Medela Bites its Thumb at the WHO Code

I’d like you to watch this ad with a critical eye. [Transcript is appended.]

[If you know all about the Code and Innocenti and APMAIF already, skip down to the next iteration of the ad below!]

The WHO Code and the Innocenti Declaration

I’ve posted here a fair bit in the past on the World Health Organisation Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes[1][2].

I have not yet come across an infant formula company nor a business primarily engaged in feeding bottle and teat sales that is not a Code violator. Despite repeated exhortations by the World Health Assembly, and the Innocenti Declaration 2005, some countries who have on-paper ratified the Code have failed to enshrine it in law.

The countries that have comprehensively failed to enforce the WHO Code include Australia and the USA.

The Innocenti Declaration

The UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre is a UNICEF initiative based around sound, evidence-based advocacy for children and mothers worldwide. The 2005 Innocenti Declaration was the result of an assembly of policy-makers in Italy to assess progress and re-evaluate goals 15 years after the original Innocenti Declaration:

Guided by accepted human rights principles, especially those embodied in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, our vision is of an environment that enables mothers, families and other caregivers to make informed decisions about optimal feeding, which is defined as exclusive breastfeeding for six months followed by the introduction of appropriate complementary feeding and continuation of breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond. infants and young children.

The 2005 Innocenti Declaration includes this statement:

All governments [shall]:

[..] Implement all provisions of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent relevant World Health Assem- bly resolutions in their entirety as a minimum requirement, and establish sustainable enforcement mechanisms to prevent and/or address non-compliance. […]

The WHO Code is but one part of an international framework for breastfeeding support. There are many other aspects included in Innocenti’s breastfeeding support manifesto, including maternity leave, women’s empowerment, recognition of breastfeeding as the physiological norm, healthcare worker training, evidence-based information on the risks of artificial feeding, comprehensive support for women’s health and nutrition, independent co-ordination and monitoring of breastfeeding and breastfeeding support, the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, positive media imagery, protection from environmental contamination, and breastfeeding support in disasters and in poverty reduction strategies. You can read a lot more about the issue at UNICEF: Celebrating the Innocenti Declaration on the Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding: Past Achievements, Present Challenges and Priority Actions for Infant and Young Child Feeding (1990 – 2005 ). It’s a great reference source if you’d like to start blogging or lobbying on supporting breastfeeding as a human right for women and children.

Failure to Regulate in the Australian Context

What do we have in Australia, instead of the WHO Code? A self-regulation agreement, the 1992 MAIF agreement (Marketing in Australia of Infant Formulas). The only signatories are a handful of large formula manufacturers (Heinz Wattie’s, Nestlé, Nutricia, Wyeth, Abbott, and SNOW). MAIF does not cover bottles and teats (which fall within the scope of the WHO Code), baby foods other than formula, retailers such as supermarkets and pharmacists, healthcare providers, or smaller formula manufacturers who have not signed on.

In practice, MAIF doesn’t stop your doctor distributing formula samples to pregnant women, it doesn’t stop ‘organic’ formula advertising, it doesn’t stop toddler milk co-branding and direct advertising, it doesn’t stop rampant formula and bottle advertising on “baby stuff” websites, it doesn’t stop your weekly flood of junkmail from being full of formula, bottle, and teat advertisements, it doesn’t stop your pharmacist from pushing formula and bottles under your nose when you drop in in late pregnancy for some haemorrhoid cream; all it stops is this handful of companies directly advertising infant formula to you – and there aren’t any legal penalties for breaches.

One-third of APMAIF’s funding comes from the formula companies themselves.

The overwhelming majority of breaches of the WHO Code reported to APMAIF are immediately dismissed as falling outside of its scope. Most of these relate to retailer activity. The Government’s excuse for excluding retailers from the agreement is that to do so would be “anti-competitive”. Since restrictions would affect all formula retailers in exactly the same way, this excuse is an utter nonsense.

Note, in particular, these two things about MAIF:

* only the formula company signatories are in any way affected by it;

* the advertising of bottles and teats, even if it includes language and images idealising bottle feeding and is very clearly banned by the WHO Code, is not covered.

The “Think Medela” Advertisement

Back to that ad, which is was available at, and which I believe has played on US television.

[Update 14 March 2009: the page is now re-directing to the main Medela page. You can (temporarily, probably) get a glimpse of it at the Google cache. Glitch or image management?]

[Update 20 March 2009: The advertisement on the Medela website has now been substantially edited, after complaints from the lactation community. This is the original version. ]

Shiny, isn’t it? Pretty. All full of love and gootchy-goo. Dig deeper.

The breastfeeding is a tiny part of this advertisement. It is shown in a private space, a home, with the mother’s breast mostly uncovered. No one else is present except the baby. Most of the advertisement is taken up talking about breastmilk, not about breastfeeding. The breastmilk is merely the product, a food. But here’s the money shot:

“When you choose to breastfeed, you’re doing what’s best for your baby. When you choose Medela breastfeeding products, you’re doing what’s best for you both.”

Medela is saying, directly, that breastfeeding is not best for women. It might be ok for babies, sure, because they get the breastmilk, but Medela is telling us loud and clear that pumping is better for mothers than breastfeeding is. No qualifications, no circumstances; just “pumping and bottle-feeding is best for women”, with a side serve of “and it’s just as good for babies”.

This isn’t just a WHO Code violation; it’s not true. And it’s a lie fed by all of our dysfunctional societal issues around breasts and breastfeeding and public feeding and mother-child attachment and women and the workplace. It’s fed by the huge pile of myths about how easy pumping is, and about how bottled stored breastmilk is just as good, and about how it’s vital to schedule feeds and “see how much babies are taking”, and about how babies don’t know when they’re hungry or thirsty or full or in need of comfort. The problem is, it isn’t just fed by those dysfunctions, it’s feeding back into them, reinforcing them.

These sorts of advertisements are part of the huge coercive societal mechanism denying support for mothers and children, part of the capitalist machine preventing women from being able to afford time with new babies, and keeping them being good little workers and consumers. I think it’s no coincidence that two countries with no moves towards a full legislative implementation of the Code, the USA and Australia, are also the only two industrialised countries in the world without mandatory paid maternity leave.

Words mean stuff. Marketing is powerful. Advertising works.

And it makes a whoooole lot of money.

Medela Bites Its Thumb At The WHO Code

In a position statement dated December 1, 2008 and published on February 11, 2009, the President of Medela, Carr Lane Quackenbush, announced the company’s intent to continue with an official policy of WHO Code violation. The position statement is titled “Medela Position on Marketing of Breastmilk Feeding Products to Mothers“. [emphases are mine]

Medela feels that it is very important to give mothers access to the information and education on the proper use and benefits of this complete feeding system, getting breastmilk from mom to baby. However, these activities bring Medela in a conflict with the current interpretation of the WHO Code with regard to the marketing of bottles and teats.

After a careful evaluation we believe our actions continue to support the WHO Code’s intent to support breastfeeding and oppose breastmilk substitutes. However, we recognize and sincerely regret that our actions may be considered as a WHO Code violation. This is painful for us given our common goals to support breastfeeding mothers. Medela will remain faithful to its Support Pledge and Destiny statement.

Anyone who believes the “painful” posing, raise your hand.

There’s no weaselly “current interpretation” or “may be considered” needed here. These particular advertisements have violated the Code since they started, and those violations are unambiguous.

Formal accounting of Medela’s violations

Medela’s Code breaches in Australia started at least six months ago, in Medela’s brochures claiming to be “breastfeeding guides”, but containing direct bottle and teat advertising. The brochures were distributed at an ABA conference.

They have been engaging in a vigorous bottle-and-teat giveaway programme in the USA, advertised through baby-stuff sites like this one:

Bottle and teat image captioned Free Medela BPA Free Breastmilk Bottle. To get yours, click here!

The “click here” link goes to Medela’s own giveaway page,, which is no longer active – and it seems Medela has deliberately excluded it from the Google cache and

WWe're sorry, access to has been blocked by the site owner via robots.txt.

However, they can’t expunge it from the freebie sites out there, like freegrabber:

Free BPA Breastmilk Bottle. This complimentary bottle is a limited offer to one per household within the contiguous US and Hawaii.

Another example of a Medela-sponsored and Code-violating bottle and teat giveaway is this one, but they’re everywhere.

Medela is also giving away a Glass Breastmilk Bottle Set to one Mom Most Traveled reader!

Marsha Walker, Executive Director of the US National Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy (NABA( REAL, has formally summarised some of Medela’s Code violations. NABA receives and reports on Code violations in the US, just as INFACT Canada does in Canada and Baby Milk Action does in the UK. Quoted with permission:

Medela as a manufacturer and distributer of products within the scope of the Code has a responsibility to market those products within the guidelines specified in the Code. They are permitted to sell the products, these products can be pictured on their website but the language describing the products must not idealize them. The products can be included in pump packages but cannot be pictured on the packaging. The following violations of the Code have been incurred by Medela:

1. direct advertising to the public in American Baby magazine with a feeding bottle and nipple pictured. The picture of the feeding bottle and artificial nipple is a violation of the International Code Article 5.

2. Pictures of feeding bottles and artificial nipples on the packaging of pumps or other equipment is a violation of the International Code Article 5.

3. Language in the product description cannot idealize the use of the feeding bottle/nipple. Some of the materials intended for distribution to mothers contains language that idealizes the use of the bottle/nipple for feeding the baby in violation of Article 9.

4. Since Medela is a manufacturer and distributor of products – bottles and nipples – that come under the scope of the Code, they may not seek contact (Article 5.5) direct or indirect with pregnant women or wit h mothers of infants and young children. Their recent contest giving away of glass bottles and their offer to sign up mothers for more give aways violates the Code.

5. Their TV ad violates the Code with the picturing of the feeding bottles and nipples. [The soundtrack had not been analysed by NABA at the time of writing. ~lauredhel] […]

Pumps are not covered under the Code, so we may not like how pumps are being marketed but that does not violate the Code.

Moves toward organisational boycotts of Medela sponsorship and advertising are already happening, where existing Codes of Ethics are in place forbidding dealings with Code violators. In the past few weeks, La Leche League (LLL) has severed sponsorship arrangements with Medela, due to their Code of Ethics:

One of the major criteria for acceptance of funding from a commercial source is respect of the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. If an organization profits from undermining breastfeeding — and this undermining can be very subtle — their aims are incompatible with ours.

The International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA) is also going about severing ties, in keeping with their By-Laws:

ILCA does not invest in, nor accept funding, donations, advertising nor sponsorship from, entities which do not comply with the International Code of Marketing of Breast- milk Substitutes and all subsequent WHA resolutions.

This also means that Medela cannot organise or contribute educational material to CERP-qualifying continuing education programmes for board-certified Lactation Consultants. From IBCLE’s information for Continuing Education Providers:

CERPs are not approved for programs organized by individuals or companies that manufacture, market or
distribute products within the scope of the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (e.g.
infant formula, bottles or teats); nor for programs where these companies or company personnel had input into
the choice of presenters or topics or the content of any presentation.

Medela is reaping what they have sown, here, and they knew damn well that this is what they were going to reap. These Codes of Ethics are out there in black and white, and they’ve been in place for years. Medela is deliberately biting its thumb not just at the World Health Organisation and UNICEF, but at all the volunteer and professional breastfeeding supporters out there doing their best to promote the health and well-being of mothers and babies worldwide. Because it doesn’t need them. It has Toys R Us and Babies Galore and BabyZone and morning television. And no-one can be bothered enforcing the Code, because large rich corporations won’t like it. Moves against rampant, unethical capitalism are unpopular with our government.

What You Can Do About It

So what can you do about marketing practices that violate the WHO Code?

* Lay complaints.

* Boycott.

* Make a noise.

1. Lay complaints with APMAIF, if you’re in Australia. Yes, I know I said that complaints outside the scope of the Code are dismissed. However, those complaints are still recorded, broken down, and reported. The volume of complaints outside the scope of APMAIF but within the scope of the Code has seen the committee agitating for a revamped look at the WHO Code in the Australian context in the past. Additional pressure may help keep this issue at the forefront for them.

When you see breast pump companies advertising bottles and teats, idealising language in bottle and formula promotions, formula ads splashed all over your pharmacist’s junk mail, formula company branding on breastfeeding “educational” material, baby food jars marked as being suitable from four months, co-branded “toddler milk” giveaways at parenting expos, website advertisements for Avent and Dr Brown’s and Medela and Nestle – pop a complaint in the box. Here’s the MAIF Complaint Form.

2. Boycott. If you do need to express milk and you can’t hand-express, grab a pump from the company that doesn’t thumb its nose at the Code: Ameda. [NOTE: I have no commercial or other relationship with this company in any way, and information on Code compliance is based on the current information available to me. This may change at any time.]

If you buy through Mothers Direct, the Australian Breastfeeding Association will get their cut to improve their voluntary activities. The “Purely Yours” is the Ameda gear. It’s at least as good and a little less expensive than the Medela gear. Code violating breast pump companies to boycott include: Medela, Avent, Dr Brown’s, Pigeon, Tommee Tippee, Nuk, Chicco, and Cherub.

If you’re in a position to influence an institutional or organisational policy on products within the scope of the Code, educate yourself and your colleagues, and do what you can to ensure that you’re not inadvertently contributing to Code violations or inappropriately forming partnerships with Code-violating companies that may lead to conflicts of interest.

3. Make a noise. Learn more about the Code. Write a note to your local MP and to the Health Minister asking about their support for and commitment to the WHO Code. Ring up. Contact Medela, and to other companies who don’t bother with the Code. Tell them why you’re boycotting. Talk to your local shopkeepers, write to retailers promoting artificial feeding in your area. Donate to the ABA, which supports breastfeeding nationwide on a shoestring budget. Start conversations, and keep them going. There is plenty you can do. But it takes a lot of people to do it.


Transcript/description of Thinkmedela advertisement:

[A slim blonde woman is pushing a shopping trolley. She puts a quart of white liquid in her trolley. The pink label reads “Breastmilk”.]

Voiceover: The best thing for your baby can’t be found in a store. And it won’t be found on sale.

[a slim white early-30s woman with brown hair sits on a bus or train, reading a newspaper. There is a full-page advertisement on the back of the paper advertising the pink-labelled “Breastmilk” product. The ad reads: “Give your baby the best.”

A train passes by a large billboard advertising the product.]

Voiceover: But as a new mother, you’ll be able to find it everywhere you go.

[The brunette mum holds baby up and touches nose; she is then shown breastfeeding on a sofa, her breast mostly uncovered from the top. Her baby looks to be under six months of age.]

Voiceover: When you choose to breastfeeding, you’re doing what’s best for your baby. [Closeup of smiling baby.]

Voiceover: When you choose Medela breastfeeding products, you’re doing what’s best for you. [Closeup of hands putting breastpump parts aside, and screwing a feeding teat onto a bottle. Closeup of hands putting the feeding bottle into a shiny-clean fridge with other bottles of breastmilk. Another shot of smiling mother and baby playing.]

Voiceover: So when you’re ready to start thinking about breastfeeding, think Medela.

[Longer shot of mother and baby playing in the background, with Medela feeding bottles and a pump foregrounded.]

Voiceover: To learn more, visit



[1] You can read the whole Code direct from the WHO, or go to IBFAN (the International Baby Food Action Network) for information on the issue of how breastfeeding is undermined by unethical marketing, the Code, and interpretation of the Code.

[2] Eye on the ball. If you’ve come in late to this conversation and you’re frothing at the gills, please read the links, and do a search on my previous posts on breastfeeding, feminism, and the Code. If you find yourself moved to rebut conversations on ethical marketing with statements including the strings “Makingmefeelguilty!”, “Freaspeach!”, “Justasgood!”, “Onlytryingtomakemoney!”, “Brownpaperbagsunderthecounter?!”, or “Crackednipplesteethnotenoughmilkdoctorsaid!”, please find a more appropriate forum. Above all, please remember that unless you are a formula or bottle manufacturer or retailer[3], or a healthcare or parenting information provider, the Code is not about you. Unless, perhaps, you’re looking for info on how to boycott and lay complaints about unethical companies.

If you are having difficulty breastfeeding and are looking for help, I suggest contacting the Australian Breastfeeding Association, La Leche League, or a local Internationally Board-Certified Lactation Consultant.

[3] If you do wish to wrangle with me, you are obliged to declare all interests of any kind, or the lack of them, up front. No fucking astroturfing.

[4] A Fightin’ Fourth Floating Footnote, as we’re now getting readers from all over, and reading the source links makes it clear that people really don’t know what the Code is. Please follow the links, particularly to IBFAN, and read the Code and its interpretation notes in full. After that, you will understand that the Code’s restrictions does NOT stop companies from making and selling pumps, bottles, and feeding teats. The Code’s restrictions do NOT stop you buying pumps and bottles and teats. They do NOT stop shops from stocking these items on shelves, they do NOT stop shopkeepers and healthcare workers from offering you fulll evidence-based information on these items, they do NOT restrict your access to these items in any way whatsoever. This is about advertising and promotions. Not about access to information and equipment.

If you think advertising is information, you have taken the blue pill. Or maybe two. Please exit by the purple door and enjoy your life in the Matrix.

Categories: ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, health, language, law & order, work and family

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23 replies

  1. Thanks – I need to get a pump and some bottles, but not because I want to schedule, or limit feeds. I want my husband to be able to feed and I want to continue breastmilk after I’ve gone back to work. It’s good to know that there is a more ethical choice as far as code violations go.

  2. So it seems from this that WHO says that you can’t show pictures of the bottles on the pump pack? So if you have a need for a pump and the bottles, you have to open the pack to see which kind it is, if you have preferences for these things? Odd. Seems to add to the stigma for us awful, horrible mothers that didn’t breastfeed for the prescribed time.
    I don’t disagree with you. I don’t believe that Medela are doing what they are doing for my benefit or for any other mother’s. I also agree that maternity leave entitlements are inextricably linked with this sort of exploitation. I support your campaign, and hope you do well.
    I just can’t commit to it, because it’s all too emotional, and I just can’t escape the fact that every time I read “Breastmilk is best for your baby, consult your physician before you use this product” on the formula I used for 2 of 3 kids, I wished I wasn’t being made to feel guilty for a decision I knew was best for us. I know your campaign isn’t personal, and I know it’s right in principle. I know I’m an outlier. But I imagine it’s not just big corporations that dig their heels in in the face of the WHO. I’m guessing I’m not the only one who can’t make the rational and emotional parts of the brain reconcile.
    Ariane’s last blog post..Finally!

  3. The giveaway on my site that you are referring to was part of a celebration of adoption. Medela very graciously donated a breast pump to an ADOPTIVE MOTHER so that she could stimulate milk production and breastfeed her baby. Medela has also developed a supplemental nursing system that allows women with inadequate or nonexistant milk supply to still feed their baby from the breast.
    I am a nursing mom, I nursed both of my birth children past their 2nd birthdays and I also used Medela products.
    I have worked in third world countries where formula is serious health issue, but from what I have seen in my personal experiences, the formula companies are to blame. My experience saw impoverished mothers choosing formula over breastfeeding because formula costs money, and therefore gives some kind of status to the family. Because they can “afford” to formula feed, that gives them status points.
    I do wish you would have read my blog before vilifying my site. I fail to see how a product donation to the adoptive family of a special needs baby can violate any kind of moral or ethical code.

  4. Medela has also developed a supplemental nursing system that allows women with inadequate or nonexistant milk supply to still feed their baby from the breast.

    Yes, it does. If you’re after for a Code-compliant alternative for the mothers you support, I’m sure you’re aware that the Lact-Aid is also available.

    I also used Medela products.

    As did I. And I’m righteously fucking pissed off that I made major contributions to their pump research at the time, as they’ve now used that information (among others) to say a big fuck you to breastfeeding supporters.

    I do wish you would have read my blog before vilifying my site.

    I did not “vilify” your site.

    I fail to see how a product donation to the adoptive family of a special needs baby can violate any kind of moral or ethical code.

    I’ve provided lots and lots of links to the Codes and to the rationale behind them in the post. You can read them and think, or you can knee-jerk about your Perfect Legal Right to do Medela’s advertising for them. And you have got a Perfect Legal Right, at this stage. As have I, to speak about the issue.

  5. Formula companies who give gifts of cans of formula and diaper bags to moms in special care or NICU or pediatric or obstetric offices would be more of a violation of the spirit of the WHO code.
    I myself was given loads of formula by the hospital, even though I told them repeatedly I was going to breastfeed. I came home with 6 cans of formula (donated to adoptive family).
    Later, at a grocery store in Thailand, my son was given toys and picture books with formula company names written on them (free).
    I think knowing everything you can about breast pumps is a benefit to moms who have to choose a pump. I chose unwisely and pumping was difficult and frustrating. It wasn’t until I took the plunge and made a major investment on a double electric pump that I felt it was something I continue for as long as necessary. How could I have made the choice without having access to promotional information to read and compare?
    My point about the post on my blog was that it was my personal testimonial. I did not receive any compensation from Medela to write it or post it. Secondly, it was my idea to contact them to see if they would give away a product on my blog. The giveaway was a prize, for one person. It wasn’t a “free sample” program.
    You might view it as free advertising, but I do the same thing for many products that I have enjoyed using, everything from cloth diapers to shoes.

  6. And still it goes on…

    BRISBANE CITY Hall’s Labor leader has been blasted for leaving the council chamber to express breast milk for her three-month-old baby daughter.
    Shayne Sutton yesterday said she was shocked at the highly personal attack which occurred after she returned to the chamber last Tuesday night following a 15-minute absence.

    The Courier Mail
    Deus Ex Macintosh’s last blog post..Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot, like me…

  7. Thank you so much for such a comprehensive, well-researched blog entry. With the decision by La Leche League International to stop all ventures with Medela, many unfamiliar with how Code compliance works and why it is so important have found this whole issue of “idealizing” and marketing bottles to be confusing – perhaps much ado about nothing. Your blog will help confused breastfeeding supporters understand how Medela has sold out mothers in a way no less nefarious than Nestle.

  8. Thank-you for this!
    I used Medela exclusively w/ my daughter, mostly b/c my tribe loaned me a hospital grade pump to encourage me to keep breastfeeding. When you first mentioned that they were violating codes I had no idea what that meant, and this post was very informative.
    We are hoping to have another child soon, and I am planning to breastfeed again, and I will need a pump and bags and bottles. I now have a start of research for the best products for us. I was also unaware of all the other brands that violate such things. I was gifted Avent bottles w/ my last child (which I don’t have anymore), and now will need to find good bottles that are ethical.
    Thanks again!
    OuyangDan’s last blog post..A (quasi daily) Kitteh…

  9. BRISBANE CITY Hall’s Labor leader has been blasted for leaving the council chamber to express breast milk for her three-month-old baby daughter.

    There’s certainly an obvious solution to that one, and it doesn’t need to change the timing of her expression sessions.

  10. (I don’t want to put you on the spot, Ariane, though you’re welcome to answer if you wish.)
    To anyone here with overwhelming breastfeeding problems who feeds/fed from a bottle (or other feeding device) when you would rather have been feeding from the breast directly:
    How do advertisements like this one, and editorial pieces on exclusive pumping, make you feel – when they construct and promote pumping and bottle feeding as a glossy super-fun experience, something mothers prefer and choose (and should choose) because it’s better for them?

  11. Really, honestly, they make me laugh. I can’t even imagine why you would want to breast feed AND clean bottles without needing to. The stuff I liked best about bf was the portability, lack of cleaning, lack of technology. I used pumps for intermittent occasions – to allow hubby to look after the baby for more than a couple of hours at a time.
    When the stress of bf eventually got to me, I dreaded having to go to bottles. At least I was doing it post- the 3 months fanatical sterilising zone. I didn’t go to bottles (once pumping was over) at all with the first, he couldn’t tolerate formula so he ate a LOT of yoghurt.
    Actually, until you explained this ad, it never occurred to me they were suggesting full time pumping and bottle feeding. That concept is so ludicrous to me as the “best” option that it never entered my thoughts. I know people who have done a great deal of pumping and bottle feeding, and have always felt somewhat in awe of their determination. Not jealous of their free and easy lifestyle!

  12. A friend from my first mother’s group pumped for six months because she had difficulty getting her baby to latch on and feed properly. We were all in awe of her dedication, but no one envied her.

  13. Actually, until you explained this ad, it never occurred to me they were suggesting full time pumping and bottle feeding. That concept is so ludicrous to me as the “best” option that it never entered my thoughts.

    Unfortunately it’s an idea that’s been very recently gaining a lot of cultural traction. I’d say in the past four or five years, it’s really taken off, and more so over the past 18 months. I don’t think it’s coincidental that this is happening at the same time that pump marketing has also exploded.
    The influences are complex, but they’re tied up with a lot of things we’ve discussed here on Hoyden – hate for public breastfeeding, the “once they can ask for it they need to be off the breast” mentality, dislike of children in some public spaces, forced early return to work, all tied up with this sort of advertising (which does have power, otherwise it wouldn’t exist). And of course, once you start setting women up to pump early instead of feed, you’re setting many (not all) of them up for poor supply and early weaning. Because, as you say, it’s eight kinds of bloody hard work, in many ways much harder than breastfeeding (assuming a latchable baby).
    Just look at the comment threads that come up every single time public breastfeeding is discussed. “Can’t she just pump?” “If you MUST feed that baby breastmilk, at least put it in a bottle!”
    (Mindy: I exclusively pumped for fifteen months, so I know what you mean.)

  14. My son (now a healthy 3 year old) was born on a wed afternoon. We went home Thurs and were back to hospital and into emergency on Fri morning as he had been vomiting copious (for a newborn) amounts of blood. He stopped feeding and they put him on a drip ‘nil by mouth’ for 4 days, during which time my milk came in. Friday we spent in emergency from 7am, and it was 5pm before they finally admitted him, he didn’t feed all day and I was in all kinds of agony with engorged boobs. The nurses were awesome in the children’s ward. They organised an electric pump for me (it had to be delivered from the maternity wards – due to the fact that we’d left the hospital Isaac wasn’t put in NICU we were put in children’s ward together) and bottles and told me to pump as often as I would feed him if I was able and insisted that I keep the milk that I pumped as it was full of colostrum. So when we were discharged I went home with all these bottles of what looked like orange juice. Isaac had little trouble feeding after several days of being on a drip, and I had a nice little stash of milk for occasions when I might need it. Anyhow the point of all this is to say that it felt absolutely awful not being able to breastfeed my newborn and I couldn’t wait until they gave me the all clear to feed him again. For me pumping was a good stop gap measure, and the electric pump was amazing compared to doing it by hand, but I was certainly pleased when it was no longer required. I have a lot of admiration for women that pump for extended periods of time due to work or latching issues.
    In hindsight, knowing what I know now (primarily from posts on the topic here) I would have seen about donating some of that milk, but at the time it never occurred to me and certainly nobody mentioned the possibility. I was just pleased then that they’d organised the pump so I wouldn’t lose my supply.
    Until reading your posts on this topic Lauredhel I had absolutely NO idea that breastfeeding was so political (beyond the ‘breasfeeding in public’ stuff) and I certainly wasn’t aware of the code.

  15. @Lauredhel: Just goes to show my obliviousness. My youngest is 16 months and I completely missed this. In fact, every time I hear that “Why can’t she just pump?” I think “You haven’t pumped have you?”.
    I should also mention that I have never had a problem bf in public. I have done it in all sorts of unlikely places, including work sheds at the RTA (full kudos to the RTA for not even balking at it, and the guy I was mostly working for doesn’t have kids). Given my obliviousness on the first count, it is highly likely I was being heavily frowned upon and didn’t notice on numerous occasions.
    I agree that this advertising has an impact, even if it doesn’t on me. Just adds to the need for MUCH more conversation about all aspects of parenting, especially the hard bits. I can’t imagine too many mothers who have pumped full time or part time advocating it as the best option.

  16. It hadn’t occurred to me, either, until you pointed it out. The thought of exclusively pumping when I had no other obstacles is crazy! I pumped enough to be able to work, but even that was a struggle to keep up. As it was, I was feeding on one breast while pumping the other. I have no idea where I would have found all the free time to do all of that extra pumping. One of the things I loved about breastfeeding is that I didn’t have to be fully awake to feed a crying baby at 3AM. No mixing, heating or anything. There is no way I would have been able to handle pumping at night for comfort. If that is what the adverts are suggesting then I don’t find that very reasonable or mother friendly.
    I know plenty of people who had to pump due to latching issues or work, so I don’t blame them one bit, nor would I assume that they were somehow doing it wrong or try to otherwise shame them. I just can’t imagine how much work it has to be to exclusively pump. Part of the beauty of breastfeeding is the not having to fuss w/ it. It’s literally on demand.
    OuyangDan’s last blog post..Warrior by Marie Brennan

  17. As a non-Mum, I have to admit my own reading of the ad was more along the lines of “well we can’t make any money out of your breastmilk, but our bottles don’t have to ONLY be used for formula…” (I’m not sure there are any people willing to accept the suggestion that an advertiser can know “what’s best for them or their child”).

  18. Until reading your posts on this topic Lauredhel I had absolutely NO idea that breastfeeding was so political (beyond the ‘breasfeeding in public’ stuff) and I certainly wasn’t aware of the code.

    Awww, that’s the nicest thing anyone’s said to me for a while 🙂 Really. Realising that domestic and family work – ALL kinds of domestic and family work – are political, are larger than what happens inside my doors, has been a huge part of my feminism.

  19. This all just blows my mind. We sell Medela at work, and I love their products. It’s going to take me a while to process all this.
    I am in the US, by the way, and I have never seen a Medela ad on TV here. Just formula ads. But the thing is, a lot of the formula ads say “breastmilk is best, BUT if you can’t, our formula is…” The Medela ad just says “using these bottles and this pump is best for both of you.” It’s like they’re saying “don’t torture yourself, just get a pump!” I did pump, but it was aggravating. I did it to increase supply in the early days (probably would’ve been better to just sit with baby and nurse nonstop for that). Then later I pumped for work. It is not fun, no matter how cheerful the cute little yellow pump looks. It is a better option than formula if you have no choice.
    Sorry to ramble, but here is my main concern. I work in a hospital boutique where we rent the pumps. I’ve seen a lot of young moms on government assistance who think they want to breastfeed but they decide to pump exclusively because the baby won’t latch and they don’t take the effort to straighten out the problem or (more commonly, perhaps) they are grossed out by the idea of a baby directly nursing. They ASSUME they will be handed a pump on a silver platter, because that’s the way everything else works: hospital bills paid in full, most of their formula for free, food vouchers, etc. Well, that isn’t the way it works. There are pumps, but they are selectively given to moms of preemies who cannot breastfeed yet or moms who are medically unable to breastfeed. (Even if the mom can get a pump, they make her wait a couple of weeks because for that time the mom should be nursing on demand and shouldn’t have introduced a bottle yet.) They’ve already screwed up by pumping in the hospital and giving the baby nipple confusion, and they have no money to buy a pump. That’s when they switch to formula. I think it’s irresponsible for Medela to encourage pumping this aggressively when they KNOW no one is going to furnish a pump for all these parents!
    I mean, I know they think “well, at least we’re advertising breast milk. Pumped milk is better than formula!” But my point is, exclusively pumping almost always translates into formula. If not, it runs mom ragged.
    And it goes without saying that pumping cuts out all the benefits that the act of nursing offers. Geez. I feel a blog coming on.

  20. Jenny… can I just ask you for a little more nuance on the issue of EPing, as apart from the issue of bottle marketing? I’d be happy to help you with your blog research privately, as I support some mums who EP elsewhere. Some do it by choice, some by circumstance, some desperately wish to nurse and can’t; there’s a whole range. Some of your clients are very likely to have issues that they will _not_ tell you about at a pump rental station, issues caused by the spectrum of patriarchal indoctrination and violence and domestic, family, and religious/cultural abuse. (Not all religions, of course.) When I catch a whiff of victim-blaming on that, it makes me twitch.
    The one constant I’ve found in the mums who want to nurse and can’t, is that many of them are successful – often very successful! – with real, present, knowledgeable peer-to-peer support. And some even get their babies to breast later, even many months down the track (for example, after cleft surgery, or just with persistence, and so on.) It does run many ragged, especially in the first weeks, but it’s not invariably a death knell to breastmilk production.

  21. To the person whose comment has been moderated:
    1. We don’t publish comments from fake email addresses.
    2. Using rape metaphors for percentage-point price increases is unacceptable on my threads.
    3. If you have a financial interest in any breast pump or breastfeeding related products, please declare it in your post.

  22. I am saddened to read this discussion. We have found the enemy and he is us. When we go after a company that has been tremendously helpful to breastfeeding women and to lactation consultants, we fight ourselves and the formula companies win. I agree, there should be reasons given for pumps and bottles, but these comments are full of hate. We know that many women are turned off by such a strong view of breastfeeding at the breast and nothing else is acceptable. In addition, it is offensive to read these posts and see the foul language. It has no place in our care and outreach to mothers. I was sad to see how this blog would turn some away from breastfeeding. I for one am thankful for breastfeeding support devices such as pumps and even bottles. We need a kinder gentler approach to this issue. I work with women every day who keep breastfeeding going because of their Medela pumps, the only pumps available at my hospital. I guess Ameda is having a good time.

  23. Is this issue just about Medela’s marketing of bottles and artificial bottle nipplies and violating the WHO Code? I believe that there is more to this issue than is being publicly discussed. Medela owns quite a few patents at the US Patent & Trademark Office that are what I call “mechanical” patents– pumps and medical devices. But in 2008 they have applied for 3 patents that are very different from these mechanical patents.
    Patent application# 20080075819 called, “Treatment of mother’s milk,” patent application #20080118615 called, “Method for Analysing & Treating Human Milk and System Therefore,” and patent application #20080187619 called, Human Milk Fortifiers & Methods for Production.” All three patents are invented by Peter Edwin Hartmann et al. (Hartman and his team are Australian) To read them go to the US Patent & Trademark Office and go to patent applications (right side of screen)
    These patent applications are not on devices but on a product and ways to modify it–human milk. The commodification of human milk has changed the politics of infant feeding. Mark Cregan and Peter Hartman are co-inventors of a patent application dated in 2007 called “Method for isolating cells from mammary secretion.” (application # 20070059822). This application is on ownership of stem cells in human milk and I believe that the research on this was funded by Medela. What is Medela’s intent with this patent applications? There are over 2000 human milk patents and patent applications owned by corporations, medical schools like John Hopkins and Baylor, and the US Government at the US Patent Office & Trademark Office (other patent offices throughout the world). I have written about this for a decade. I have encountered a “wall of silence,” from the breastfeeding community regarding this issue and I expect that has not changed. But Medela’s patent applications show a business interest in human milk. There is enormous interest in the properties of human milk by the infant formula, supplement, food, and pharmaceutical industries. Protecting breastfeeding will become an enormous task in the midst of this biotechnological drive for ownership of human milk components or its gene constructs.

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