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Stick Your "Mummy Wars" Advert Up Your.....

If another person tells me I MUST see the "mummy wars advert", I might just spontaneously combust.

First, I have (as I said on Facebook) got to acknowledge from a marketing perspective,  the genius that is this advert.  It's so clever that whoever had this brainchild, deserves the mother of all bonuses and a good month or two all inclusive in the Caribbean.

It's so good that midwives and breastfeeding advocates who would never share a formula advert, have passed it on around.

"Oh, I didn't realise it was for formula" I've repeatedly been told.  Nope that's right, some versions have been edited to remove all traces of the brand before sharing.

So how, you might be wondering - can an advert be so incredibly sensational, when you don't even take away from it what product it's for?  Isn't that pointless?  What's my beef if it doesn't even give the name of a formula company?

The reality is if you're one of two leading USA brands, it doesn't really matter if you name your product.
Anything that undermines breastfeeding is a win for them.  And this does that so spectacularly on a subliminal level, that they don't need to blaze a logo.  In fact, it's far better if you don't make that connection, because many people I've seen share this would never share something clearly advertising formula.

Making it all just seem benign, harmless, fun.  It's only asking everyone to be nice to each other, and we all support that right?  Isn't that a message that needs sharing?  Surely if not you're one of the uptight, judgy mothers depicted in their ad?

They discuss cloth versus disposable, work versus stay at home mum, breastfeeding versus bottle.

Because that's all feeding is right?  Another case of a simple parenting choice - there is no right or wrong, everything is equal.  If you don't agree, you're part of "the mummy wars".

And that's exactly how the advert is being received.  From Facebook:
"To me it just made the point that deep down there's no difference, whatever our choices. We're all just out to do what we believe is best for our own."
But let me tell you how the "mummy wars" came to be.

First you really need to read this post by dou-la-la, to understand where "breast is best" came from, and how we move from there to a belief "perfect parents breastfeed".  This by default makes those who don't breastfeed potentially feel inferior/judged/as though others are "smug".  Please also take a minute (if you really are genuinely interested in stopping the "mummy wars") to read this too.

From there, this post explains how when we have pressure to "perfect parently", this in itself generates behaviour that becomes divisive.  It sets people against each others and indeed the resulting behaviour can look a lot like bullying.

Formula companies get this.  You don't generate a $50 billion dollar industry by not understanding your market.

Adverts tell mums "you're doing great", "we understand you", ignore those breastfeeding police because it doesn't really matter anyway.

And mums tell us, this makes them feel better.  To hear that - even when it from someone selling, it makes them feel good.

In fact, even more ironic is that mums are actually paying to be told they're doing OK, because who do you think funds the adverts?  It's the parents who pay the extortionate mark up rates when buying a can.

The ultimate irony of course is that you only have to read the recommended above, plus maybe "The politics of breastfeeding", to see how formula manufacturers work to sabotage breastfeeding from every angle.

The news can report that formula cans are overloaded with aluminium at unsafe levels for babies, or that the excessive iron in follow on milk (only ever invented to get around the marketing restrictions of first milk) is linked to developmental delays.  Yet loyal users still believe the formula companies give an actual damn about anything but billions in profit.

This "faux empathy" is sucked up and in turn it builds a trust between supplier and customer, and further increases the divide between parents - who by now all believe the "mummy wars" exist.

And if we read everything believing it's a personal dig at us, or a judgement, it's really easy to take almost anything personally.  If I've seen the word "judgy" once online in the last few years, I've seen it a million times.  In fact it pissed me off so much I blogged about it here.

Just today on Facebook, I got accused of fuelling the mummy wars a couple of times myself.
"And it is comments such as your status which help create these 'mummy wars' and the feeling of guilt for mums who, for whatever reason, don't breastfeed their babies."  with clarification "I was referring to your comment about public health."
" I think using the term 'public health issue' is too divisive and puts too much pressure on mums who don't bf for whatever reason. That's why those of us ardent bf supporters get some of the labels we so vehemently deny - like bf Mafia. "
Wendy replied
" No - we need to label it for what it is, regardless of how this labelling makes adults feel. Many women fail to stop smoking in pregnancy despite trying very hard. Should we stop calling prenatal smoking a public health issue to cushion women who can't or won't stop smoking from feelings of guilt? 
What about childhood obesity? I've got an overweight child. Should I ask people not to call childhood obesity a public health issue because I'm struggling to reduce my child's weight and it makes me feel guilty? 
Can I repeat - we are adults. We need to take responsibility for our choices and for our emotions, and not ask other people to change their language in order to shield us from things we do as parents which we may feel uncomfortable about."

I'm still confused that anyone could consider stating breastfeeding impacts on health to be guilt inducing and inappropriate.  Formula feeding mothers cannot (apparently) handle facts? we should all pretend actually breastfeeding doesn't matter?  Stating it's a public health issue makes someone the "breastfeeding mafia".

Oh that neatly brings us back to the ad doesn't it - because what this is actually saying is to stop the war, we have to stop talking about breastfeeding.

I think various people have summed this up well on Facebook, so here goes:

Michelle, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, posted a fantastic public status, which includes the following excerpt:
"Effectively, (this formula company, edited to remove name) is tricking people into silence. They are saying that every decision is equal, every choice is fine, and to talk about these choices is combative. Who wants to be any one of the judgy, sanctimonious people that they portray in the clip? 

Right, no one. X wants you to see the video and think, "Am I like that? Oh, I don't want to be like that. I'll keep my mouth shut about breastfeeding (etc.) from now on." 
So the message is that we are all to accept everything and not say anything about parenting to anyone, just smile and glow. 
Except that's not to anyone's benefit, except the formula company that is so embattled by breastfeeding advocates that every marketing campaign is an effort to discredit every scientific and social advance back to the biological norm. If the public blames themselves for mommy-wars and accepts every feeding choice as equal and acceptable, then the formula company can take the next step to reassert their product in the marketplace.
I've since received the disturbing news the Michelle been unable to access her personal Facebook account since her status update went viral.  It's unclear at this time why. 

Hannah said:
"Their goal is to clear the field for their marketing, by silencing any criticism as judgy. Free speech for marketers only."
Julie said:
"The way I look at it is a formula company putting out a video to bring all parents together is a bit like The Sun newspaper releasing a female empowerment video - you have to ask what their motives are."
Sara said:
"That's why governments should ban all formula advertising. It isn't fair that decisions affecting your child's wellbeing should be based, even partly, on subtle psychological manipulation."
Samantha said:
"Exceptionally well played by X marketers. Dare to disagree and you're just another one of those bullies. Very, very clever."
By pretending feeding is "just another choice", I actually think this does a huge injustice to the parents for whom breastfeeding did matter (whether or not they continued).  I'm often told by parents, that they didn't feel they had a choice, and I doubt I would hear many grandmas sobbing years later that they felt forced to use a pram instead of a sling?

I absolutely believe we should support parents who don't want to breastfeed, or who want to stop for whatever reason - nobody should have to justify how or why they feed their baby.  I know better than most what some women endure trying.

We live in a breastfeeding un-friendly society, where mothers are expected to feed a squirmy newborn whilst "being modest", are told to "just give a bottle" by friends and healthcare professionals alike, and breasts are allowed everywhere for sexual gratification, as long as a baby isn't on the end.

If we really believe it doesn't really matter to mums, because we have an alternative sold to us as "nearly as good" what then?  We don't need to put effective support in hospitals to help mums who do want to try, we don't need to treat tongue ties in a timely manner, we don't need to improve the milk bank situation so mums have the option of human milk if they need it, we don't to strive to make anything any different than it is right now - we can just accept that's how it is with a shrug.

And the formula companies keep counting the profit.