeding Mothers Takes Shameful New Turn”

  1. As someone who has had to medically resort to formula, I have a deep appreciation for its existence.

    As a mother who has also nursed her babies as long as possible (some with greater success than others), I find the commercialization of infant nutrition to be reprehensible.

  2. Youn know. Its people like you that made my wife feel like a failure for not being able to breastfeed. For about a day that is, until the joys of formula feeding started to show themselves.

    And we have the happiest little girl you can possibly imagine. She ate meat at 4 months and loved it

    I know more about the biology of antibodies then most people who read this and I can say this…..you want to breastfeed, go ahead. But keep your recriminations to yourself, because none of us want to hear about it…and at the end of the day, none of us care about you or your crazy, misguided approach to raising children.

    This kind of thinking led right to the ‘Genderless child’ in Toronto

    Shut up and leave us alone.

    Formula Feeder, and proud of it

    1. Please reevaluate your anger. As a formula feeding parent, you should be angry about the attempts to gouge formula feeding families. My sister couldn’t medically breastfeed and she isn’t as touchy and sensitive as you.

      And a four month old shouldn’t eat meat. Please research the open gut.

    2. Your anger is misplaced, Mad Internet Troll Who Feeds Tiny Infants Meat. It isn’t ‘people like me’ at all. I started the article with a preface that medically necessary formula feeding, which it IS if your wife cannot produce enough breastmilk to nourish your baby, is a wonderful thing. The article is about yet ANOTHER hunk of junk on the market, raping your wallet (not mine, because I’m an insane, wayward, misguided boob nazi), filling up landfills and misleading the masses . There was no recrimination of formula feeding mothers in this article. Breast is best. It’s irrefutable, and as some sort of self proclaimed immunology guru, you should know this. Sadly, not everyone is a jersey cow.

      You can pick your soap box at the door.

      1. As I mentioned in my own comment, I have been medically unable to nurse my own children at various points. If formula weren’t available two of my children simply would have died in infancy.

        I know exactly how easy it is to feel guilty about not being able to nurse. There’s a feeling that not only has one failed as a parent, or as a mother, but that one has failed as a mammal. That’s hard to swallow. I find it difficult not to personalize the pro-boob, anti-formula stance of many lactivist resources… but ultimately, they’re not aimed at people like me or your wife. They’re aimed at the same people the BabyNes is: people who are insecure about their own decisions.

        If reading about the BabyNes is going to bunch your panties to such a degree, by all means feel free to navigate away from the page.

      2. “raping your wallet”

        Please refrain from using “rape” in any context that has nothing to do with sexual assault. It is offensive, especially to women who have in fact been raped and find being compared to a wallet revolting.

        1. Please refrain from speaking for all victims of sexual assault, especially women who have in fact been raped and find it offensive to have some stranger on the internet determine what bothers them.

          Ta!

    3. please direct your anger towards formula companies that abuse the trust of it’s consumers.Not towards the people trying to help.

    4. I couldn’t agree more with “Mad as Hell” (except maybe about the meat part). While I was encouraged by the initial paragraph touting the benefits of medically necessary formula feeding (something we are very familiar with), the article soon goes on to state “Formula has been largely demonized by healthcare providers and better educated mothers, and is often viewed upon as downmarket.” Demonized? It sounds extreme but it is really the case. I have never had anybody push formula on me or my baby, or tell us how great it is. Quite the opposite. In fact, I can’t recall having ever seen an ad for formula on TV. Sure there are coupons and a couple free samples but compared to the constant barage of unsolicited advice about breast feeding it is really nothing. I have nothing against breastfeeding, really, and I think mothers should feel free to breast feed where and when the need to. But don’t “demonize” formula or think that you are a “better educated mother” because it is fisically impossible for my son to be breast fed. Whether or not these sentiments are aimed at families like ours, those are the ones who feel it, not the ones who choose formula purely out of convenience.

      Now, that said, I think this machine is consumer crap and that people should stay away from it the same way they should stay away from pod style coffee makers etc. So much unneccesary waste. Plus, if the formula it makes is as bad as the coffee that comes out of a keurig then I feel bad for the babies forced to drink it.

      1. You and I must live in very different places. I see formula commercials pretty regularly as well as formula ads in magazines. As I left the hospital, I was supposed to get a breastfeeding support bag. Instead, they “accidentally” gave me the formula support bag.

        And I won’t think I’m better educated because you formula fed. I’ll think I’m better educated because I can spell physically.

  3. Hi Tia,

    I’m working with a new website about breastfeeding, and I wondered what you thought of this quote below … Gerber (Nestle is their parent company) offered this statement on breastfeeding in a press release today, despite the fact that the FDA concluded today that Gerber® Good Start® milk-based formulas are the first and only infant formulas to meet the approved criteria for reducing the risk of atopic dermatitis, the most common type of allergies developed by 1 in 5 babies.

    “Breastfeeding is the best way to reduce the risk of allergies in infants. This is just one of the reasons why Gerber believes that breastfeeding is the best way to nourish infants. Gerber recommends breastfeeding as the ideal first step in its Start Healthy, Stay Healthy™ Nutrition System and supports the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months.”

    I was sort of proud of Gerber for being clear about promoting breastfeeding and its benefits and the WHO standards, despite the fact that it could potentially hurt their sales.

    The whole release is here: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/fda-grants-first-ever-qualified-health-claim-in-infant-nutrition-122648568.html

    What do you think?

    1. I think it’s admirable that they give breastfeeding it’s dues, but they have for years. Every print ad that is run by formula companies contains a small print disclaimer to this effect. However, the production and sale of products like this are diametrically opposed to what they’re giving lip service to. Again, this is an expensive way to deliver nutrition to infants, and one more thing the world did not need.

    2. Touting the benefits of breastfeeding is a clever marketing ploy by the formula companies to get consumers to THINK they are on the side of breastfeeding. If the big bad wolf says, I love your grandmother, she’s such a wonderful person, and bakes the best pies, Red Riding Hood is less likely to suspect that grandma was swallowed whole. Saying breast is best is also a way to appeal to the consumer parent who thinks “I don’t need best . . . I just need good enough,” thereby putting breastfeeding in the realm of expensive cars or organic food that the consumer can’t really afford. A better statement to put on the side of formula cans would be: “Formula use is associated with an increased risk of infection and severe illness in infants, children and adults, and has significant deleterious health consequences. It is responsible for the deaths of 900 United States babies every year, almost twice the number of babies that die in car accidents.”

      1. This reminds me of a lecture I saw a video of a few years ago saying “Breast isn’t best. It’s *good enough*”, because of similar reasons.

    3. You know that Gerber is owned by Nestle right? They can spout righteousness all day long, but it doesn’t change the fact that their prime directive, as a business, is to disrupt breastfeeding relationships. Every Mom who successfully breastfeeds is seen as a failure to the company.

  4. I applaud the optimism of Everitt when they suggested that “Formula has been largely demonized by healthcare providers and better educated mothers, and is often viewed upon as downmarket”, and I can only wish that were true where I come from.

    Here, breastfeeding still seems to be frowned upon and is often seen as in some way uncouth, unnatural or immoral. Thus our Troll’s suggestion, perhaps, that breastfeeding leads to worse – genderless upbringings for example (and it’s not the time or place to discuss the pros and cos of that, I guess?).

    The prevalent attitude which persists to this day regardless of the official health line is largely a result of good marketing; not so long ago it was not “Breast is Best” but rather “breasts are for women who can’t afford anything better” – i.e. the impoverished, uneducated and downright strange among us (perhaps those weird religious folk). Oh, and women in Africa, of course!

    Fact is, breastfeeding, where it is possible, is safe, easy and free. No worries about sterilizing bottles or boiling, then cooling down, the water. No need to purchase a mass of products from teats, microwave sterilizers, expensive powdered and even more expensive pre-mix formula. Baby is less likely to overconsume, less likely to get colic, and is better protected immunity-wise. Just whip them out and go!

    Unfortunately this image is simply too “National Geographic” for many women, not to mention men. And it shouldn’t be. (Bear in mind that a partner’s support can prove invaluable, it’s not only women the health line needs to be aimed at!)

    If you can’t breastfeed for medical reasons, that is fine. But to opt out on the basis of pressure from wellmeaning and/or indifferent ohers – pressure from the media, pressure from friends and family, or the convenience of being able to get back to work without having to pump in a quiet corner – is quite wrong and much more breastfeeding support should even now be given.

    I take comfort in the fact that the vast majority of women will certainly not be able to afford this ridiculous product.

  5. My dad would have died in the late 30′s if he hadn’t been given the new soy formula, so I’m not a total hater.

    But this new device is deeply disturbing to me. Perhaps because it’s kind of cool and it makes me think that if I had to give formula my husband couldn’t mess it up.

  6. You wrote: ” give aways by OBGYNS and peds who finance their golf club memberships via the push of formula on otherwise healthy nursing pairs? ”

    Speaking as the spouse of a doctor (cardiology), accepting any financial incentive to push a product in Canada is illegal, and would almost certainly cost the doc their license. The most my spouse has ever gotten from drug reps is the lunch they bring for the group of docs on education days. If you know of any doc that is accepting money from pharm. companies, the doctor should be reported to the local medical association.

    Speaking as a parent, formula was never pushed on us by anyone in the medical establishment.

    1. I didn’t indicate that I was referring to Canadian doctors. It is quite the common practice in the USA, from what I’ve read and heard in discussion groups. The article wasn’t focused on Canada, but a general critique of Nestle’s machine and the marketing that goes on universally.

  7. Some women can’t breast feed for a variety of reasons, heck…some babies lose their moms and need formula…so for them, if it is in the parents (birth or adopted)/caregivers budget why not?. I know people who love to have to have the newest and trendiest stuff and if they fell into one of the aforementioned categories they would be ordering 2.

    1. Yes, and for those women who cannot breastfeed, formula is a wonderful thing. It’s a necessity. Which was stated in the piece. However, this machine doesn’t live up to WHO or UN guidelines on artificial feeding, is a gimicky, requires product/tech support to set up and operate, will be used by people who cannot afford it because it was received as a gift/purchased for novelty, is excessively overpriced and produces even more garbage than conventional formula feeding. This is going to ultimately end up in a landfill. Utter cash grab.

    2. How about this? Why don’t we stop calling formula a medical necessity and start realizing that breast milk is not a rare commodity? We can start giving Moms real support (even at 2 am when the baby won’t stop screaming) instead of telling them that they ” must ” breastfeed then throwing them to the wolves as they try to figure out how.
      For every very , very rare case where a Mom truly can’t physically breastfeed, there are 50 lactating Moms who would be more than willing to gladly donate milk.
      We need a societal shift that normalizes and accepts breast milk and breastfeeding. As long as women are getting kicked out of restaurants for feeding their children, shunned into breastfeeding their toddlers in secrecy, and forced into going back to work almost immediately after giving birth, these products will meet with success.
      There are thousands and thousands of Moms out there who tried their hardest and had their hearts broken when they could not make breastfeeding work. These Moms should not feel guilty, they should feel angry. Where was all the help and support when they needed it?

  8. “Infant formula is a medical necessity for those who are unable to breastfeed their infants. There are a host of medically sound reasons why a mother, in conjunction with her physician would choose to utilize infant formula in lieu of breast milk.”

    Let’s be clear, stating this at the outset of an article, then proceeding with not simply a (deserved) demonization of a corporate entity, but in fact a fairly detailed outline of the unethical (i.e. environmentally deleterious) effects of formula feeding, does not preclude this from being a recrimination of formula feeding.

    Why does a mother need to make this decision “in conjunction with her physician”? For centuries, mothers have been making informed decisions concerning child-rearing, including those related to health and nutrition, rather aptly in the absence of allopathic medicine.

    The politics of breast-feeding have taken a markedly anti-feminist turn in recent years, and most upsetting, is that women are leading the charge. When I was pregnant with my first child I was shocked at how frequnelty complete strangers would ask me, “so, are you going to breast feed?”. It was as though as soon as my pregnancy became perceptible, my body suddenly became public property. However, public in the sense that others private values and desires could be inscribed on it. When once I answered “I’m fine thank you, how are you” I was treated as though ‘I’ was the one acting socially inappropriate in this (unsolicited) exchange.

    As an endoncrinologist, I have some pretty serious concerns about a significant number of hormone disrupting toxins in our environment, body care products and foods. Yet, it had never occurred to me to ask women of whom I was not acquainted, whether they were planning on feeding their children strictly organic foods, or, perhaps equally important from an epidemiological standpoint, whether they were going to avoid nitrites, and high-fructose corn syrup (you want to talk about environmental destruction and corporate malfeasance, let’s talk about global corn production).

    I wouldn’t dream of walking around asking expectant or new mothers this. Nope. Mothers have quite enough on their plates. And the last thing they need is to be further subjagated to external pressures… somehow I think that feminism doesn’t say it’s ok if women are subjagted by other women.

    By the way, I don’t think that was the intent, nor necessarily the result, of this article. This is simply observations on the broader issue. The author was right to point to yet another repugnant act on the part of a pretty vile corporation. However, I think we step back into dangerous territory when we talk about “better educated mothers”, and imply that a woman would only subject her child to the horrors of inferior formula feeding when she has absolutely no choice.

    Breast is best. Sure. But so is omitting any kind of processed sugar, eating organic, and not exposing your child to a considerable number of toxins present in about 97% of children’s shampoos, lotions etc. How “best” is it? We don’t know, and the science on this is not irrefutable. A host of recent literature is questioning the extent to which it is extremely better (as witnessed, according to some medical professionals, by the recent closure of the Toronto Breastfeeding clinic as Sunnybrook). This is not an argument against breastfeeding. Rather, just a call for some perspective. I wasn’t breastfed, neither were most of my friends, we all seemed to turn out ok. Do I get more colds than others? Not really, I have a pretty kick-but immune system. Not true of one of my friends who was not breastfed, however, she does get a fair number of colds and infections. Though I think this could be due to the fact that she is an emergency doctor and gets little sleep. Or not. Who knows.

    I did breastfeed; it was easy, and yes, it does appear to have some benefits. I wouldn’t have been terribly concerned had I not been able to, though I do know that my integrity as a mother would have been routinely questioned.

    Finally, let’s be clear on one other thing: forumla feeding does not: “increase the odds of an infant contracting food-bourne illness, and increases infant mortality rates.” A lack of safe drinking water, caused by chronic, endemic poverty, in turn caused by unethical global economic conditions, causes those things.

    1. Thank you for your concise and well thought out comments, Leslie. I appreciate what you’ve said, but disagree strongly with your statement that formula feeding does not increase the odds of an infant contracting food borne illness.” Inappropriate preparation, storage and production processes of the product contribute to illness and mortality, as well as poverty and lack of safe drinking water. An infant in a wealthy home in North America can contract illness from poorly stored or tainted milk products. Mortality and artificial feeding are not always a third world issue. 2008′s scandal in China, with the melamine tainted milk is a prime example of this. Thousands of infants became ill, a number suffered irreversible damage to their bodies, a number died from malnutrition.

      Our children are given dollies with bottles. Formula companies take out ads on TV, and in magazines. Hospitals routinely give out samples of formulas to mothers who are nursing. We are sent free formula in the mail if we subscribe to any sort of “welcome baby kit” Breastfeeding is still frowned upon in public places. I have yet to see a bottled baby have to take it’s meal in a toilet stall or back room because his mother is ashamed to feed him in public. Statistics here at home show that most women will give breastfeeding a go, but ultimately move to formula. Lack of support. Societal pressure to bottle feed. In my first several weeks as a new nursing mother, I heard all of the following: “She’ll sleep through the night if you give her a bottle.” “Give her a bottle, so Daddy can help you out.” “How do you know you’re not starving her if you can’t see what she’s eating?” “She’s crying because you’re starving her.” “Your breastmilk is making your baby cranky.” “I don’t know why you’re bothering. I fed ALL of my kids carnation formula + corn syrup, and THEY’RE JUST FINE.” The sole source of support and education I had during this post-natal period was from my midwife, who helped me though latching problems, two bouts of mastitis, cracked nipples, and a major desire to simply grab a can of Similac and be done with it. There was no army of people there to cheer me on with my choice, which is what I’ve heard implied by all of the up-in-arms formula folk over the last day or so. It was anything BUT easy.

      In the end, a healthy baby, and healthy mother are the ultimate goals. If that is to be achieved by provision of formula, then the formula has done what it needs to do. But simple election to go that avenue because “breastfeeding is icky” or “my husband doesn’t like it” is as gauche as being “too posh to push.” Why do I say a decision made with physician? Because introducing a new food product to a tiny infant is best made with guidance and awareness, and also the provision that the product selected may NOT be best for that individual child.

      1. But simple election to go that avenue because “breastfeeding is icky” ….. is as gauche as being “too posh to push.

        So what you’re really saying here is that you don’t trust women to know their own circumstances and make decisions about their own bodies.

        Awesome.

    2. Leslie, this was a fantastic comment and I really, really appreciate you posting it. The anti-feminist rhetoric in some of the comments here is disturbing. For example:

      If you can’t breastfeed for medical reasons, that is fine. But to opt out on the basis of….the convenience of being able to get back to work without having to pump in a quiet corner – is quite wrong.

      How privileged and anti-woman!

    3. Leslie, I agree that strangers demanding to know whether one is planning to breastfeed is awful; quite frankly some breastfeeding advocates are causing more harm than good, and our desire to cheer moms on without pressure, judgment or guilt is why we founded Best for Babes. But I hope you will also consider that what is truly anti-feminist and anti-woman is when women who want to breastfeed are being actively prevented from succeeding. I would be happy to provide you with the stories of hundreds of women who were hounded by health care professionals to supplement with formula (which usually compromises milk supply, leading to early and often unintended cessation of breastfeeding); who have been harassed and humiliated . . . isn’t that anti-feminist? Feeding our children is a basic human right and mothers should not be prevented from feeding how they choose, regardless of the feeding method they employ. The unfortunate fallout of the excessive marketing of formula is that woman has been pitted against woman, instead of fighting together to demand unbiased, evidence-based information to make a informed decisions, and to remove the barriers that keep all of us from carrying those decisions out. With 86% of expecting women wanting to breastfeed, but only 11% making it to 6 months of exclusive nursing, it seems that it is breastfeeding women who are being discriminated against the most.

      As an endocrinologist, I would also hope that you would rely on statistical evidence about the risks of formula and not on anecdotal evidence of yourself and your peers. Playing down the risks of formula (and leading experts have said there is no scientific debate) is not the answer. Formula companies have routinely minimized the risks because “moms shouldn’t feel guilty”, implying that mothers can’t handle accurate information–that sounds awfully patronizing and anti-feminist to me. Saying that “many people were formula-fed and turned out fine” contradicts the dramatic increase in breast cancer, diabetes, and obesity that plague todays adults. Of course, formula is not the only culprit; toxins are also surely to blame. But dismissing the foundation of human health, the first food, is doing a grave disservice. There is interesting new Norwegian research in epigenetics that suggest that effects of a poor diet show up dramatically in the next generation . . . therefore it is our children who are at risk because we were not formula-fed.

      Sorry to be long-winded! I hope you will reconsider some of your statements and consider becoming a member of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, an all-physician organization that is doing great work to educate fellow physicians on evidence-based breastfeeding information. –Bettina Forbes, co-founder of Best for Babes

  9. There is so much about mother’s milk that is never going to be replicated by the formula makers. How about the bacteria required for the child’s digestive system? That would make the milk go bad a complete no no. This is what kills the raw milk production. It is so healthy that the milk companies are afraid of it.

    Then there are the prebiotics the sugar molecules that are specifically meant for the healthy bacteria in the child’s body. What about the cholesterol and saturated fat that the child’s growing brain needs? This just goes against the current acceptable healthy diet. And the children also get the shaft with refined oils in the formula.

    Actually Goat’s milk is a much better solution to any kind of formula. It contains much of the requirements including the pre and pro biotics. The goat milk also does not contain the harmful casein in cows milk. It also does not need to be homogenized for proper digestion by a child.

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