Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
Op-Ed: The Feeding Frenzy

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There is a new commercial created by Similac, a brand of infant formula, that’s been making the rounds on the internet recently. I’ve seen it pop up time and again in my Facebook feed, so I finally caved and clicked the link. “You’ll laugh and you’ll cry,” said nearly every mom who shared the advertisement. And they were right. But I suspect my tears weren't for the reasons they expected.

The video begins like a Saturday Night Live skit, with different packs of mom-groups at a park, ready to throw down in defense of their rigid parenting beliefs. They compare many common parental stereotypes, from yoga moms to stay-at-home dads, working moms to helicopter moms, and, of course, breastfeeding moms to formula-feeding moms. The exaggerated stance each group takes in the video is amusing, though I can’t recall a time I've ever seen that type of hardcore “stick to your guns at any cost” parenting in real life. Still, it was a good laugh because of the over the top fight scene.

The lighthearted nature of the commercial takes a turn when one mom loses sight of her baby because she’s so wrapped up in arguing with other parents. At that moment, all of the caretakers quit fighting and run to help the abandoned baby. The message being that as parents, we’re all really alike—we just want what’s best for our kids. To that I say: well, duh!

Over and over again, these “mommy wars” are being portrayed in articles and advertising. Women are essentially being instructed by the media to calm down and focus on their children. However, I think what’s really happening here is that the media is painting a picture of moms as rigid, stereotyped caricatures instead of real, live people.

I’m not saying that there’s no such thing as a “crunchy” mom. I’ll even admit that I probably fall into that category to a certain extent. What I am saying is that most of us granola types are concerned with what we are doing for our own families. We aren't all that focused on whether another woman made the same choice that we did. But if you read about the raging feuds over feeding that are supposedly going on all the time these days, you’ll most likely hear that breastfeeding moms are opinionated in the worst way: they are elitist snobs who think that women who use formula to feed their babies are bad mothers.

There is a reason that campaigns are being waged to undermine women’s choices. Think about it—this commercial was produced by an infant formula company. What is their main agenda? To sell formula. In a time when more and more women and doctors are acknowledging that breast milk is the best option for feeding babies, how might these companies drum up business for their formula products? Here’s an idea: what if they created a worldview in which women who do not breastfeed feel attacked by any mention of breastfeeding? What if they made it seem that any woman who chooses to breastfeed her baby is, in essence, condemning other mothers who do not make the same choice? America, the land of the underdog! Who among us wouldn't feel bad for the mom who is being attacked by a bunch of radicals?

So, all of you women who posted the commercial with comments about laughing and crying, I wonder: is anyone else crying about the fact that a company with an agenda to sell us goods has created a campaign intended to divide us? Sure, it’s packaged in the guise of urging parents to unite for the sake of our children, but there is an underlying message. What is that message? That formula-feeding mothers are being attacked by breastfeeding mothers, and that society at large should feel bad for mothers who use formula and begin to support them.

In short, this commercial is pure hype that was created by a national brand whose goal is to sell formula. On the surface, it feels like a call to action. It might even encourage women to take up a cause. But I challenge moms to look for the real meaning behind this clip. Who is trying to profit from this ad, and what tactics are being employed to target consumers? What is their bottom line? More importantly, what is your bottom line?

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Chelsea Covington Maass lives in Philadelphia with her family and teaches writing at two area colleges.


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Thank you for this insightful piece. I have had many of the same thoughts since this commercial started appearing in my feeds. Beautifully said.
Well said. I did both, breast fed and bottle fed. I don't remember what anyone else did. I don't remember any other mother ever expressing an opinion about my choices. Mostly, what I remember is a sisterhood of mothers where what was communicated was a recognition of the challenge and joy of mothering--hard to put into words, hence the importance of Literary Mama. Advertising has always tried to tell us who we are and whom to be, what to think, how much to weigh, how to look and how to behave as women and mothers; belittling for profit. Meanwhile, others use media in an effort to control our decisions to be--or not to be--mothers. Thanks for being vigilant and calling this one out.
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