Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Infant Feeding Wars: PR Campaign?

"The newer salesmanship, understanding the group structure of society and the principles of mass psychology, would first ask: "Who is it that influences the eating habits of the public?" The answer, obviously, is: "The physicians." The new salesman will then suggest to physicians to say publicly that it is wholesome to eat bacon. He knows as a mathematical certainty, that large numbers of persons will follow the advice of their doctors, because he understands the psychological relation of dependence of men upon their physicians."
--by Edward Bernays, from his book entitled "Propaganda,"  Bernays is credited for getting US women to smoke in the late 1920's through public relation campaigns featuring models and actresses smoking.

Who influences the eating habits of infants?  Yes, physicians have a great influence, just like they did in the 1920's.  But the advent of the internet, the Virtual has created a whole new realm of influence...blogs.  The CDC uses its "mommy bloggers."  One campaign was to address, "the importance of vaccination, vaccine safety and communication messages. see "Don't get the Flu. Don't Spread the Flu.  Get Vaccinated."

Then we have various infant formula companies using bloggers to market their products to parents and families.  Nestle is using Latina Mom Bloggers (Joscelyn from Mami of Multiples, Ericka from Nibbles & Feasts, Liz from Thoughts of a Mommy and Dari from Mami Talks)

"Abbott Pays Mommy Blogs to Review Similac App," an article written by Ed Silverman at

discusses the lack of transparency by some bloggers about their associations with the industry.

Some mommy bloggers disclose their associations to the infant formula industry, some do not.  So how do readers of these mommy blogs evaluate the content of some sites, if there is no disclosure of financial ties.  I don't think it is an easy task.  

Are their mommy bloggers hired to promote breastfeeding?  Yes, I believe this is so.  The US Government is spending money promoting breastfeeding.  I am sure the size of the budget for this is miniscule compared to the infant formula industry.  

What I believe we are witnessing on the internet, on the Virtual, is a war between public relation camps.  Each side willing to make the most outrageous comments.  Should we believe that the commentators to these blogs are just "Josephine, citizen."  Are they just a part of the huge network of PR people assisting their friends in the PR industry of smoke and mirrors?  Certainly some commentators are from the PR industry; intent on making a stir, creating more traffic to blog sites (believing that this adds credibility to a blog). And certainly some commentators are who they say they are, a citizen who wants to be heard.

For instance trained actress (according to her resume), Suzanne Barston Cobb, Fearless Formula Feeder, had over 300 comments to her post/critique on a paper published in IBJ (International Breastfeeding Journal) on emergency infant feeding.  Some statements by commentators were outrageous and one commentator seems to think that boiling water for infant formula (even in emergency situations is unnecessary).  The concern seems to be if the WHO/UNICEF made these recommendations for infant feeding, then obviously it is a political ploy.  Maybe these commentators should read  literature from the International Formula Council on Bottle Safety Tips...
"Be sure to ask your pediatrician if you should boil and cool the water that you mix with the formula.  Depending on where you live and the quality of your water supply, boiling the water may help to keep your baby safe and healthy."

I would encourage parents to read the IFC (Infant Formula Council:  members are Abbott, Mead Johnson, Nestle, PBM Products/ A Perrigo Company, Pfizer) statement on genetically modified ingredients.  "The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory agencies have declared that foods and ingredients produced through biotechology are safe.  The FDA also has concluded that all genetically modified (GM) ingredients they have approved for use in human foods, including infant formulas, are the same in composition, nutritional value and quality as non-biotechnology derived ingredients, and therefore labeling of foods containing GM ingredients is not required in the U.S."

Actually I don't believe that statement is quite correct.  The FDA leaves it up to industry to declare their product safe.

Fearless Formula Feeder and her commentators are planning to write to the journal that posted the paper on infant feeding in emergencies.  In her post she cites the article to the Journal of Human Lactation.  The article was not published there, but in the online publication called International Breastfeeding Journal. 

There is a blog called, Moms Feeding Freedom written by Kate Kahn.  The IFC (International Formula Council) recommends this blog.  And Source Watch states that this blog is funded by the IFC.  Kate Kahn is an adjunct professor at Boston University and was senior news producer at WHDH-TV (NBC-Boston).  She is the Principal at Kahn Communications.  Her blog has some featured articles:   "Selling your breast milk online--a dangerous trend,"  "Depression, Postpartum and Breastfeeding," "Breastfeeding--it's not really free."  And all brought to you by the IFC.  I think I have heard the mantra, "Breastfeeding-- its not really free," somewhere else?  Oh yeah, I remember...from some breastfeeding advocates.  Seems like breastfeeding advocates and infant formula advocates think along the same lines.  

Certainly, this infant feeding war, creates TRAFFIC.  Exchanges get very heated.  But who is creating this so-called war?  
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain

No comments:

Post a Comment