Friday, June 7, 2013

The evils of milk marketing

My friend asked me yesterday, "What milk do you give your kids?" It's hard to reply because I think, even though it looks like a simple question, it actually has a very complicated answer.

I give Vito fresh milk. He weaned suddenly when he was just 13 months old. Absolutely refused to drink my breastmilk. So I just gave him goat's milk formula, which he had drunk sporadically since he was about 5 months old. It was the standby milk in case I was away from home too long and my expressed breastmilk ran out, which was rare. So a small can of goat's milk formula back then would last us two to three months. But when he weaned, he was consuming 10 cans a month. No kidding. We were spending a minimum of P4000 a month on goat's milk formula.

We can afford it but I didn't want to spend that much money. That's crazy money! The pedia said that since Vito was already 18 months old, he can drink ordinary milk. He didn't need formula. She said he hasn't needed formula since he turned a year old. Plus, he should be drinking just 16 oz of milk a day. That's just 2 glasses. So Vito drinks fresh cow's milk twice a day. That's it. When I have extra expressed breastmilk, I sneak it into Vito's milk!

I give Iñigo breastmilk. Mine. I give him fruit juice and I've given him a few sips of fresh milk but he prefers mine. So mama's breastmilk pa rin. And I'm not quitting nursing anytime soon.

Okay, now here comes the difficult part.

I've been feeling guilty about something. A few weeks ago, I blogged about NIDO sending us milk samples. The milk was clearly for preschoolers so I thought there was nothing wrong about writing about it. It's not infant milk. It's not even toddler milk. But then I got an email this morning, which I'll paraphrase:
"I saw that Vito and Iñigo are drinking NIDO. Why did you choose this milk? I'm thinking of weaning and I'm choosing what milk to give my one-year-old baby and I find that the formulas are very expensive. Since you give NIDO to your kids, I'll give NIDO to mine."

Oh no. No. I do NOT give NIDO to my kids. Nowhere in the blog post did I say that they drank NIDO. I even said that Vito and Iñigo do not drink formula or special milk for infants and toddlers. All I said was Vito wanted to taste the chocolate flavor. He did taste it but he didn't like it. But you'll have to take my word for it because I deleted the blog post before I could do more damage.

I am very upset because I didn't think the post could be harmful. For me, the milk was for preschoolers. But because I posted a photo of my kids playing with the boxes (they weren't drinking it!), readers who did not read the post thought my boys drink formula/special milk and, more alarming, thought of giving formula/special milk to their babies.

I'm not saying formula is evil. I will never say formula is evil because my Vito drank it. But I will say that I feel very guilty that one reader (and I hope it really is just one reader) was swayed by clever marketing that also swayed me. I'm a smart woman but apparently, I wasn't smart enough to see this. My stand on breastfeeding was compromised and I apologize if my integrity was compromised. I didn't see the harm because it was clearly preschool milk! But apparently many mothers don't see the difference and this upsets me.

Breastmilk is best for your children. It will always be the best starting food for your kids from birth to early childhood, even preschool years. If you can breastfeed up to the school years, then that's great. If you choose to give formula to your kids, then please do so upon the advice of your pediatrician. That's the reason why I never say the brand of goat's milk formula that Vito once drank. I don't want moms to go and buy milk that my child's pedia recommended for him. I believe that formula milk is like prescription drugs. They should only be given upon the advice of a pediatrician. I know that's a controversial stand but that is what I believe.

Again, I apologize if my integrity was compromised.

25 comments:

  1. Thank you for this Frances! This is a concrete example of how our stories can affect people and this is why milk companies are now very aggressive on social media.

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  2. I salute you Frances for this post.

    My daughter went from breastmilk to fresh cow's milk (fully weaned at 30 months). We never went through the formula phase. I was formula fed myself but I do agree breast is best.

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  3. Hi Frances! I think the mom who misinterpreted your post is quite stupid. Sorry for the term. Being a mom, she must know the difference of infant formulas, growing up milk for preschoolers, etc. As you've said it, she didn't understand "Preschool Milk" so it has nothing to do with milk marketing. It's more of the education for moms for the types of milk out there that's lacking.

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    1. I think this just means that a lot of moms don't have the luxury of time or resources to really arm themselves with knowledge =( What they see on TV, magazines, newspapers, and what their favorite celebrities and bloggers endorse, they'll believe. So marketing is very powerful.

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  4. It's very humble and brave of you to talk about this issue, Frances! That's why you are such an influential blogger, because you are so very clear about where you stand. I support you in this. I guess this is also an indicator for us mom bloggers just how closely people watch our lives as we live them through the posts on our blog! Again, thank you for your transparency and honesty.

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  5. Hi! Just wondering where do you get the fresh cow's milk here in Manila? :) Thanks!

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    1. Sweetie, fresh cow's milk is available at groceries. Yung mga ready to drink like Nestle's, Magnolia, etc. Don't give your child fresh milk like the ones sold in bottles na may cork made of banana leaves, yung tipong directly galing sa cows-- hindi pasteurized ang karamihan dun.

      I don't intend this to put you down ha, but I will say this: your question just goes to show that even among educated people, there is a lot of confusion about milk as a product and this is being exploited by for-profit brands.

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    2. Yes, I just buy from the grocery, the pasteurized ones in cartons.

      I tried real fresh milk before but they spoiled so fast and iba-iba ang lasa (totoong fresh!). Since the taste wasn't consistent, sometimes Vito will drink it, sometimes he won't. So sayang. So commercial fresh milk na lang. Mas mura pa.

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    3. Let me reiterate that breastmilk is the best milk for babies and toddlers and even beyond!

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    4. Hi! Thanks for the clarification! hehe I got confused because Frances said her son is 18 months old but she's giving him the fresh cow's milk instead of toddler milk/formula. All the while I thought it's different from the Magnolia/Nestle/etc brands since I thought these are only given to kids/adults lang.

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    5. So true. My youngest who is now seven years old had breast milk till he was four (and I was a working mom ha). I tried to give him formula (because the ads do promise brain progress, increased EQ and IQ, etc and I fell for them and ohboy, they do cost a lot), but my son didn't fall for them (clearly he doesn't have a taste for evil milk marketing lol)

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    6. Anonymous, almost 3 na si Vito, hindi sya 18 months old. =) But, yes, we switched him to cow's milk when he was 18 months old. I'm hoping to take milk out of his diet by the time he's 5! Humans don't need milk after early childhood actually!

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  6. As a breastfeeding mom and a regular reader of your blog, I am super happy you posted this. Thank you.

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  7. I like how you made this post so firm but humble. You even admitted where you got it all wrong. I hope all BF-ing advocates are like you. Some of them kasi could be mean. Parang nakakaturn-off when they pick on the formula manufacturers, as if provoking a battle of written words. But I still can't blame them naman. It's their advocacy and they are really passionate about it.

    I hope when I have baby #2 na, I can breastfeed as long as the baby wants. :)

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    1. I actually feel that I've been too polite about breastfeeding =( This has made me resolve to be more pro-active in promoting breastfeeding! But don't worry—I won't be nakaka-turn off hehe

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  8. i admire your humility in being honest about this. i saw that post, passively scrolled through it, and, i've to admit, i also ended up thinking your kids tried nido because of the photos. even if they weren't actually drinking in the shots, i thought parang endorsement.

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    1. Basahin niyo naman kasi please yung sinusulat ko! Para walang misunderstanding! Maganda naman ako magsulat, diba? =)

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    2. Hahaha natawa naman ako sa "Maganda naman ako magsulat, diba?" You really are a good writer and I am a fan. Like the many readers here, I like how you write your passion about breastfeeding without sounding condescending. You promote breastfeeding in good words. Not a turn off :)

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  9. Why did you paraphrase the reader's question?

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    1. Kasi jeje words. It took me a while to decode LOL

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  10. There's incredible pressure on moms today to breastfeed, so much so that I never really enjoyed my 7-month stint with it. I had prayed it would be longer, but I agree with the commenter above that fellow mothers can be very preachy and condescending about it (and hide behind "anonymous!"). Thanks for taking your stand without being one of them. Moms live with enough guilt as it is.

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    1. Moms shouldn't have guilt. As long as what we're doing is the best given our own unique set of circumstances, then release the guilt! That's why I'm not judgmental of people's choices (or at least try not to be haha). If hindi talaga kaya ang normal delivery, ang breastfeeding, ang no yaya, ang all organic food, ang cloth diapers, ang private school, ang stay-at-home, ang career, etc, wag pilitin! Pag masaya si mommy, masaya si baby!

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  11. Hi Frances! Your Nido post actually got me thinking about Jacob's milk. He's still breastfeeding at 24 months (so happy!) but he gets formula too. Eh formula is expensive nga so I thought since other people give cow's milk and never went through formula milk, baka pwede na kami mag-switch. Don't worry I didn't want to give Nido! Gusto ng Dad ni Jacob soy milk nga because we went to a superfood talk before and they said kids don't really need the extra calcium pa from drinking milk, etc.

    Anyway, we'll try soy milk again (pangit brand na nabili namin the first time) and hopefully we get to transition from formula milk (na nakakabutas rin ng bulsa in a way!) to soy milk or cow's milk when I'm not available for breastfeeding. :)

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    1. Ask pa rin your pedia. Soy milk is generally not a good idea for boys kasi soy mimics estrogen. Some guys (health buffs especially) develop breasts. Not a good thing for a growing boy!

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  12. Hi.. Ms. Frances... I had been reading your Blogs for a long time now.. after reading this article it made me think deeply that PICTURE can paint a thousand words.. Kapag tiningnan mo ung picture one might assume na they are drinking Nido without reading the rest of the paragraph.. More power!

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This is all pretty new to me so please feel free to share your mommy wisdom!