by Star Rodriguez
My former in-laws are fantastic people. They are absolutely lovely, and I still maintain a positive relationship with them, despite being divorced from their son.
They were also very uncertain about breastfeeding.
My ex mother in law was a teen mother in the seventies, when there was little breastfeeding support and absolutely no support for teen mothers. My ex father in law and his family are incredibly conservative folk with standards of modesty that are as high as they go in most of the United States. My former sister in law nursed her first for a brief time and then stopped, choosing to not attempt with the second. So when I had my first, there was no precedent for exclusively breastfeeding.
During the entire time I nursed my daughter, male members of the family left the room rather than be near an exposed boob. In certain areas, I was asked to cover up (politely, I will add.) My mother in law lamented once or twice that she never got to feed the baby.
Still, I stuck to my guns, nursing my baby on demand, anywhere that we were. If we were at someone’s home and they wanted me to cover up, I respected their wishes, despite disagreeing that it was necessary. My husband became a staunch supporter of breastfeeding, and if someone said something that he thought hinted at criticism, he would start recounting benefits of breastfeeding and risks of formula feeding. When we did have some nursing issues, and I had to work to overcome them, my in-laws had become so used to breastfeeding that they were staunch supporters in my struggle to make it all work out. For you to know what a 180 that was, you should know that when I told my mother in law in the beginning that I was nursing – and on demand – she asked me how she would possibly be able to have my daughter stay overnight with her. This was at a few days old, and, yes, she absolutely meant In the not too distant future.
Fast forward to yesterday, when I heard about this Evenflo ad that everyone was up in arms about. Let me first say that Evenflo has the distinct displeasure of being the worst reviewed pump company with my clients. They constantly report things like breaking pumps, bad customer service, pain, and an inability to get milk out. These can all significantly affect a breastfeeding relationship. In one case, a mother using an Evenflo pump had some pretty awful nipple damage from a malfunctioning pump. Despite the fact that their pumps were terrible, I would recommend other, decent Evenflo products like I was their marketing division, since they were one of the few WHO Code compliant companies. (What’s the WHO code? Here’s the official document of the World Health Organization’s Code of ethics for marketing breastmilk substitutes, another explaining it in more detail (last 2 pages are summary) and the wikipedia article on the code.)
Evenflo has since decided to abandon the WHO Code in favor of more marketing, and one of the results is this advertisement that mocks breastfeeding in public, depicting uncomfortable and pushy in-laws who claim that breastfeeding means no one else can feed and thus bond with the baby, and includes an awkward scene after the mom pumps (We wanted to be able to share the video with you but after a strong backlash it appears to have been pulled but not after millions had already viewed it.)
There are so many terrible things about this ad. The bullying, stereotypical in-laws. The dad who won’t speak up. The implication that breast size is tied to milk making capacity (it isn’t.) How long the mother in law implies that breastfeeding takes. The idea that bonding can only come from feeding. The horrified face of the father in law after drinking the breastmilk-laced coffee. Listen, I like low-brow humor, and even I was disgusted by this. In fact, when I showed my husband it (who does not take violations of the Code or breastfeeding stuff as seriously as I do) he said, “Really? Is that a joke? They’re trying to sell pumps with that? But it makes breastfeeding and breastmilk look terrible and disgusting!”
I work with women every day. Women who want to breastfeed, but… They can’t trust that their baby is getting enough. They can’t get over societal-induced fears of public breastfeeding. They can’t believe that their bodies can produce something that is superior to science. And so when I watch things like this, I cringe. You see, I was that girl. And I had an in-law experience that could have turned bad. We conquered it with positivity, but if I had not had a good support group and encouragement, that might not have been the case. And so this ad disgusts me and fills me full of rage. Who are you, Evenflo, to tell a mom to hide in the bedroom and pump instead of standing up for herself? Who are you to undermine someone’s confidence and call it fun and games?
There is one silver lining to this terrible ad, though. In my time on Evenflo Baby’s Twitter and Facebook and in comments on articles about this, I have seen both breast and formula feeding women standing up and calling this ad horrible. That warms my heart. Moms have it hard, no matter how they are feeding their baby. Seeing the Mommy Wars put aside to focus on something that does a disservice to women as a whole is pretty awesome.
Evenflo has issued a half-apology PR statement on their Facebook and Twitter that reads, “We hear you. We appreciate how passionate you are. We are equally passionate and fully support all moms and the personal choices they make everyday.” The video remained up until this morning. But while this particular video is currently unavailable, the rest in the “savvy parents” series are similarly demeaning and damaging. You can view those here. In fact, check out their webisode of how to survive 3am feedings. It’s served up with an (un)healthy side of parental stupidity, sexism (towards men- too stupid to deal with bottles), and really, really bad breastfeeding practices (giving even a bottle of expressed breastmilk at night could lesson a mom’s night milk making, crucial to supply!) not to mention what mother wouldn’t be in tears over all the spilled expressed breast milk!
Please join me and the countless others in letting Evenflo know that this isn’t ok. Companies do listen to feedback, especially negative feedback. Their Facebook and Twitter are both open for commenting, and I urge you to do so. Let’s let Evenflo know that savvy parenting looks much different than they think.
I shared this on Facebook and I’ll share it here. The problem I have with this video is that it perpetuates this idea that breastfeeding is weird, gross, awkward and prevents others bonding with the baby. All myths and all ones willingly encouraged by a society that undervalues breastfeeding and dismisses the women that breastfeed.
The commercial is obviously campy, it’s over the top, overacted, and ridiculous. Obviously intended to be funny. However, even with recognizing those aspects it plants the idea that a mom should just run off to a room to pump to spare anyone the discomfort of seeing her breastfeed and give into the demands of someone that feels it is their right to feed her baby as well. If a woman wants to pump and let others feed her baby a bottle of her milk, fine, her choice. If she feels forced to pump by harassing individuals it’s another matter entirely. This commercial, in all it’s camped up attempts at humor, gives onlookers “permission” to say to a breastfeeding mom “why can’t you just go pump so someone else can feed the baby” or “you should bring a bottle of pumped milk so you don’t have to breastfeed in public.” Or worse like “you can’t do that here.”
Anything communicating that breastfeeding is wrong, gross, or something a woman should feel awkward and ashamed about just isn’t funny. Just like I will never find racist or sexist humor funny, I will never find humor that attempts to shame breastfeeding moms funny. Period. ~Jessica