Booby Traps Set Up Breastfeeding Moms for Failure

Many mothers start out with the best of intentions when it comes to breastfeeding. Health experts agree that “breast is best” and the benefits of breastfeeding for both the baby and the mother are numerous. Yet while a lot of people give lip service to the importance of breastfeeding, there isn’t a lot of support for women once they make the decision to breastfeed. In fact, our society offers very little support to breastfeeding moms and often sabotages breastfeeding altogether.

How many times have you heard about a mom being told to cover up her nursing child on an airplane or at an amusement park or at a store or at a restaurant or even asked to leave or had the police called on her? How many times have you seen formula ads in parenting magazines and on television? How many times have you read a magazine article giving incorrect breastfeeding advice (or should I say formula advice) or heard of a well-intentioned pediatrician giving parenting advice that compromises the breastfeeding relationship? Has a can of unwanted infant formula ever mysteriously appeared at your doorstep?

The examples above all have one thing in common – they are Breastfeeding Booby Traps. Best For Babes (a non-profit that believes “ALL moms deserve to make an informed feeding decision and to be cheered on, coached and celebrated without pressure, judgment or guilt, whether they breastfeed for 2 days, 2 months 2 years, or not at all”) describes Breastfeeding Booby Traps asthe cultural and institutional barriers that prevent moms from achieving their personal breastfeeding goals.”

Some Booby Traps include:

  • sending moms home from the hospital with a “gift bag” of formula,
  • having family and/or friends who are uncomfortable with you nursing and ask when you are going to give the baby a bottle,
  • or having a pediatrician who is unable to answer your questions about breastfeeding.

This post is not to debate breastfeeding vs. formula-feeding. Parents have the right to decide how to feed their baby. But they also have the right to be presented with factual information and the right to not have their feeding decisions undermined. Best For Babes is working to help accomplish that.

Here are some more Booby Traps that have set the blogosphere abuzz.

Amber from Speak Her Truth wrote Marketing and Breastfeeding, Who Hasn’t Been Duped? and said she is not going “to join in on this back and forth bashing of breastfeeding vs formula feeding mothers.”

As long as we fight amongst ourselves on this one symptom we cannot unite against the disease. The disease of markets that profit solely on the belief that our bodies are not good enough, not good enough to be sexually attractive, not good enough to give birth and not good enough to nourish our babies afterwards. A simple statement that could bring down this entire empire of insecurity: “Not only are we good enough, we are better just the way we are.”

Maya from Musings of a Marfan Mom wrote about Babble’s partnership with Similac – in which Similac sponsors Babble’s Breastfeeding Guide – after first reading about it on PhD in Parenting. Maya said:

You might ask why I care whether a formula company sponsors a breastfeeding portion of a website. I care, because I want women to have a choice in how they feed their children. I care, because women aren’t being given proper information on nursing, which sabotages the attempts of women who want to breastfeed. I care because, believe it or not, formula advertising has been shown over and over again to have a negative effect on breastfeeding relationships. Formula advertising not only affects women’s choices in how to feed their children, whether they are conscious of it or not, but it results in drastically higher costs for families who choose to feed their children formula (who do you think ends up paying for the “free” samples given at the hospital and sent in the mail, as well as all those commercials and Internet ads?). That affects their choice as well.

Tumbling Boobs pointed out its not just parenting websites promoting Similac’s latest marketing ploy and included screen captures of a few medical providers that are actively promoting Similac’s feeding hotline to moms seeking breastfeeding help.

Annie from PhD in Parenting also pointed out that even WebMD’s breastfeeding guide is sponsored by Gerber (which is owned by Nestle). There are six Gerber ads on the page that is supposed to help mothers with breastfeeding! Annie, who said, “There has to be a way to stop this incredibly unethical and predatory infant formula marketing on websites pretending to offer breastfeeding support,” urges her readers to take action and lists a few ways to get involved.

Jem wrote a review of the book The Politics of Breastfeeding (which I will be adding to my must read list). She believes the book should be read not only by nursing moms, but by all women.

Reading the book frustrated me on so many levels. I’ve talked before about Nestle’s marketing practices before, but it goes beyond that. The origins of formula; unnecessary death of babies in both developed and ‘third world’ countries; the undermining of women because we’re “not good enough”/”not reliable enough” to maintain life; the supplementing with formula without permission from mums; the strange habit of separating babies from their mums in hospital, etc.

This book has changed the way I look at so many aspects of birth and infant care.

Taking a more light-hearted approach to the subject is Dou-la-la who’s humorous, but also disturbing post Breast is Best, Sponsored by Simfamil: Don Draper Explains It All For Us is sure to be enjoyed by many a Mad Men fan. Heck, I thought it was awesome and I’ve only watched about 15 minutes of Mad Men.

What is the solution? How do we stop undermining breastfeeding moms?
I think the best start is if formula companies would start following the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing Breast-Milk Substitutes. We all know formula exists. We all know where we can get some (even for free), if we so desire. The marketing and the deceit need to stop. If you are upset about the Babble/Similac partnership or the WebMD/Gerber/Nestle partnership, follow Annie’s lead and take action. Let the companies know you disagree with their choices and why and then spread the word.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead

More Breastfeeding Booby Trap Posts:

Photo by benklocek via Flickr

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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Mary Martinez speaks about the Target breastfeeding incident

Earlier this week I wrote about the police being called on a breastfeeding mom in a Michigan Target store. Mary Martinez and her husband Jose were shopping in a Harper Woods, Mich., Target store, where Mary was nursing her 4-week-old baby girl in the electronics section. They were told by a Target security guard that breastfeeding in public is “against the law” and told they had to leave. When they disputed it, the police were called. The couple and baby eventually left, feeling embarrassed.

Mary has since kindly told me a little more of what happened this past Sunday. She addressed the concern that some raised that she was not being “discreet” and gave an update regarding her correspondence with the Target corporate office.

I was very discreet. She’s my 3rd child and I breastfed the other 2 until they were 2, I know how to be discreet. LOL If you can watch the news clip, I was nursing then and I imagine that’s as much skin as I showed in the store…none.

I spoke with [Target] corporate yesterday [Dec. 2]. I received an apology and admission of wrong doing, and that no one complained.  I want an amended press release, removing the part that reads that anything escalated and that they were concerned about the safety of their other customers. …Until then, this story is to be continued.

(You can view the video at Fox 2 News.)

Mary also added that she’d like to tell me more about what happened, but she’s been going through a “rough time” lately and is “really tired right now.” I can only imagine. She’s four weeks postpartum, has two older children and is dealing with all of this Target stuff on top of it.

She said that she hasn’t yet contacted FirstRight (a site where they collect information to determine how best to support a mother who has experienced discrimination due to breastfeeding), but she plans on it.

I sent my own letter to Target, copying and pasting what I had written on my blog as well as adding “I like Target. I want to continue to shop there, but I want to see more support for breastfeeding moms and children and I believe an apology from the company to Mary Martinez for discriminating against her and her child is in order. Please make sure employees are properly trained on the laws regarding breastfeeding. It is not a crime. Thank you for your time.”
I received this form letter response from

Dear Amy Gates,

Thanks for asking us about breastfeeding in our stores. As a family-oriented retailer, Target has a long-standing practice that supports breastfeeding in our stores.

We want everyone to feel comfortable shopping at Target. Guests who choose to breastfeed in public areas of the store are welcome to do so without being made to feel uncomfortable. Additionally, we support the use of fitting rooms for women who wish to breastfeed their babies, even if others are waiting to use the fitting rooms.

We strive to provide a distraction-free environment for all our guests, including nursing moms. We regret the incident in our store and will continue to provide a shopping environment that respects the needs of all guests, including nursing mothers.

At Target, we work hard to provide you with an enjoyable shopping experience. If you ever have concerns during your visit, please visit the Guest Service Desk and ask to speak to the Guest Service Team Leader. They’ll make every attempt to resolve the issue while you’re in the store.

We appreciate the opportunity to share this information with you.


Target Guest Relations
(800) 440-0680


It sounds like lip service to me. When I read, “We regret the incident in our store and will continue to provide a shopping environment that respects the needs of all guests, including nursing mothers.” it sounds to me like they are sorry they are getting negative press as a result of the incident, not that they are sorry that an employee discriminated against a shopper and that the police were called. Not that they are sorry for the grief they have caused the Martinez family.

I’m not calling for a boycott of Target. I think that is extreme for this situation. However, I am not sure when I will be shopping there again. I will be watching this case to see how it all pans out. I’d like to see them resolve this well. I think they should have apologized from the get-go and not released the statement about being concerned for the safety of their guests. I’ve never seen a breastfeeding mom and baby pose a safety issue. Most moms simply want to take care of the needs of their baby and go about their business.

I want to address more concerns/issues that were raised in the comments section of my first post, but will save that for another post, another day.

Mary, please know that there are many of us who fully support you. I hope that because of the attention drawn to your situation, it will prevent another mother and child from being discriminated against in the future. As it is House Bill 5515 in Michigan – which would grant to a woman the right to breastfeed in a public place and prohibit practices that would discriminate against the woman because she was breastfeeding a child – passed out of committee on a vote of 11 to 2 after the hearing on Dec. 2. (Thanks to Angela White for this good news update!) As Angela told me, “The committee members did know about the Target incident so while it was terribly unfortunate, the timing just might have helped push forward that important legislation!”

The breastfeeding discrimination might not end overnight, but we are making headway and going in the right direction. :)

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