We are proud to host today’s post, which was written by Bettina Forbes, CLC and Danielle Rigg, JD, CLC – the Co-Founders of the Best for Babes Foundation. Bettina and Danielle wrote this response to the guest post published on Monday entitled “Inadvertent Booby Traps.” We appreciate the chance to host a discussion about “breastfeeding essentials” and their marketing, and encourage your thoughtful comments on both this and Monday’s post.
First, just to clarify, the Fit Pregnancy “Breastfeeding Essentials” section in question is actually an advertorial, which according to answers.com is “an advertisement designed to promote the interests or opinions of a corporate sponsor, often presented in such a way as to resemble an editorial”.
We don’t have a lot of experience in the publishing world but from what we’ve seen, one of the benefits of advertorials is that they allow several smaller companies whose ads would get lost in a big magazine to be grouped together under a common theme. We’ve seen advertorials in fashion magazines, in-flight magazines, business publications, you name it. In any case, we think it’s very important to draw a distinction between editorial and advertisement.
The Best for Babes message about the “Booby Traps” is next to the advertorial section but is not related to the giveaway or any of the products any more than the nursing cover up in the advertorial is related to the breast pump.
Fit Pregnancy is a media sponsor of Best for Babes, which means that they help raise awareness of our organization and our message to hundreds of thousands of moms every month, for which we are extremely grateful. We have no control over the placement of any editorial or advertising placement of our logo or message, we are just glad to have it made visible.
As a tiny non-profit with an extremely limited budget, we rely on media sponsors to help get the message out. By the way, Peg Moline, the Editor in Chief of Fit Pregnancy, nursed both of her daughters for 3 years each and is extremely supportive of breastfeeding, which is one of the many reasons we are so happy to have a relationship with them.
Since we’re talking about an advertisement, we think it’s important to remember that any company can advertise it’s products as essential, and we see it in advertising all the time, whether it’s “essential” work-out gear, or “necessities for the nursery,” it’s a marketing term that is used everywhere (even the formula industry). Moms are pretty discriminating, and rely heavily on word-of-mouth, not just advertisements, to decide what they truly need. What is “essential” for one mom may not be for another.
That said, we understand the author’s fundamental concerns over using the word “essentials” in advertising or editorials, especially because one of us spent twenty years working with and volunteering with an at-risk, low-income population — a life-changing experience which profoundly influenced our decision to found Best for Babes. We 100% agree that the only 2 things “essential” for breastfeeding are at least one boob and a baby, and we use that phrase frequently!
It is a complex issue, however, because it is also true that there are a number of things that can make breastfeeding more comfortable, appealing and convenient for moms, and many of the products that have come out in the past several years have truly been a tremendous boon — whether it’s a more affordable, efficient breast pump, or a really good nursing pillow.
Sure, you can hand express, but tell that to a mom who needs to type while pumping in her office! (On the other hand, some companies market pumps so aggressively so as to imply that you can’t breastfeed without them, which really bugs us — but that is the subject of other excellent posts, like this one at Dou-la-la and this one at Blactating — very interesting reading, we promise!).
As for the cover-up issue, it has been hotly debated, and we agree with Annie at PhD in Parenting, that to cover or not to cover should be a mother’s personal decision — if a cover-up makes her more comfortable, than who are we to tell her what to do?
In our opinion, if breastfeeding advocates really want to market breastfeeding without a coverup, than perhaps we should take some tips from history and look at how companies successfully marketed the bikini to a culture that was squeamish about nudity and could only bathe fully dressed!
We need to create more appealing images and messages that show moms that it is possible to be nurturing and glamorous at the same time, and that make breastfeeding desirable and attractive — messages like the ones in Fit Pregnancy, and in the recent PSA campaign by the Bump.com.
We would love for the pregnancy and parenting media companies to help us enlist celebrities to breastfeed (without cover-ups) on the red carpet, and to spread awareness of Best for Babes and the “Booby Traps”. . . that alone might just change the culture faster than you can say Angelina Jolie on the cover of W magazine.
In our opinion, the bigger issue is that we much prefer a breastfeeding giveaway to a formula giveaway. Whether we like it or not, advertisements are the bread and butter of magazines, and we’d rather that moms flipping through the magazine see breastfeeding gear than formula ads. So far I don’t know of a single high-circulation pregnancy or parenting magazine that doesn’t run formula ads.
While we love Mothering, their circulation is a fraction of the bigger mags like Parents; they simply do not have the reach into the mainstream that we wish they did. (We never saw a formula ad in Cookie magazine, but they went out of business before we got a chance to thank them or acknowledge them publicly.)
If we want breastfeeding companies to become large enough to run ads that can replace the formula ads in magazines, then we need to help them grow. Of course it’s a delicate balance, because as the author of the post says, we don’t want expecting or new moms to think breastfeeding is more complicated or needs more accoutrements than it actually does.
At the same time, we think that the breastfeeding industry has an important role to play in breaking down cultural and institutional barriers — they have the marketing skills and dollars to “sell” breastfeeding and have done a great job giving breastfeeding a more appealing image!
Many breastfeeding companies also provide lots of useful information and support, and in our opinion, the best ones donate to breastfeeding non-profits to help beat the “boobytraps” — we were thrilled to see that Ameda is donating to the Human Milk Bank Association, and that Lansinoh donated $20,000 to the Hale Infant Risk Center.
Finally, we think it’s important to remember that formula was marketed in the 1950s and 1960s as a luxury item, as “essential” to the independence and convenience of the “modern” mom, with the latest advances in “technology and science”. This brilliant marketing tactic is precisely why infant formula was so successfully adopted by the low-income population; it was viewed as the ultimate status symbol to be able to formula feed your baby.
It is a tactic that influences low income parents around the world to this day, who see breastfeeding as something only poor people do, and who willingly shell out their scarce dollars to buy (or request, if they are eligible for WIC) the formula with the “gold ribbon” on it, or that is labled “premium” even though it is no different from the store brand, and is far inferior to “on tap” or donated human milk in every way, except for in the extremely rare case of galactosemia.
(Nowhere is this more painfully obvious than in China, where the sickening of 300,000 babies due to melamine tainting in infant formulawas barely a speed-bump in the rush to buy the more expensive and better marketed imported brands — the formula business in China is booming).
We believe that the breastfeeding community can learn a lot from the outrageously successful marketing of infant formula. If using the term “breastfeeding essentials” can help market breastfeeding, and can make it more appealing and even coveted, then we are all for it. The term also creates a neat juxtaposition that could possibly foster transference in the mind of the reader . . . he or she may just walk away thinking that the most essential thing is breastfeeding itself, and that is the best outcome of all.