Thanks for all the guesses on the pink-M logo. All is now revealed:
Tigtog, Joules, Mel, you were right on with the mummy-marketing interpretation. Tigtog, you win Lauredhel’s Grade-A Cynic Prize of the Week – you were dead right.
Before you read any further, please read my footnote.
I spotted this logo at the Mike Brady’s blog, Boycott Nestle. (SMA is a Wyeth product – Nestle aren’t the only evil ones out there.) Mike is the Campaigns and Networking Coordinator at Baby Milk Action.
Baby Milk Action and IBFAN (the International Baby Food Action Network) focus on the World Health Organisation’s International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes – reporting violations, increasing awareness, and engaging in community education. IBFAN outlines the Code here, and explains it further here.
The bottom line of the Code is that formula milk, complementary foods, bottles and teats should not be marketed in ways that undermine exclusive and sustained breastfeeding., and that “There should be no advertising or other form of promotion to the general public of products within the scope of this Code.” – by the companies themselves, by stores, or by hospitals and healthcare workers. One of the key points of the Code is that “No idealising text or pictures” should be used in labelling. This includes the prohibition of all of the following:
* pictures of infants.
* pictures or text which may idealise the use of infant formula.
* the terms “humanized”, “maternalized” or similar terms.
Marketing to hospitals, healthcare workers, mothers and the general public is incredibly, overwhelmingly powerful. Infant food is a massive global money-spinner. Infant food and feeding-equipment corporations will do anything in their power to violate the Code and to get more of their substitutes sold. Whatever it takes. Whatever loophole they can find.
All of them pay lip service to the Code in countries where they think this will help their public profile, and all of them lie, systematically and deliberately. The lying is most extreme in countries where they can readily get away with it, but it’s not confined to them. Here’s a recent example of a violating UK ad: Avent digitally manipulating images to lie about a bottle-feeding baby’s mouth action being “identical” to a breastfeeding baby. (As an aside – that breastfeeding photo is a classic example of a terrible-looking latch.) Right now, a battle is being waged in the Philippines to enforce the Code, and formula companies are fighting it tooth and nail in court.
Infant food corporations in urbanised countries have now realised that their prime market is breastfeeding mothers, or mothers who would rather be breastfeeding. Most birthing women say they wish to breastfeed, that they’d like to try. Few are still exclusively breastfeeding at six months, and very very few have used no formula by 12 months. That’s an awful lot of formula used by the “breastfeeding mums” market. So what do the companies do? Try desperately to pretend that their product simulates breastfeeding, using every subliminal and explicit trick in the book.
So what better way to sell a breastmilk substitute to a mother who’d rather be breastfeeding? Slap on a logo of a pink heart-shaped breastfeeding mother-baby pair, just stylised enough to have a hope at plausible deniability. Append a slogan: “Love the milk you give.”
 This type of discussion has a tendency to derail into “nasty do-gooders want to ban formula and make mums feel guilty”, so I’ll put a pre-emptive disclaimer here. Some women choose to use breastmilk substitutes. Some women are unable to produce enough milk to feed their child, for various reasons, and choose breastmilk substitutes in the absence of donor milk or in preference to it. Many, many women are poorly supported, poorly informed, and end up using breastmilk substitutes even if it wasn’t their original choice. None of these choices is made in a vacuum. This post is not about those individual women and their stories and how guilty they should or shouldn’t feel as individuals. It is about the system that fails women and babies, by failing to support breastfeeding, and by not having donor milk available for the women who need it, and about the larger structures that support and encourage the normalisation of massively high rates of artificial feeding. The Code is not about making formula and bottles unavailable or inaccessible, it about about preventing their unethical, exploitative marketing.