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Am I a Similac Strong Mom? Deconstructing the Breastfeeding Wars

How much of our perceptions about highly emotional and controversial topics are shaped through our own personal experiences?  When and why do they change, if ever?

Can we ever be truly “rational” about an emotional topic?  Should we have to take a “side” in the first place?

I’ve been thinking about these questions for the past couple days after Similac, the formula company, sponsored a summit on Tuesday for mothers.  They’ve launched a new campaign that they’re calling “StrongMoms” as a “call-to-action” for moms to stop judging each other.  Their message is supposed to be encourage other moms — no matter what their choices in feeding, employment, parenting — support each other, rather than judge.

Who would have a problem with that, right?

Well, it turns out lots of mothers do.  And it also turns out that other mothers have a problem with the fact that some mothers have a problem with the campaign in the first place.  Whew.

Is this a collection of moms out to provide emotional support to all mothers, to help them feel that their choices for their babies are more socially acceptable?  Is criticism of formula feeding “mom on mom” bullying?  Is it a corporate conspiracy to  use mass marketing techniques to create a more “mom-friendly” image for their brand?  Should a company be telling moms how to think about other moms?

I have no idea.  I can’t answer that question.  But check out a few great pieces and a WSJ piece about the Similac survey and form your own conclusions:

As a commenter on my Facebook page said this morning, aren’t our roles already predetermined on this issue?  Whose minds are going to change?

The day before — even before I knew about the Similac campaign — I read what I thought was a funny amusing piece on Scary Mommy by Sara about how difficult breastfeeding was for her : “15 Things They Don’t Tell You About Breastfeeding.”  It resonated with my own experience, I chuckled, and I then moved on to the comments.

Here are a few sample comments:


2.  What a load of utter tripe written by a clearly incredibly ignorant person most probably affiliated in some way with a formula company

3.  And quite a few of these comments prove exactly why women who choose not to breastfeed or can’t breastfeed feel like abject failures. Quit the judging ladies. It makes other’s feel awful about themselves and makes you look like a total bitch.

There you have it: the breastfeeding wars so easily revived that it’s like a pile of newspapers with kerosene on them just waiting for a match.

We as humans across all cultures have trouble keeping two opposing — or what we perceive as opposing — views in our heads at the same.  You’ve heard of “cognitive dissonance,” right?  It’s that feeling of psychological discomfort you get when you’re trying to hold two competing philosophies or points of view in your head that may or may not conflict with your real life behavior.

When you’ve made a choice about something — whether it’s to go to a certain college, to buy a particular model of car, or, yes, the decision to breastfeed or formula feed or to stop breastfeeding — you’re more likely to rate your choice more highly after you’ve made it than you did before the decision was made, no matter what conflicting data you come across in the meantime.

This is true in politics, in the brands we choose, in our lifestyle choices of all types.  And I think that the more emotional the topic is, the more tightly we guard it in our brains and the more vehemently we discount opposing sides.

Because honestly I can’t understand the vehemence behind women’s judgments of other women.  I’ve written about my own experiences with those judgments.  I can understand how individual women come to make a personal decision about breastfeeding or formula feeding or a combination of the two, but I simply cannot comprehend what would motivate others to judge so harshly.

Where do you think the strong emotions about breastfeeding come from?  How did you form your opinions? 

And, most of all, what do you think of Similac’s campaign? 


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  1. Sara says:

    I think the strong emotions come from the fact that, as moms, we are doing the best we can. And when it feels like someone is criticizing what we consider our best, it hurts. Because it’s as if they’re saying, your best isn’t good enough. I’m a breastfeeding advocate – I breastfed my son for over 2 years and earned my IBCLC last year. I would poke my eye out before I intentionally made a mom feel guilty for formula-feeding. I’m not so arrogant that I think I know what’s best for every mom, every baby, every family. I believe that nutritionally, human milk is superior to commercially made formula (science does not trump nature here!). However, the decisions made about infant feeding are not made in a vacuum and are influenced by so many factors besides composition of food. I wish we moms would treat each other with more compassion and camaraderie.

  2. Nicole says:

    The Similac campaign reminds me of the Dove campaign (show your skin and love yourself as you are), except the Similac campaign is in my opinion a little disingenious because it is selling the very item that is the basis for much of the judgement. There is a clear financial stake in telling women not to judge others (who use their product). As to the bigger issue I am at a loss. I don’t know why there is so much judgement of other mothers who do not breastfeed or do not breastfeed “long enough” or simply do not exclusively breastfeed. How we got here is beyond my comprehension. I understand that at one time mothers who wanted to nurse and needed support had to create their own community in order to be successful, but this new shift in making mothers feel less simply for not breastfeeding is baffling. Doesn’t this defeat the whole intent of creating a community in the first place? I have cared for the babies of many women. I support all these new mothers. Some nurse, some express milk, some only use formula, some do a combination of both. All work great. The most important thing is to feed your baby and love your baby and care for your baby in the best way you can. Period. The bitterness and scathing attacks are sad, yet do happen. I am appalled by what I read on Facebook, twitter, on message boards and in comments after articles or blog posts. It is blatant and terrible the way women are more than judged, but ridiculed for simply using formula or suggesting that breasfeeding is not for them. I agree the judgement has to stop, but I unfortunately I don’t think Similac is the right company/organization to lead this charge. (Sorry for such a long comment)
    Nicole recently posted…Remembering Every Kiss, Hug Even if Our Children Can’tMy Profile

  3. As a mom, who couldn’t breastfeed, because my baby had colic with a milk allergy and soy, too. I will say it always made me feel awful, when I would read the comments about moms who did breastfeed and would almost lord it over those moms who didn’t. Whatever the reason why you do or do not breastfeed should not be out there for public consumption and put on trial by others. So, I am not sure why Similac is going with their new campaign, but from the outside looking in, I think it sounds like a wonderful thing they are trying to put out there for all women. But that is just me and thank you Jessica for sharing this here, because both my girls are way past the formula age, so I am a bit out of the loop with this notion.
    Janine Huldie recently posted…‘The Pink Girl’ Gets Her Mobile Fun iPhone Case ReviewMy Profile

  4. Wow. You know, it’s funny…I never really got into this debate. Maybe because I wasn’t blogging yet while I was breastfeeding. I don’t understand what the big deal is. I mean, personally, for ME and MY SON, I think breastfeeding is better. And if a pregnant mother asked my advice, I’d tell her that. However, I would not be mean to her or judge her if she decided to go with formula. Well. I’d try not to judge, anyway. 😉 Awesome post!
    Kristi Campbell recently posted…Advice for new bloggers & a happy danceMy Profile

    • Jessica says:

      Thanks, Kristi. I guess it’s hard not to judge — or at least to filter the thoughts that are in your own head — but I completely agree that there’s a difference between what you would think (maybe, for instance, you’d be thinking that breastfeeding is wonderful and best when you’re talking to a mother who chose to formula feed, for whatever reason) and what you would SAY — or type — to another mother. It seems like some don’t appreciate that difference!
      Jessica recently posted…Am I a Similac Strong Mom? Deconstructing the Breastfeeding WarsMy Profile

  5. I struggle with how to say “I believe breastfeeding is best, but I won’t judge you if you don’t” because that in itself comes across as judgement to someone who is feeling defensive about it. I do believe the science is clear and breast is best. But I fail at way too many things to get judgmental over it.
    Anita@ Losing Austin recently posted…Miracle in OhioMy Profile

  6. There is perhaps nothing we are more passionate or emotional about than our children. The problem is, in order to be able to effectively discuss parenting issues, like breast or bottle, is to take the emotion out of the debate. It is not easy to do.

    I’ve been running a campaign to stop judgment between moms for a few years know, with no corporate sponsorship. One thing I will say about the Similac campaign – they have at least brought a lot of attention to this issue. Something I have been unable to achieve on my own with no funding.


    So, “dubious” or not (and I completely understand the feelings about it), I’m grateful this is getting more women to discuss the overall issue of how we treat one another, particularly online.

    I enjoyed your post. Thank you for writing it!

    • Jessica says:

      Thank you so much for your comment! You’re right; I think this Similac campaign will bring more attention the issue. I will definitely be writing more about your campaign soon. And look forward to posting the “pledge” on my site!

  7. Nina says:

    WOW- great roundup of the issue that I had NO idea was happening. Not that I didn’t now the judging was happening. I didn’t know about this particular campaign. I think I agree with the comment on your FB page that people tend to have their thoughts about the feeding issue and aren’t necessarily looking to change their minds. It is for sure one issue I don’t “get” because I could not care LESS how people feed their kids. Each situatio is different!
    Nina recently posted…The Post Listen to Your Mother PostMy Profile

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