Commercial products marketed at breastfeeding families

The poor woman. She scanned my maternity clothes as I maneuvered around my pregnant belly to browse the trinkets for sale on the check out counter.

“What is this?” I held up a small blue and pink bottle labeled with fluffy bubble letters.

“It’s a milk enhancer and supply booster,” she replied cheerfully, neatly wrapping my merchandise in fuchsia tissue paper.

“Right, because women are so incapable of feeding our babies without the help of some stupid commercial product,” I snapped sarcastically, narrowing my glare, shaking my head.

Her eyes widened. She laughed nervously. That poor woman at the receiving end of my wrath.

As lactation professionals, it is helpful for us to know what kind of products are marketed to mothers who wish to breastfeed. Many of the products are expensive, some of them are completely useless and several of them totally disregard how lactation and breastfeeding work, undermining mothers’ desire to breastfeed.

I’m incensed by the notion companies have conceived that women need all of this stuff to make breastfeeding work. We don’t. Healthy mothers of healthy term babies simply need a breast, a brain and a baby.

I’ve created this post to call attention to the variety of companies and products that prey on mothers and babies. (Please note, this post is not intended to ridicule families who find purpose for these products.)

Below is a list of these infant feeding products in no particular order.

  • Lactation Supplement & Breast Milk Enhancers. A 12 pack of one brand sells for just under 36 dollars, and “you only need to drink two a day to see the benefits and begin increasing the quality and quantity of your breast milk.” How insulting to wrongfully deem women’s milk quality subpar. The supplement is made with fenugreek which has not been proven to increase milk production. Expensive? Check. Ineffective? Check. Insulting? Check.
  • Nursing capes, ponchos, scarves, tents, etc. Do these products actually make breastfeeding more discreet, or do they draw more attention to the nursing dyad? Check out this blog post to read about why nursing covers are a problem.
  • Alcohol testing strips. These home tests claim to “quickly and accurately analyze breast milk for alcohol.” One case study shows that these strips display the same results when dipped in milk expressed after consuming one glass of wine and when dipped directly into a glass of wine. Yikes. Instead of purchasing a product, breastfeeding mothers can monitor safe alcohol consumption for free. Fancy that.
  • Lactation cookies. Cookies are delicious, but there’s no solid evidence to suggest that eating them with increase milk production. Instead, why not feed the baby on cue to ensure adequate milk production?
  • Nursing pillows. Maybe it’s just me, but the ergonomics of nursing pillows just don’t jive well with the dangle of my breasts. I’ll stick with the pillows that are already on my bed.
  • Latch assisting tools. These products claim that they gently draw out the nipple for easier latch-on for your baby. “Perfect for the early days of breastfeeding.” Am I missing something here? Are we talking about nipple feeding or breastfeeding? Do these companies think that every mother has shy nipples?
  • Breastfeeding supplements for the nursing mother by formula companies. “Nutrients for mom to support breast milk quality.” Again with the insults without science to back them up. Read more about formula companies and their devious marketing.
  • Powdered breastmilk. For profit, freeze-dried breast milk. Yes, you read that right. The pitch: “The convenience of formula– the health benefits of breast milk.” Don’t even get me started.
  • For profit donor milk. Read on.
  • Nipple creams. If a mother experiences sore nipples, she needs professional intervention to help identify the cause of her pain. This study done by a few Healthy Children Faculty, “indicate(s) that effective care and perinatal education for nursing mothers with sore nipples should include assessment of breastfeeding positioning and latch-on, as well as education and corrective interventions using a guidance tool, whether or not commercial preparations are used.” Nipple creams will never be as effective as qualified lactation care providers. Find one here.
  • Nipple shields. Nipple shields should not be marketed as a normal breastfeeding intervention. They can inhibit prolactin release, wreaking havoc on milk production among other things. Besides, nipple shields are condom-like and cumbersome. Why bother if you don’t have to?
  • Apps that count and time feedings. Can we agree that feeding the baby on cue is a better alternative? I bet you’ve heard this one before, “Watch the baby, not the clock.”
  • Breast pumps when marketed this way: “Extract some milk during the day and let Daddy have a turn with a bottle, preferably at 3am.” Yes, do this if you’d like to start the weaning process.

Is it any wonder we live in a breastfeeding un-friendly culture? If you’re looking for infant feeding companies who uphold the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, visit http://www.bestforbabes.org/carecode/.

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