Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day brings tulips from Mead Johnson

This Mother's Day some Enfamil infant formula users received deliveries of fresh tulips as thank you for their loyalty to Mead Johnston's Enfamil brand. Moms were encouraged to share using the #EnfaMom hashtag, turning their gift for brand loyalty into free advertising for the brand.

Some did.

Once again the mighty multibillion dollar formula industry flexes its mom marketing muscles and this time it's messing with my Mother's Day bliss.

The most concerning thing about coercive and predatory marketing is how pervasive it is at local, most intimate levels. Most mothers who have given birth in the last few years in North America will tell you they received shipments of infant formula directly to their door, timed to coincide with their baby's birth. Some are given formula company gift baskets by their personal obstetricians. Keep in mind the relationship of trust and intimacy between a woman and her OB/Gyn.

Courtesy Jennie Bever, from Lactation Matters,
Keep Infant Formula Marketing Out of
Healthcare Facilities, May, 2014
Many celebrations designed to bring mothers and families together for mothering and infant feeding support are infiltrated by infant feeding product marketing. Infant formula companies are even using the United Nation's 1,000 days campaign as a springboard, according to the Irish Examiner:
"...It is revolting that any company would seek to piggy-back on the UN’s 1,000 Days campaign in a world where 830,000 babies die every year because they weren’t even breast-fed for an hour. You can argue whether the UN project has any place in Ireland or not but it certainly doesn’t have any place in the Rochestown Park Hotel with Neven Maguire or in Tesco stores where First 1,000 Days “exclusive goodies” are being handed out or at First ,1000 Days Baby Fair to be held in Belfast next year.

I applaud organizations who are taking an ethical stance and ensuring their events are free of coercive marketing.

Organizations and individuals who participate in events like Quintessence's Breastfeeding Challenge and their new Express Support virtual event, La Leche League USA's Live, Love, Latch, or Best for Babe Foundation's Miracle Milk Stroll, often tell me how appreciative they are of these organizations' commitment to ethical partnerships. This means public health nurses, La Leche League leaders, or moms who want to organize an event for their friends, can participate freely without worrying that they are sending families - and especially new families with a first baby - into an environment where they are subjected to coercive or predatory marketing.

The original founder of Mother's Day, Anna Jarvis, wanted a holiday for mothers. The day was never a holiday, and before long it had became so commercialized by Hallmark that Jarvis started protesting. She was arrested in 1948 for disturbing the peace while rallying against it and her reputation was besmirched by media outlets with a vested interest in the commercial venture it had become - she is often portrayed as dying alone, crazy and embittered in an institution.

And now on this Mother's Day we have infant formula companies, who famously spend billions getting hospitals and doctors and nurses to peddle their products, sending flowers right into the homes of mothers.  I wonder if Anna Jarvis saw this coming?
Read this excellent BuzzFeed article by Joel Oliphint for more on Anna Jarvis