Similac Wants to End Mommy Wars Over Breastfeeding

Abbott Brand Stages Playground Battle To Help End the Shaming

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When you sell baby formula, the so-called "Mommy Wars" -- particularly that battle where moms who breast feed heap scorn on those who don't -- are bad for business. So the Abbott brand Similac has enlisted Publicis Kaplan Thaler and its Publicis Groupe PR sibling MSLGroup to create a digital video campaign that's trying to bring peace to the playground.

The "Mother 'Hood" video actually goes well beyond breastfeeding to cover just about all contemporary infant-bearing and -rearing disputes, depicting rival camps that include bottle feeders, breast feeders, cloth and disposable diaper users, work-away-from-home moms and stay-at-home moms, crunchy- granola moms, two-mom-family moms and even baby-nurturing dads.

The factions come together to do snarky battle on a playground. Then they're drawn together to jointly save a baby in a runaway stroller a la the famous scene from Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potemkin, or Brian De Palma's "Untouchables."

"We make formula, and parents who use our products are often judged for how they parent and the decisions that they make," said Misha Pardubicka-Jenkins, director of Pediatric Nutrition at Abbott. "So we're putting a stake in the ground and we want everybody to support one another in the spirit of acceptance."

The broader program supported by the video, dubbed "The Sisterhood of Motherhood," means to point out that "sisterhood is a mindset. You can also be a dad, grandma, passerby or friend," she said. "All moms want to feel empowered in the decisions they make and feel supported by everyone."

The feedback since the video went up on Jan. 17 has been "very positive," she said, with 3 million views on YouTube alone through Jan. 26. Abbott is supporting the effort with paid digital media as well.

Comments are disabled on YouTube, but the thumbs up/down reception has been more than 20 to 1 positive there and on Similac's Facebook page, though some comments there do see the effort as apologetics to ease women's consciences about using formula.

But health research, once overwhelmingly in favor of breastfeeding, has gotten more mixed in recent years. A study reported last year by Ohio State University researchers, looking at siblings who'd been fed differently as infants, found no difference on 10 of 11 key health attributes by the time they reached ages 4 to 11. And the breastfed children were actually more likely to have asthma.

Even so, Similac and other formula brands have lost ground in recent years. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, which tracks breastfeeding data exhaustively if slowly, the percentage of U.S. infants ever breastfed rose to 79.2% in 2011, the latest year for which data is available. That's up from 73.8% in 2007. Even so, the percent of babies fed exclusively by breast through six months of age was only 18.8%, up from 11.3% four years earlier.

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