Similac Preys On Breastfeeding Moms

Christie Haskell

Another day, another ploy from a formula company. This time it's the Similac Mom nutritional drink. It looks pretty much to me like Slimfast, but rather than suggesting it as a meal replacement to lose weight, it's suggested as a snack or a drink throughout the day, or even as an additive in smoothies.

Since the first weeks of breastfeeding can prove to be tough to eat or drink enough, and the same can be said of pregnancy when you're nauseous, a vitamin and mineral drink isn't a terrible idea, though the ingredient list for Similac Mom is rather ... terrifying (too much sugar!).

But my issue comes in somewhere else, what happens when you, as "Pregnant or Breastfeeding Mother," click to order a free sample ...

To get your FREE Similac Mom & formula samples and welcome package, complete the form below.

By merely ordering a sample of their pregnancy and BREASTFEEDING drink, you are also sent free formula and signed up for their "welcome package," which consists of, you guessed it, more formula, formula coupons, formula advertisements, and bottle couples as well.

One of the biggest goals of formula companies is to get their formula into your home -- whether you plan to formula feed or not. Two-thirds of moms receive free formula in the mail, though the majority did not sign up for it. Most of my avid breastfeeding mom-friends have received formula samples. Even I did -- a whole, full-sized can! I know who signed me -- the name was spelled "Kristie" on the label, which was the same way my name had been misspelled on everything else that I ended up being sent merely for giving my info to a certain maternity store, supposedly only to get mailed information on their sale items. Liars.

Of course, I know the common argument here, "Women who are really determined to breastfeed won't be swayed by free formula." That's true, but it takes women who are very educated about formula, to the point of finding some of the risks scary and willing to work my butt off to avoid it, to not find that formula tempting. But even moreso, it takes a woman who is confident in her ability to breastfeed, who has a great support system, who isn't nervous about success. That number is incredibly low.

A simple look at facts shows how effective free formula actually is:

  • Breastfeeding mothers who received free formula samples at discharge were less likely to still be breastfeeding at one month (78% vs. 84%, p=0.07).
  • Breastfeeding mothers who received free formula samples at discharge were more likely to introduce solid foods by 2 months (18% vs. 10%, p=0.01).
  • The above trends were more significant among less educated mothers, first time mothers, and mothers who had been ill postpartum.
  • Women who did not receive discharge packs containing formula were more likely to be exclusively breastfeeding at 3 weeks postpartum (OR 1.52, 95%CI 1.12-2.05).

Those are some significant numbers, and part of the reason that the Ban the Bags organization exists, trying to prevent hospitals and doctors from sending home the "free" bags from formula companies with new moms. It's damaging. Especially to new moms, or those who are trying to breastfeed after struggles, or those who are very nervous. 

I got free formula with Rowan, though I was positive I was going to breastfeed, and I used it. He had GERD and would nurse almost non-stop to soothe his throat, projectile vomit, then nurse again, and when I was so, so tired and wanted to just be able to pee, or was convinced I had no milk, those ready-made bottles the hospital sent home, a whole pallet of them, ended up going in Rowan's mouth. Repeatedly. Until the whole pallet was gone. When we went to the hospital with him at 3 days old and spent 5 days there, they provided the formula the whole time, and we used it. We hoarded it and took it home too, another whole pallet, maybe two. When that ran out, we bought a can, of the same brand the hospitals had been giving us, of course. I would say that in Rowan's first month of life, he was 35-40 percent formula fed.

Would I have gone out and bought formula and used it if we hadn't been given any? I really, honestly don't think I would have. I pumped non-stop too and had my husband give him those bottles first, because I knew formula wasn't as good, and knew it had some risks, but dang it, we HAD it, and how bad could those risks REALLY be? But that's what formula companies count on -- they prey on new moms, on pregnant moms, on you. They want you to have their product there so in a moment of weakness or self-doubt, you use it. Then if your baby doesn't explode, you might use it again ... and again ... and then go buy more of that exact one since "baby tolerated it okay."

Advertising a drink towards breastfeeding and pregnant moms but sending free formula and signing them up for your formula program is just yet another form of sabotage, though I can't say I'm surprised. Shame on you, Similac.


Image via Similac

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