Understanding the WHO Code

BlogHer is an event that I look forward to attending each year, especially now that blogging has become so important to me. BlogHer is so important to me because of its community of women. It’s a time that allows us to get together. It’s this community of women that has made blogging so essential for me. It’s this community of women that makes me get up every single morning, ready to go. It’s this community of women that I learn from, that I grow from and that inspires me.

This past weekend at BlogHer, after my Getting Gorgeous event, I had the pleasure to co-host an event with Stride Rite. We wanted to get mom bloggers excited about the Spring 2011 Collection and unveil an amazing opportunity that Stride Rite is offering right now – a chance for a mom to design her own Robeez shoe and have a limited run manufactured. I was very excited to be part of this evening because I have been a Stride Rite lover and user for over 25 years. I’ll never forget getting my first pair of Stride Rite shoes at Jamiel’s in Warren, RI. This evening, to me… was the perfect partnership (especially as a mom of 4 little boys, 5 and under).

One of my tasks for the Stride Rite party was to put together swag bags to be given to guests. We had invited 140+ bloggers and wanted to make sure the evening was special for them from entrance… to leaving the event with their swag bag. Stride Rite put this in my hands and allowed me to assemble some items to include. With the items that were included in the bag was a sample package of Parent’s Choice Formula. I do want to make it clear that I was not paid to include it. I was, at the time, unaware of the WHO code and I want to publicly apologize to anyone who was offended, hurt or felt slighted by my allowing the formula in the swag bags. I never meant to upset anyone, that I promise from the bottom of my heart. I spent the afternoon educating myself on the WHO code via PhD in Parenting’s post and in chatting with some friends who are very educated on this topic. I am very appreciative to the women with whom I spoke this afternoon as they took the time to speak with me at length, openly and candidly. I am much more informed now and feel very armed with powerful knowledge.

I am making a promise that I will never include formula and/or bottles in any gift bags that are put together for any Getting Gorgeous Events, Mom Generations Events or any events/brands/companies that I partner with.  Someone’s word is the most important bond, and I want to stress that I absolutely support breastfeeding. I wasn’t able to breastfeed and it was very difficult for me to accept. I think it’s incredible to have women online and resources that are such wonderful advocates for breastfeeding moms, and these resources are where I turned in 2004, 2005, 2007 and 2008.  My own Mom is a vocal breastfeeding advocate who has helped innumerable women in their needs and desires to breastfeed, and I still remember my Mom breastfeeding my younger sister until my sister was 3 years old.

The beauty of gathering with women is the ability to share, teach, grow through discourse, discussion and the knowledge it creates.

Understanding the WHO Code was last modified: August 1st, 2017 by Audrey McClelland
SHOWHIDE Comments (68)
  1. Audrey,

    While I appreciate your pledge to not include formula samples in future swag bags, the simple truth is, some of the guests at the Stride Rite event were probably very happy to receive those samples. With the kind of site that I have, I am always receiving free formula samples and coupons in the mail and I donate them to our local St. Vincent De Paul. Considering they are always asking for formula, there is obviously a need/desire for them.

    I breastfed all 3 of my children…not one of them ever consumed a single drop of formula. However, I know that not everyone can or even wants to BF.

    The women attending the Stride Rite event were educated adults. The inclusion of formula samples was not likely to change their entire view on Breast vs. Bottle. Those who use formula probably are using them right now. Those who don’t use formula had the option of throwing it away or donating it.

    I’m sorry that a portion of the latter group obviously chose to give you grief over it, rather than thank you for throwing what were probably the two best events at BlogHer.

  2. i am so sad that this became an issue. i had no problem with formula being included in the swag bag – WHO code or not. while being a breastfeeding advocate and choosing that for all of my own children, i believe that formula serves a place in this world. like you mentioned, some people are unable to breastfeed. my sister used formula with her adopted children – should she never have had coupons to help support the amazing work she was doing? not to mention that even the most devoted breastfeeding moms use bottles for those rare occasions i wanted to leave the house without the baby 🙂 not everyone who chooses to use formula is uneducated – and it pains me that people are judged so harshly for doing so when sometimes it really is their only option.

    i am so sorry you had such a backlash. you girls did such an amazing job! i’ve known you for awhile now and you are the last person who would intentionally offend people and i’m sure people know that. shake this off and move on! xo

  3. Um. I am SO confused. My hospital sent me home with huge cans of formula (and I was exclusively breastfeeding).

    I saw that formula sample in the bag and thought, Oh cool, my SIL will probably use that. (I’m giving the incredibly generous diaper bag from your party with the Robeez and other gifts inside to her as she’s due to have her 2nd baby this month. She’s a pediatrician who uses formula occasionally. HORRORS.)

    I’m as big a breastfeeding advocate as it comes. But giving a small formula sample to a group of educated women as a part of an incredibly generous swag gift is HARDLY constitutes the need for an apology. I’m so sorry you’ve gotten flack for this.

    Love you Auds. Your events were among the best fun I had last weekend. xoxo

  4. Audrey,

    I have to say I am a little blown away by this post and the fact that you’ve been blasted over a swag bag inclusion. I wholeheartedly agree with Mindi above that for every person who may have been offended by the formula sample, there were many others that applauded you for offering a great variety of selection and samples in your swag bag.

    As someone who had NO OTHER CHOICE than to formula feed my 2nd child, I have to say that I resent people who don’t think offering formula information and/or samples to women is wise. As Mindi noted above, I am an educated woman, and I did all the necessary research about Breast vs. Bottle… but I was left with no choice. For people to say I should not have access to bottles or formula samples is ludicrous.

    Audrey…. I feel terribly that you obviously were made to feel wrong about your choice to include OPTIONS for people. And, a personal THANK YOU SO MUCH for hosting your AMAZING events at BlogHer. I enjoyed myself tremendously!

  5. As I mentioned before, you should be so very proud of all of your hard work and amazingly successful events this weekend. They were at the top of everyone’s lists.

    Finding a packet of forumla in my way-hot purple bag didn’t phase me, and I know I speak for several other attendees who feel the same. Whatever the WHO code says, formula is a way of life for many, no matter the reason. We all do the best we can for our children, and should be encouraged to do so.

    While I breastfed all 3 of my children, it wasn’t exclusive. I couldn’t pump, plain and simple. Without formula, my child with reflux wouldn’t have been able to follow his perscription as it had to be mixed in.

    Thank you for including the formula. No. Really. Thank you. I’m certain that my donation of it will help a mom who is unable to breastfeed (or even makes the educated choice not to) to have a substantially strong alternative.

  6. Audrey… you do not dare beat yourself up over putting formula in the bags. I was an extended breastfeeding mother and yes I am an advocate for that but there are moms out there that cannot breastfeed and their children could not grow without the formula. I remember helping a friend that was trying so hard to breastfeed and was having so many problems and thought people were going to look down on her because she would have to end up doing formula. We do not need this type of attitude in America. We are moms and need to support moms in either direction they go in.

    Big ((HUGS)) girlie. You are a gem 🙂

  7. Audrey – I am also confused why someone would criticize you or anyone else who provides sample formula or bottles to moms at an event. As a mother of two and someone who was not able to breastfeed for reasons beyond my control, it angers me when people are short sided and judgmental of moms. We are just trying to do what is right for us, our children and family.

    As consumers it is our decision to purchase these items and you are doing the right thing by providing educated, smart mothers with information of what is available. Providing a sample does not mean you are suggesting women should NOT breastfeed. To me this would be the equivalent of receiving a gift card to a fast food restaurant promoting a new milkshake. Does this mean they are suggesting I only eat milkshakes and consume an unhealthy diet? Unlikely….

    So the question is this…If you had put a brochure in my bag promoting WHO should I be offended and ashamed because I was not able to breastfeed? The perception and interpretation can both ways.

    By the way, my best friend breastfed until her daughter was 1 year. Guess whose kid is constantly sick and at the doctor multiple times a month? I am not insinuating that breastfeeding is not the better choice. However, my friend who was so against EVER using formula because she thought it was unhealthy is now supplementing until her milk comes in with her second child.

    You and Vera keep doing what you believe is right and stick to your mission! Great event at BlogHer and it was so nice meeting you. Again, thank you for including me at Getting Gorgeous.


  8. Audrey, I am so sorry that you were criticized for such a small part of what was a wonderful day. You put together 2 amazing events, and as far as I could see they ran without a hitch.

    While I didn’t have a need for the formula sample, I did take it to give to someone who could use it.

    I fully support breastfeeding, and nursed 3 of my children for over 2 years, but one of my children was unable to nurse so I completely understand both sides of the debate now.

    I applaud your effort to find a solution, in what I’m sure has been a tough situation.

  9. So sorry you got criticism on this! I read the WHO post and agree that FALSE marketing claims (not only for formula, but for anything) should be regulated, but as for the whole WHO code, I am just not on board. It seems to be all for limiting choices and access to a product people need and/or choose for their children. Anyone who knows you (or even just reads your blog) knows you would never do anything to purposely offend anyone so hugs to you!!!

  10. Audrey~ This makes me sad. I know that you and Vera were on top of the world on Sunday – having worked your tails off to host two wonderful events….only to have this happen.

    The truth is, I am, like all of the women who attended, capable of making sound decisions for myself and determining what is the right choice for my family. I did breastfeed. I chose to breastfeed because I had done the research and determined it was the right option for me and my little one. However, no matter how hard I tried, my daughter would not gain weight. (she gained 3 oz in her 2nd month) At one point I was accused of starving her because I was trying to exclusively breastfeed. My pediatrician TOLD me to supplement with formula. And it worked.

    I am frightened by the notion that a sample of formula is considered an endorsement of formula feeding as the ONLY option. You gave me a gift that I can, in turn, donate to someone who needs it. Because there ARE women for whom breastfeeding is not an option, no matter how hard they try. Since, I am one of those women, I know….and I know what a painful experience it is to seek alternatives when you want so badly to do what you believe is ‘right’ for your child.

    I see nothing wrong with your inclusion of formula in the bags. Your intentions were nothing but pure. You weren’t saying formula is a better option than breastfeeding. The truth is….some women need formula for their babies…so I believe the inclusion of formula was likely welcome for some. And if it wasn’t, they can pass it on to someone who may need it.

    I had a great time at the party. I am a StrideRite fan. I have been and will continue to be. Robeez were the ONLY shoes my small people wore, and I was so very sad when they grew out of the line.

    Hope this doesn’t take away all the sunshine you felt after hosting two wonderful events.

  11. I’m sorry you had to deal with crap like that. The event was just lovely and if they had a problem with the formula samples, they simply should have not accepted the swag-plain and simple. They are adults after all…right? :/

    Hugs sweetie. The event was great and it’s not your fault at all. Someone always has to complain about something. shocker huh.

  12. The WHO Code is not about limiting choices, it’s about -expanding- them. The aggressive marketing of formula actually undermines breastfeeding and is one of the key reasons breastfeeding rates in the US are so abysmal- only 32% of women are breastfeeding exclusively at 3 months postpartum (74% of women try to breastfeed after birth). By supporting breastfeeding by eliminating aggressive marketing of formula levels the playing field significantly because it gives women the opportunity to actually succeed.

    Supporting breastfeeding is something the US government and culture gives a lot of lip service to but does little to actually help out with. Women who have just given birth need help breastfeeding because most women of our generation were not breastfed so our mothers, even if they’re supportive, just don’t have the knowledge. Throwing free formula at us from the time we announce we’re pregnant hurts this because we know there’s always that formula can in the closet “just in case.” And studies show that just ONE bottle of formula can be detrimental to successful breastfeeding because it’s a slippery slope… you give one bottle instead of feeding at the breast and your supply diminishes a little bit. Then you have to give another bottle and your supply will drop even more. Before you know it, you’re giving more formula than milk so you may decide to give up breastfeeding altogether.

    So the WHO Code is about protecting this, not eliminating formula. There is ample evidence that when formula is readily available due to samples being sent unsolicited or hospitals sending new moms home with “gift” diaper bags from formula companies, breastfeeding is less likely to succeed. By the way, those free cans of formula are why formula is so expensive – they have to pay for the freebies somehow! Just think– if they stopped their HUGE campaigns and advertising, the cost of formula should go DOWN, making it affordable to anyone who truly wants and/or needs it.

    It’s not just about free samples either. Remember “the breastmilk formula” campaigns? Or “similar to breastmilk?” That’s against the WHO Code too because we will never be able to synthesize breastmilk in a lab because we don’t even understand it completely! (Just recently, research revealed why certain sugars in breastmilk that were unused by the body – turns out they feed the good bacteria that lays down a protective layer in the gut. And one more thing- we also know that by breastfeeding exclusively for the first six months – meaning no solid food, no formula – we are providing baby with the immunity it’s designed for. Giving one bottle interupts that process. Anyway, it’s why the AAP advises waiting to start solids at 6 months.)

    I am wholly sympathetic and empathetic to any woman who wants to breastfeed but is unable to — it’s why I became a Certified Lactation Counselor, it’s why I am volunteering with a local family center, it’s why I would like to become a WIC breastfeeding counselor — but with better support and education, MORE women will be able to breastfeed. We have to start when women are at their most vulnerable informationally – when you’re pregnant for the first time, when you’re an exhausted mom of a newborn.

    By the way, the US has agreed to (and signed) the WHO Code but has yet to enforce it.

  13. Thank you for clarifying what happened with the swag bags at the Robeez event. Although I was not present, I did hear about this and I am glad that you had the opportunity to speak to other people about the importance of the WHO Code and that you get it. I think Danielle’s comment above says anything I could ever want to say on the importance of eliminating formula giveaways.

    To Musings of a Housewife, hospital giveaways of formula are one of the major reasons that breastfeeding rates are so low in this country. Formula companies know this and it’s the reason why they ONLY give free formula to moms who say they plan to breastfeed. If this tactic didn’t work, they would have stopped doing it a long time ago. It’s why so many of us are working hard to get these bags banned from hospitals. http://www.banthebags.com

  14. “Formula companies know this and it’s the reason why they ONLY give free formula to moms who say they plan to breastfeed”

    Elita, please don’t be so uneducated! What a silly assumption to say that ONLY mom’s who say they plan to breastfeed get the free formula samples! If you have a baby and say you play to formula feed you get TONS of free formula samples!

    Yes I know this first hand I myself breastfed and got a few samples in the hospital (which I donated to a good cause) and I have also had many cousins and friends who from the very start planned to formula feed and guess what, they got a whole lot more free formula from the hospital that I did!

  15. Thank you for this post Audrey. I appreciate your apology, your regret and your pledge not to include formula samples in anything in the future.

    In response to some of the others who are commenting here, I want to explain a bit more about the problem with formula samples. I fully support the right of women to choose how they feed their babies. However, giving formula samples does not support the right to choose. Instead, it serves to undermine the breastfeeding relationship. Just like it isn’t a good idea to have cigarettes around when you are trying to quit smoking or to have junk food around when you are trying to lose weight, having formula samples around when you are struggling with breastfeeding is a big risk. There is evidence from research studies that moms that go home from the hospital with formula samples are much more likely to be supplementing and/or to have given up on breastfeeding within a few weeks than moms who don’t take them home.

    I had a significant struggle with breastfeeding my son. I was up in the middle of the night in tears. It took a significant amount of willpower to keep going many nights. The fact that I would have had to get in a car and drive somewhere to buy formula, if I wanted to, gave me that extra time to reflect on what I really wanted to do and to refocus on my priority which was having a successful breastfeeding relationship with my child.

    There are also a lot of women who think “one bottle won’t hurt” and they may turn to that formula sample because Dad/Grandma wants a turn feeding the baby or because they are busy doing something else or because they want to get out of the house for a bit. Unfortunately, that one bottle can present a risk both for the mom’s milk supply (every time you supplement, you need to pump to keep supply up, but many don’t know that) and for the baby’s health (compromises their immune system). For moms who have a goal of exclusive breastfeeding, those samples are detrimental. More info here on why “just one bottle” can hurt: http://drjaygordon.com/pediatricks/startingout/supplement.html

    I know that moms are educated women capable of making their own choices. I also know that they are human and are susceptible, especially in times of weakness, to internal and external messages that their body is not capable of providing for their child. The formula companies bank on that and providing free samples is part of that.

    Once again, I really appreciate your post Audrey. Thank you.

  16. Audrey,

    First and foremost I want to thank you for the invitation to both events. Second I want to congratulate you because of your hard work you had two very successful events. Finally, I am sorry to hear this controversy has taken away from it.

    I am also a strong proponent of breastfeeding as they come and I didn’t find this sample offensive. As with many things that are put in front of me I have enough knowledge to discern what works and what doesn’t work for me with out getting my pants in a tizzy.

    Anyone that knows you is aware that you will never have intended any harm from this inclusion.


  17. this blows my mind. i CANNOT believe you received backlash over this. i receive formula all the time–in the mail, from the obgyn, from the pediatrician’s office and it doesn’t mean that i feel like they’re forcing this only option on me. i breastfed both of my girls and receiving free formula never offended me or attempted to make that choice for me. i educated myself on what choice i would make and stuck to it–a can of formula would make me question my motives. i actually BF’d for a full year with averi, but only 7 months with lily because my supply dropped so drastically (to the point where pretty much nothing was coming out) that she wasn’t getting enough at her feedings and was ALWAYS hungry/cranky. i switched to formula at that point and she was a MUCH happier baby. i wasn’t about to starve my child. but the bottom line is that it was my CHOICE. not anyone else’s. i get so fired up about the whole BF debate because although i was fortunate enough to not have any problems with it, and i’m a total advocate for it and will do it again for my 3rd, i have lots of friends who simply cannot do it for whatever reason and feel enough guilt over it. i feel like we don’t need moms judging other moms over something that is a personal choice and, frankly, none of their business. we need to worry about our own children and we get to choose what’s best for them. not feeding them at all would be the real tragedy.

    i know you worked HARD at putting that event together. you shouldn’t have to apologize for this.

  18. I wrote a post about this based on my comment and added the following which enhances what Elita wrote:

    So the WHO Code is about protecting your choice in what to feed; it’s not about eliminating formula. It’s all about customer acquisition. If you indicate that you’re pregnant, or breastfeeding or even planning to breastfeed, they go after you because they know that when you start using one brand, you are likely to be loyal to it for all of your kids. If you tell them you’re using formula, they’re going to leave you alone because they know you won’t switch to another brand and they know you won’t go back to breastfeeding.

    The return on investment is very high for formula samples and the markup is very high to make up for this. Even with the huge budget they have for marketing, the formula companies are still rolling in money because they pass those costs onto the end consumer. All of those freebies are not free! They’re figured into the retail cost. You’re paying for the few “free” cans you received initially when you pay $20+ per can. Just think— if they stopped their HUGE campaigns and advertising, the cost of formula should go DOWN, making it affordable to anyone who truly wants and/or needs it. (Think of how much organic food you could buy with the money you’d save!)

    Here’s my full post: http://daniellefriedland.com/post/937458409/who-code

  19. I’m all for the hospitals eliminating those giveaways. Those go out at a time when a woman is extremely vulnerable. But I don’t see how a small sample in a swag bag at a blogging event is going to make or break a woman’s attempts at breastfeeding. And I hate to see an event that was so well done get smeared because of a small sample of formula in an otherwise generous and thoughtful gift bag.

  20. I don’t appreciate an agenda being pushed on me one way or the other. Putting samples in a swag bag is not pushing an agenda. I’m smart enough to decide what I want to do with it, thankyouverymuch. In my opinion, the women who are making a big stink about it are pushing their agenda just as much as the formula companies. No one is going to make a decision for me BUT ME. I personally breastfed and formula fed and my now 8-year-old is just fine. Making mothers who decide to (or have to) supplement formula or straight-out formula feed are made to feel like lesser mothers (if these people had their way) and that is so wrong. I know how to read, I know how to make decisions based on information from BOTH sides. I am so sorry you have had to deal with any backlash, but know you have the support of SO MANY educated mothers, Audrey!

  21. Ok, I totally get what you are saying. I would be in full support of Dr offices and hospitals maybe only giving free samples to those women who say they are 100% sure they are planning not to BF!

    However if women are planning to BF or even have the slightest interest in BF’ing they should be given support and literature on that topic!

    Sorry if I came off as offensive to anyone, I just get so fired up over this debate. I hate seeing mothers feel like crap because they can’t BF or it didn’t work out for them! I feel as mother we should all support each other no matter how we choose to feed our kiddos!

  22. Wow, what a wonderful blog post, your willingness to be thorough and thoughtful about this important issue speaks volumes to your credibility. Thank you.

    Here’s what’s missing from the comments: Donor milk. Moms who can’t or decide not to breastfeed don’t need pressure, judgment or guilt, they need solutions. Fact is, the World Health Organization says that screened, pasteurized human milk from a milk bank is far superior to infant formula. This fact always gets lost, and donor milk is as vital and as safe as donated blood. In fact, we’d love to see as many milk banks as there are blood banks! As long as formula companies violate the WHO Code and market their product unethically as “closer to breastmilk than ever before” or “strong babies start here,” there will be less education, demand and effort made to help the 86% of women who say they want to breastfeed, or to make donor milk available. Formula companies violate the World Health Organization and the recommendations of every single medical association throughout the world through giveaways, advertising, seminars for nurses & doctors, funding the NICU . . . the list goes on. So please, ladies, it’s not a few moms giving Audrey a hard time, it’s a well-known recommendation from the international health community that has received little public awareness. Thanks!

  23. I’m actually quite educated on this topic. It’s not based on assumptions at all. The formula companies don’t give freebies to moms who say they are going to formula feed. Sure, you may get coupons in the mail (which you’re already paying for by purchasing the formula in the first place) but the hospital swag bags are designed to catch breastfeeding moms at a vulnerable moment and get them to switch to formula. The nurses at the hospital where you and your friends gave birth may have given you extra samples. Unlike drugs, nurses don’t have to sign out the formula and can give it out willy nilly. I know of a bit of a hospital scandal where nurses were taking home tons of formula on a regular basis to give to friends and family. The sad part is there was so much there that that no one even noticed until someone got caught red handed. But thanks for telling me I’m uneducated!

  24. i also just need to comment on one of the above comments about comparing having formula around at a vulnerable time to having cigarettes around when trying to quit. not sure how you could ever compare those two because one is a harmful drug addiction that is known to kill you, while the other is choice in baby food. how many studies have been shown to prove that formula will cause cancer or kill a child? that’s taking it a little too far. there is no comparison there.

    and i understand what the WHO code is trying to say. but i also know that when a company is built, it’s main goal is to make money. they’re never going to stop or cease their advertising and marketing if it works for them to make money. this is true of EVERY company and EVERY brand–from retail to food brands to formula. even the ones that may not be the best for you. can we really expect formula companies to cut down on their advertising because of all the moms who are against formula-feeding?

    and, actually, i would think the higher the cost goes for formula, the more apt a mom is to turn to BF’ing because of the financial burden. i know that in those 4 months that i used formula, the expense pained me. if formula companies took away their huge ad budgets and campaigns and dropped their costs, wouldn’t that make formula-feeding more enticing??? (and i’m saying this in response to the WHO code.)

    like i said, i’m a BF advocate. but i’m not against formula-feeding and retaining the choice of how i would want/need to feed my child without someone trying to push their agenda or judgment on me.

    ok, i’m done now. these pregnancy hormones.. get me all worked up!

  25. I know a few women who are breastfeeding to save money but most women breastfeed because they understand that it’s the way babies are designed to be fed. They breastfeed because they understand that breastfeeding is an investment in their children’s (and their own) health and that it’s actually EASIER in the long run than bottle feeding. I really can’t see breastfeeding moms quitting en masse for an inferior product that requires more work.

    For example, when we were buying cabinets for my 4 year old’s roomrecently, we saved to buy one from a store that would put it together for us because it was better made and would last our daughter through her teen years AND also because if we got it from that ubiquitous Swedish store because we didn’t want to put it together ourselves. (That’s not the best example but it’s less loaded than comparing diamonds to cubic zirconia.)

  26. right- i agree with you. i’m not talking about moms who already BF. and it wasn’t a monetary thing with me- i BF’ed my girls because i felt it was the more nutritional thing to do for them. however, what i was trying to say is that for moms who haven’t begun doing either- those still in the decision process- if they are so easily swayed by a can of free formula from the hospital, wouldn’t they also be swayed by the financial aspect that comes along with it? if they get that free can and realize that additional cans are only $10 each (if costs were to ever come down), wouldn’t that be even more enticing to go that route? this is my point exactly- that we’re saying undecided mothers are so influenced by a can of formula.. so why wouldn’t the cost of those cans for those same unsure moms be a factor as well? i feel like by making them more affordable, it would only encourage it.

  27. It’s not about the price of that first can – that it’s free. It’s that they received it unsolicited in the first place and that it’s now in their cabinet as a safety net and was not their decision to buy.

    It’s one thing if you buy the can yourself (at whatever price) because you actively made a decision to go out and purchase it. A sample pressed into your hand from a doctor’s office, the hospital “gift” bag, or the boxes shipped to your door are cans that you will probably throw in the back of your cabinet even if you expect to breastfeed. Those cans are what moms reach for when they’re exhausted and their husband is begging, please honey, get some rest!

    As Annie explained above, if she had had a can of formula on that first rough night, she might have used it. But she didn’t which meant that if she decided she needed it she or her husband would have to exert the energy to buy it- get in the car, go into the store, select a brand, purchase it, bring it home. Of course, had her son been starving, they would have done it. But she was having a hard time and decided to keep trying.

    I had formula in my cabinet too that was given to me by a well-meaning friend. Luckily I never had a rough night with breastfeeding my daughter so I never opened it.

  28. well i guess it depends on the person who is receiving the can. i had 5 cans of formula in my cabinet when i brought my babies home and i had an extremely rough 2-3 weeks of BF’ing with my first daughter and i never once thought about using those cans. so the same argument can be said both ways- that there might be moms who use that can in their struggling moments, but there are also plenty of moms who want to breastfeed that will never touch those cans in their struggling moments. we’re always blaming other companies and people for what is essentially OUR CHOICES.

    if a mom is adamant about breastfeeding from the start and felt like the can might tempt them, why would they take that free can of formula home from the hospital? why would they accept it? i would think anyone who has already made that decision to BF would be the first to say “no thanks” to the freebies so that they wouldn’t be tempted by it. it’s not that hard to throw it away or refuse to take it home (if you can’t keep it at home without wanting to use it). it’s just a matter of saying “no” at the hospital. not that hard.

    i am bombarded with unsolicited advertisements every day. does it mean that i blame them if i choose to use one? no. it’s my decision. formula-making is a business, just like everything else. they use advertising and solicitation to try to sway you. so do lay’s potato chips. i get free samples of those sent to me too, when new flavors come out. do i choose to give them to my kids? not really- i usually just throw them away. but would i ever blame lay’s for making my kids eat chips had i given it to them? never. i’m the parent. i make the choice.

    to me, this is part of a much larger discussion- blaming external factors for our own choices. from the food we eat to the tv shows we watch to video games we play. these things aren’t going away any time soon.. but as parents, we CHOOSE what comes into our house and what we do.

    i am not immune to unsolicited advertisements. but i would never blame anyone for “falling” for them. and, most of the time, i don’t feel guilty about “falling” for them, because it was my choice and not someone else’s.

    if we want women to be more educated about BF’ing, then raise awareness and advertising and campaigns for BREASTFEEDING, rather than attacking the formula companies. it obviously works for them, so we’re the ones doing something wrong. we’re the ones that need to up our game, instead of blaming the opponent.

    i just think it’s really awful that audrey, who is one of the nicest people ever, gets backlash for doing something she thought was generous. it’s harsh and uncalled for, especially when we are all capable of making our own decisions on what to do with a can of formula. she doesn’t need other moms causing a frenzy over it. if you don’t like the can of formula in your bag, don’t take it or throw it away. it’s pretty much as simple as that.

  29. Thank you so much for this post. I’m glad to get clarification about how the formula got in the bags. I am really impressed with your effort to get to know and understand the WHO Code. It’s not about mothers judging each other; it’s a big picture thing about what we as a society can do to ensure that women are supported in their efforts to breastfeed. Regardless of any one woman’s individual choice, it is better for us as a society for more women to breastfeed. It will reduce the rates of illness and death in babies and lower healthcare costs. By adhering to the WHO Code we know that we are doing one more thing to help women who want to breastfeed to achieve their goals.

    The great thing about your post is that now I feel really good about Robeez. Before all this happened I felt kind of neutral. I have purchased Robeez for both of my daughters, who are 4 years old and 6 months old. After I heard about the formula sample, I was shocked and dismayed. Now, after reading this thoughtful and demonstratively BF-supportive blog entry, I will be more likely to seek out and purchase Robeez products. Corporate ethics are important to me as a consumer. Again, thank you for the explanation and for reaching out to your concerned customers.

  30. Having read PhD in Parenting’s post I feel this whole thing is rather overblown. I look for coupons and samples of baby care items (or rather, I did – my kids are older now) just as I do for other items I need to buy. Trying a sample is a great way to see if you like/need/can use an item or product before buying. I don’t see how a free bottle or sample of formula is any different than, say, a free Lean Cuisine meal, or sample sized [insert other food item]. I breast fed my boys until I went back to work when they were 3 months old. I chose at that time to switch my kids to formula, being fully educated about what this would mean. I looked to samples my doctor gave me to find the forumla that worked best for my babies.

    I just still cannot fathom why this breastfeeding moms vs. non-breastfeeding moms thing is such a huge argument. Do what you need to do based on your circumstances and don’t worry about what the other guy is doing!

  31. The difference is that other substances that have shown to be harmful have warning labels, or their advertising (especially health claims of other products) is closely monitored. And, though I really wish for those babies who get formula, that it was completely safe and equal to breastfeeding, studies show it’s not.

    I think your commitment to moms is apparent Audrey. You shouldn’t feel bad because you’ve educated yourself and your intentions were good. I’m a breastfeeding advocate and mama to a nursing toddler and I think you should be proud of yourself. I’m proud of you.

  32. I’m sorry, uneducated was a very poor choice of words on my part! I just think that we as mothers should be supporting one another in any choice that we make! Be that diapering, disciplining, and feeding!

    I mean unless it is actually harming the baby, and surly formula feeding does not do that, then why make mom’s who formula feed feel so bad about themselves!

    I really see no reason to make formula companies stop giving out free samples at the hospital either! I do think they should only give them to mom’s who are 100% sure they are NOT going to try breastfeeding.

    And also my hospital bag not only had the formula samples, but it also had breast pads, nipple cream and breast milk storage containers!! I defiantly saw that as the hospital/sponsors whoever trying to support my decision to breastfeed!

  33. I have a lot to say about this – and am already brewing a blog post – but I think it is ridiculous that you are getting your hand slapped for giving a sample of formula to educated, grown-ass women. I think you are showing a lot of grace in your apology. In the future, if anyone has excess cans of free formula that people are pressuring you to throw away, send them to me. There are many children in this world for whom formula is a life-saving option, and many people who go to great lengths to get that formula into their hands.

    Kristen @ http://www.rageagainsttheminivan.com
    (mom of two exclusively breastfed biological children and two formula-fed adopted children, all of whom are doing just fine)

  34. A free bag of potato chips and a free tv dinner are not being marketed to you at precisely the time when you are most vulnerable and most likely to be influenced by false advertising, i.e. the birth of a child when all you want is what’s best for your baby. Lean Cuisine has not been repeatedly shown to increase your baby’s risk of gastro and respiratory infections and result in 3 to 10 times as many hospital visits; and increase the mother’s risk of breast cancer, osteoporosis, obesity and heart disease, all the while claiming that “strong mothers start here.” As well marketed as hamburgers are, I have not seen a brand yet that is handed out by cardiologists in the waiting room, or comes with a claim that “strong heart patients start here. As for why it is such a huge argument, 86% of moms are saying they want to breastfeed, but 70% of hospitals scored a “D” according to the CDC, and are getting money from the formula companies to push early supplementation that leads to breastfeeding failure, which most moms don’t know. It bothers me that breastfeeding moms are being booby-trapped by barriers beyond their knowledge and control. And while marketing breastfeeding is important, no one has the $2-$3 billion annually required to compete with the formula companies’ marketing budget.

  35. At probably somewhere around 2 bucks an ounce, I hardly think that there are too many people who can afford donor milk!!

  36. Wouldn’t it be great if health insurance covered donor milk or formula for moms who can’t breastfeed, like breast cancer survivors? It bothers me that they have to pay for formula. Also, perhaps formula companies should subsidize the cost of donor milk. Just an idea! Since they all like to “say” that they think breast is best!

  37. Donor milk is great for those in proximity and with the resources to buy it – but approving and shipping breastmilk to third-world countries is a costly venture. Formula fills the gaps for many.

  38. I think that would be awesome if insurance covered donor milk &/or formula for mom’s who have medical reasons they can’t breastfeed.

    However (and I am a little fuzzy on the exact rules behind the WHO code so please correct me if I am wrong) I don’t think that it’s fair to say that formula companies can not advertise.. It is their product and they are just trying to make money like anyone else. There are some mothers who just for whatever reason refuse to breastfeed.

    I had a cousin who was a young mother and she just flat out didn’t want to, I talked to her about it- told her my views and reasoning behind it , but she just knew it wasn’t for her. So in situations like that I think formula companies have a right to advertise, as long as it is marketed towards people in those situations!

  39. OK not to try and be rude at all but @Heather Don’t you think that if formula companies were forced to label their formula as ‘harmful’ (which I don’t think it is in any way!) that might scare some mothers off?? I mean if it really comes down to it and a mothers can not/will not breastfeed or use donor milk, and they are faced with a can of formula that has a warning label on it they might resort to giving a tiny baby regular cow’s milk! That would be detrimental to an infant!

  40. Not sure if it’s as costly as the astronomical health care costs associated with a formula-fed population. Consider that if you have a family history of breast cancer, you can lower your risk by 60% if you breastfeed! Just think of the staggering emotional and financial burden affecting victims of this terrible disease. Necrotizing enterocolitis, a disease affecting newborns where the intestines literally die off, is far more frequent in formula fed infants and is extremely expensive to treat, and comes with a price tag of tremendous suffering. If a mom makes an informed decision to formula-feed, we stand behind her–there are many reasons like sexual abuse, or too many barriers. What deeply distresses us is all the moms who wanted to breastfeed but were prevented from succeeding by a myriad of “booby traps,” created by the marketing of formula, in our minds, that is just not fair. http://www.bestforbabes.org/breastfeeding-booby-traps/

  41. I attended the Stride Rite event and I thought you did a wonderful job. Fortunately I am an educated and strong minded person and a small sample in a bag is not going to influence my decision to breastfeed or not to breastfeed.

    What a shame that such a successful event was clouded by this issue.

    Congratulations on a fantastic party!

    PS: I formula fed both of my children and that decision was not based upon a free sample in a swagbag.

  42. I am thinking moreso of the time I took a suitcase full of formula to an orphanage in Haiti, and one of the canisters burst during the flight, and the orphanage director spent two hours spooning the spilled powder out of the crevices of my suitcase into baby bottles. Because formula was that precious to hungry babies. The same formula that it is so easy to vilify in our privileged lives here in the US.

  43. and regarding the breast cancer issue- my mother breastfed both my sister and i (and there’s only two of us) and she still got breast cancer. i also know other mothers of my friends who breastfed and still got it. luckily, we were blessed and my mom beat it. but just because i breastfed my children, i in no way think i’m at that much less of a risk of getting breast cancer, no matter what statistics (that are always changing, by the way) tell me. my mom had it. and she breastfed as well. it’s kinda hard to listen to the statistics when something like that happens in your immediate family, especially when there are so many other factor that contribute to it. but i truly don’t think moms are breastfeeding their children to reduce their own risk of cancer anyway. it’s just an added benefit of something good that “might” happen. for my sake, i hope it does help me. but i read statistics with a grain of salt.

  44. i also just read the “booby traps” article and you say that this list is the plain truth for majority of moms who plan to breastfeed, but i can honestly say i don’t live in that world, and not one single factor on that list applied to me. and i have SO many breastfeeding mom friends who also stood strong by their decision, regardless of all these external factors. i understand this stuff happens, but to say that it happens to MAJORITY of moms is a bit extreme, IMO. In fact, the majority of my mom friends do breastfeed.

    i knew nothing before my first daughter, so i researched and learned..but always knew i wanted to breastfeed. and it didn’t matter what anyone else said to me or how they looked at me in public or how many cans of free formula were given to me (which, by the way, were all given to me via mail or OBGYN’s secretary- the hospital never once gave me formula after the births). maybe i’m the lucky one because i didn’t experience the factors that you pose in that article and i had a strong will to BF already, but i know i am a strong believer in doing your own research on something, becoming informed about the pros and cons and then making your own decision- regardless of external factors and excuses–whether that internal desire pre-existed or not.

    which leads me to also note that the majority of that list has nothing to do with formula companies, yet this entire post is about audrey gifting formula out in the swag bags. it almost sounds like, from your article, that you’re saying the majority of moms are weakened, uneducated beings who are being “sabotaged” daily by institutional barriers. yet, my breastfeeding mom friends (esp those who had to go back to work) easily found ways around any of these obstacles you deem so damaging. i feel like this is such an extreme point of view, and you don’t give mothers enough credit. i think just the opposite of what you say is true- that your list of booby traps happens to SOME moms.. certainly not the majority of moms.

    also- the bottom line is that it’s a personal decision, whether you think another mom should BF or not. we are all entitled to our opinions- i get that. but to blame formula companies for it? they’re just doing their job.

    the thing is that i’m a total BF advocate! but i get upset when someone else is made to feel badly about something harmless that they did. which is what sparked this entire conversation- audrey being given a hard time and receiving backlash for including formula samples. i’m sure MANY moms appreciated that gesture. and i feel like the more extreme or pushy BF’ing organizations get, the more of a turn-off it is. i would hope that wouldn’t be the case for something that we should all be supporting each other on- not spewing scary facts and composing hate-campaigns against formula companies in order to get our points across.

    oh, and i’d like to note that a CLC (not hospital-assigned) visited me with my first daughter and basically did just what i said above- spewed facts about why i should never formula-feed, RATHER than support my efforts in learning how to BF. it’s always an agenda being pushed, and it annoys me. the delivery room nurse showed me everything there was to know about BF’ing in the most helpful, gentle way and i still credit her to my success til this day. and i had rough bouts with it in the beginning, but i never thought of just “giving up” for that can of free formula sitting in my cupboard. and i’m sure i’m not the minority on this.