Mommy Bloggers Paid to Review Similac App That Sabotages Breastfeeding

by Dagmar Bleasdale on February 24, 2011

As a breastfeeding advocate who helps moms interested in breastfeeding or struggling with it with encouragement and resources, I’m so disappointed to find out that a few mommy bloggers decided to review the Similac StrongMoms Baby Journal iPhone application for money paid by Abbott Lab, some even though they are educated about breastfeeding and breastfed their own babies.

Formula companies are at it again, marketing aggressively to new moms. I openly boycott Nestle for their unethical practices of pushing their wares, but the fact that a formula company is now using mommy bloggers to sell their product is a new low.

I first saw an ad for the Similac app on a blog that so far has impressed me and then received a tweet from The Marketing Mama that she had written a post about this questionable app.

This is upsetting to me on so many levels:

1. This application is to promote one thing only: Similac formula.

This application is a marketing campaign, and the fact that Similac even included tracking breastfeeding efforts of moms in their app is a joke, because obviously Similac isn’t in the business of helping you succeed with breastfeeding — they want to sell as much formula as possible and encourage you to “immediately connect with Similac’s live Feeding Expert for your infant feeding questions.” Enough said. “Feeding Experts” are not educated, knowledgeable lactation specialists.

I understand that this application has many other features that mothers might like and find helpful, and that’s fine. I’m focusing here on the fact that a formula company is including a breastfeeding feature on its app and wants moms to buy into Similac’s claim that it help them with breastfeeding when all it will do is instill doubts about the “correctness” of them feeding their child.

Because how much a baby is drinking while nursing can’t really be measured as it can with bottles, a common concern new moms have, this app will probably lead to more moms using formula because they have “Similac” on their mind using this application all day and only need to push a button to be connected with a formula sales person.

If you want or need to feed your child formula and use this app, go right ahead, just don’t expect this tool to help you with breastfeeding. You’d be much better off to call your local La Leche League leader or find other resources like Kellymom that are truly interested in you succeeding with breastfeeding.

The best advise I ever got about breastfeeding was from my doula, who said, “If you want to breastfeed and want to succeed, toss out the sample of formula you’ll get so you aren’t tempted to use it.” I did.

Not having formula in the house makes you work harder at learning to breastfeed because you don’t have anything in the house that could substitute for breast milk. How long do you think it will take for a sleep-deprived new moms to think of switching to formula after having this app in her face every few minutes and after that baby doesn’t act like it should according to the application?

2. This application will mess with your head if you are a new mom.

One of the headlines on the website promoting this app reads: “Get in sync with baby’s needs.” That’s the last thing this application will do. I never followed a schedule with my son — because babies don’t follow a schedule. Schedules are for adults; babies are only about getting their immediate needs taken care of right away.

Breastfeeding is all about learning to tune into the cues of your baby and about feeding on demand — when the baby is hungry and not about when an application beeps. I literally threw out the schedule I got from the hospital I was supposed to fill out — my son was nursing every 25 minutes in the beginning; there was no way he wasn’t getting enough milk.

3. Do we really need one more thing to distract us?

Do you really need or want an application to keep track of the number of poopy diapers? I have blogged about my resistance to even get a smart phone because I don’t want to be one of those Blackberry-addicted moms. For my taste, we already have too many electronic distractions in our over-scheduled, beeping, blinking life.

Yes, I forgot which breast I let my son nurse on last once in a while, but what’s the big deal? I can’t imagine having to pick up my phone every few minutes to record something. That would have made me terribly nervous as a first-time mother. My suggestion: have your husband/partner buy you a pretty nursing bracelet to keep track of the feedings.

Another great tip I got from my doula was to stay in bed with my baby — for days. Someone else can do the dishes. Your most important job in those crucial first few days is to take care of yourself, to conserve your energy, and to really get to know your baby.

If you want to breastfeed, there is only a small window for you both to learn to do it right to succeed with it, so wasting time with an application isn’t what I would have chosen even if this app would have been around.

4. I wish bloggers would be more discerning about letting themselves get used and bought to promote brands. This goes for saying no to “a change to win” a $10 gift card for a product review that’s going to take you an hour to write or getting a lot of money or trips from big companies.

There is a frustrating trend of mommy bloggers being pursued by brands to write paid reviews. I have blogged about saying no to many product review requests — I rather spend that time with my family and have less money and just buy one less sweater, as I have mentioned here before.

I’m very cautious to attach my name to any company — I have worked to hard to establish myself as a professional blogger and brand. Being associated with this Similac controversy that already has made national headlines (“Abbott Pays Bloggers For Positive Reviews of Its Similac App“) would be my worst nightmare.

I’m not saying I won’t do a paid review or become a brand ambassador, I’m saying I research the company as much as I can and see if they and their product stand for what I stand for. I’m not naming the names of the bloggers involved here because this is not about name calling, this is about thinking twice about being part of a marketing campaign. I feel bad for bloggers who find themselves in the middle of a bad situation like this.

I wonder how much Abbott paid these mommy bloggers and if they still think it was worth pushing a product that really doesn’t do anything to further breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding isn’t about counting every burp and running to your phone every few minutes, it’s about taking time to bond with your baby and meeting his or her needs.

Was it worth attaching themself to such a questionable product? Couldn’t they see that this app would cause a great uproar, especially from breastfeeding supporters?

{picture source of app}

Like this? Then share it with a simple click!

{ 48 comments… read them below or add one }

Jody July 22, 2011 at 2:58 AM

One of the things I had difficulty with in breastfeeding my first child was keeping track of when and for how long he nursed. This was important information to me because (a) I had no idea what I was doing or what to expect and (b) I like having that sort of information so that if something isn’t going right I can give all possible information to the doctor. We used a notebook to keep track of such things, and I was absolutely horrible about remembering to write in it, especially through the night.

That said, as my iPod is basically an extension of my arm these days the likelihood of me having it and therefore using the app for tracking makes great sense to me. I do believe the “prediction” tool is a load of nonsense, and won’t pay it any mind at all I’m sure. I am hopeful that it will at least help me keep track of things. The first time around was really difficult for me, and I’d like to hope that this will help.

Reply

Karen Bannan from NaturalAsPossibleMom March 23, 2011 at 12:31 AM

Here’s the thing: Not everyone breastfeeds. I didn’t. It just wasn’t for me. Weird, I know, based on the rest of the way I live my life. And there are plenty of other people out there who make a choice like I did or are unable to produce their own milk and are forced into bottle feeding. Still others do a little of both — nurse during the day, but give a bottle of expressed milk or formula so they can get some much-needed rest.

When my first baby was born my husband and I took turns at night. We used a dry erase board to leave each other messages. “Ate 3 ounces. Changed wet diaper. No dirty diaper yet! Daddy is worried.” (That’s one of the actual messages.) An app would have been wonderful for people like us, who were sharing the feeding and changing duties.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with bloggers reviewing an app that people might actually use. I also don’t think that someone who wants to breastfeed is going to be swayed by a branded app. To each her own, right? Why not support each other no matter how we decide to feed our babies? That seems like a better option to me!

Reply

Nicole Feliciano March 2, 2011 at 3:52 PM

Dagmar,

This is a lovely personal essay. And your motives are clear and admirable. I do think there is a place for sponsored posts. I am going to check out these posts and see if they cross a line or not. Maybe the women involved didn’t have the chance to breastfeed.

I am undoubtedly pro-breastfeeding and did so for my two girls, but I hate beating up the community that had to rely on formula. That being said, Similac does an awfully good job at marketing to hospitals already. I agree that an app targeting sleep-deprived new moms seems a little sneaky.

You gave bloggers a lot to think about with your post.

Reply

Dagmar March 2, 2011 at 4:43 PM

Hi Nicole, thanks for your comment :)

I have NOTHING against moms who are using formula — I’m sad I have to keep pointing that out. I’m passionate about breastfeeding, that doesn’t mean I think moms who use formula are bad mothers. I don’t think that, plus it’s their business. I just want to assist moms who want help with breastfeeding.

As I understand, many of the bloggers who reviewed this Similac app actually breastfed their children — to what extent I don’t know specifically. I wonder if Similar made a point to choose bloggers for this campaign that did breastfeed to make their claims sound more credible…

Reply

Emilie March 2, 2011 at 10:08 PM

Actually they didn’t. The form we filled out to be selected for this campaign asked nothing about whether we breastfed or formula fed our children. It did of course ask if we owned an iPhone (or iPod Touch or iPad) to be certain we could download the app.

Reply

Rachael @ Empowering Mommy February 28, 2011 at 7:21 PM

Goodness! I can certainly see lots of points of view on this article but I do think that Mommy Bloggers attacking Mommy Bloggers really needs to stop. I was one of the bloggers who wrote about this app and while I breastfeeding mom, I did actually like this app. Actually I loved it! Why? Having had a child who ended up being hospitalized with jaundice, I wish I could have tracked my feedings of her better. Had I realized that she was getting so little milk – I could have pushed it a little bit more. I also could have gone into the hospital a little more prepared for the questions.

A brand new baby with a mom who has never breastfed can be helped by an app like this. Do I love that Similac makes it? Personally, no but also I don’t believe that moms are so stupid to just give up because they have an app made by Similac. I think we are not giving moms very much credit and giving formula companies too much credit.

It was a smart app that many moms will love and benefit from. There will be moms that will hate – don’t download it. End of story.

Reply

Emilie February 28, 2011 at 7:45 AM

As one of the bloggers who chose to share this app with my readers, I’ll admit I never imagined such an uproar about it. I never called my post a review because it wasn’t. I can’t accurately review this when my youngest just turned three. Instead, I simply shared a new app that is available for anyone who thought they would enjoy its features. Collective Bias paid me for my time to download, play around with the app and tell my readers about it. (Positive thoughts or negative)

I exclusively breastfed both my boys until my supply made it impossible at about 8 months (I worked full time and pumping reduced my supply) and so I chose to focus on the BF features. I like the feature with a timer (so you know how long they ate, and on each breast) and which breast to start with next time. I never put my babies on a strict schedule and if I used this app today I wouldn’t use it to track when to feed my baby next but I think it would be cool to see the trends. I would use it more as a first time mother when I would have been more unsure of myself.

I wouldn’t have let a Similac app push me into suddenly formula feeding my babies just like I didn’t let that formula sample they sent me either. Why is this any different and why are we suddenly these horribly unethical bloggers because we chose to share a free app with our readers? Nowhere in my post did I even mention what I thought of Similac formula or endorse the product. In fact, I didn’t really even discuss formula at all and instead focused on breastfeeding. I shared a few features of the app and how it might help a new mom/caretaker. That doesn’t make me a sell out and it doesn’t mean I’m pushing my readers to formula feed. That is a decision that each mother has to make for herself, although I always hope that each mother that can breastfeed, does.

I stand behind my post and I think it is sad that so many bloggers are being blasted for sharing an app with readers.

Reply

Dagmar February 28, 2011 at 7:56 AM

Hi Emilie, thanks for your comment, I appreciate it. Like I said, if bloggers really thought this is a good app, then it’s their right to say so. It’s their right to take money and be compensated. I just personally wouldn’t have attached myself to a product that has to do with a formula company, especially as a breastfeeding advocate, and I wanted moms to be aware of my reservations about this app because I believe it will make it even harder to succeed with breastfeeding.

I don’t have to be right, this is just my opinion. And I hear yours. Thanks again.

Reply

Terri Henry February 28, 2011 at 12:57 AM

A great post Dagmar – we really need as few distractions as possible to get in the way of bonding and breastfeeding our babies. I relied completely on kellymom in those early days of breastfeeding and got all the answers I needed. I am now a tandem nursing Mama of 2 and all is well, no apps required! Thanks for your continued passion on breastfeeding.

Reply

Stephanie February 27, 2011 at 8:20 AM

I FF and never put my son on a scheduale. When he was hungary I went into the kitchen and made a bottle.

Reply

Blair February 27, 2011 at 8:04 AM

I feel like this is a topic that is difficult for some moms, even breastfeeding moms, to understand. While there are some moms that may schedule feedings and still be able to meet their breastfeeding goals, for others timing and/or scheduling feeds can lead to stumbling blocks that are very real and difficult to overcome. All you have to do is to attend a few La Leche League meetings and you’ll see that many of the questions asked have to do with interpretation of babies’ cues.

“My 2 month old nurses for up to 45 minutes at a time. Is that too long?”
“My 8 month old only nurses for 5 minutes at a time. How do I know she’s getting enough?”
“My baby drinks 3 ounces of breastmilk while I’m at work, but another baby at her daycare drinks 6! Am I starving my baby?”
“She usually eats every three hours or so, but recently she’s been wanting to eat every hour and a half! Is this normal?”

All of the above are questions that come up frequently, and there are more where those came from. And all of the above scenarios are well within the range of normal for a breastfed baby and most likely not cause for alarm! Of course, we want to look at the whole baby to determine whether everything is going okay. I know that outside of LLL, an IBCLC is the next best resource. And I have found that my pediatrician is helpful with breastfeeding issues, but I know that many pediatricians do not receive extensive training on breastfeeding.

I am absolutely not anti-formula. I used it myself with my first daughter, who lost a shocking amount of weight (over 15%) in a very short span of time. However, I could never in good conscience say that one bottle can’t hurt. The bottles that I gave my daughter were very disruptive to our nursing relationship. We both struggled to overcome a newborn nursing strike and it took us almost a month before we were exclusively breastfeeding again. So while I understand how valuable formula can be in certain situations, I also understand how it can affect a breastfeeding relationship, so I would not recommend another mom use it casually.

The bottom line is that I understand how marketing works and I know what Similac is trying to do here. And I don’t like it.

Reply

Mel February 26, 2011 at 5:53 AM

Well, I have to disagree. Frankly, I’m so tired of this whole, entire controversy. The article on bnet is totally misled, unresearched, and frankly, unethical in and of itself. I will defend Collective Bias all the way, as well as those bloggers, whose words were misused and quoted without permission. We “Mommy bloggers” (who are in fact, entrepreneurs, savvy businesswomen, professional bloggers) are not unintelligent human beings causing controversy….it’s articles like the bnet article that do enough of that.

I do sponsored posts; I’m not afraid to admit that….I’ve only done a few, but I do them for products that I know for a fact are relevant to either me or my readers. At times, I’ll even weave the company into a regular post, so that it’s completely usable by my readers, meaning they can take thoughts away from the post and put them into action, whether in their home, personal life, etc. I don’t think that sponsored posts are unethical in any way, as long as they are disclosed as being compensated or sponsored. I think it’s up to each individual blogger; it’s not your judgment to make. Judgment is an easy button; it truly is. I don’t see how sponsored posts are any different than a magazine article you may read, citing specific products (and websites).

As for the breastfeeding vs. formula issue….that too is a personal decision. Not your judgment call to make. Yes, this may be something you are very passionate about, but you can’t force others to think or feel along the same lines you do. That’s why this big world is so awesome….because we all have different backgrounds, different opinions, and different feelings/thoughts.

As for the whole getting a job comment, that was again, not your judgment to make. Each and every blogger is in a different, unique situation that cannot be understood unless we’re living in their shoes….frankly, I don’t think it’s wrong to be paid for the work that we do, as long as we fully disclose and keep our credibility strong by being honest and open about the things we write about. Again, no different than a magazine article…..

I just think there are a lot bigger issues we need to be raising controversy over right now, such as a child losing a parent to cancer, children being trafficked each and every moment, starvation, families losing their homes, the state of our educational system in the U.S., children in African countries having to walk hours every single day just to get a drink of water…..

Reply

Dagmar February 26, 2011 at 3:28 PM

Hi Mel, thank you for your comment. I feel the same way, it’s your business which brands you attach yourself to or if you do sponsored posts, and I also strongly believe that bloggers should be paid, and not just with $20 gift card, when they work for a brand.

I wrote about that here: http://dagmarbleasdale.com/2010/11/new-york-times-about-monetizing-motherhood-and-blogging/
My time is valuable and I’m a professional who deserves to get paid.

I never said sponsored post are unethical or judged bloggers for doing sponsored posts, what I was questioning was if the bloggers reviewing the Similac app really considered the implications to be involved in marketing an app by a formula company with a breastfeeding feature. If they are cool with having their name attached to this, and they truly like this app, that is their business, I just think it serves as a cautionary tale that it is important to research a company before one takes the money. I honestly feel bad for bloggers who didn’t meant to offend and didn’t sign up to be in the middle of a controversy.

I never made my post a breastfeeding/bottle-feeding discussion, several commenters did. If you bottle-feed your child, that’s your business.

Honestly, I’m getting a little tired of moms who use(d) formula attacking me. Being a breastfeeding advocate does not mean that I feel formula-feeding moms are bad moms. Being a breastfeeding advocate means I want moms to succeed with breastfeeding. I’m on your side! We all do the best we can and want the best of our children. I guess a lot of formula-feeding moms feel badly or guilty and therefore take offense where non was intended. I don’t want moms who used formula to feed bad or guilty at all.

Reply

The Blogtessa February 25, 2011 at 11:48 PM

I don’t breastfeed, for my own reasons, but I do agree that even for a formula-feeding mom… the app sounds stupid. You had some really good points about the scheduling, that’s for sure. I remember with my first one that she was taking in what the nurses at the hospital felt was “too much” for her and too often and I screamed at the ladies that if a baby’s hungry, dammit, you feed it when it’s hungry. Babies don’t care about the “schedule” and they don’t care about an app either. I think mother’s have had this modern idea of being a timely organized mother shoved down their throats so much that they’re operating more like robot baby-overseers and less like the natural maternal figures they’re supposed to be. It’s really gotten to be too much.

Reply

Candace @ NaturallyEducational February 26, 2011 at 2:14 AM

I am a member of Collective Bias but I did not sign-up for this campaign.

I am mystified as to why some commenters think you are attacking moms who use formula.

If you use formula–out of choice, necessity, or something between the two, that is your business. You do not have to justify yourself to anyone.

There’s a few issues wrapped up in this which have nothing to do with judging other mothers.

Tracking:

In general, there is no reason to track every last thing about a healthy baby. That said, some babies have health concerns. Some new moms are nervous and are reassured by tracking all the details. Some moms need to know how much formula the baby has had from the bottle. I get that. Do whatever works for you. Personally? It would drive me crazy but to each her own.

A Formula Company Giving Breastfeeding Advice

This is just ridiculous. I have yet to see a single convincing argument about why this is okay.

These companies spend millions of dollars on marketing research. This isn’t just a feel good effort. This is a calculated effort to put their brand front and center so you will associate it with infant feeding.

Most US moms will try breastfeeding. Most of them will not continue to breastfeed. This is the key marketing demographic for formula companies, not the mothers who have already decided to formula feed and have already selected a brand.

Furthermore, the obsession with numbers and scheduling sabotages breastfeeding. That may not be the conscious intent but nonetheless it is motivated by something other than the informed desire to help mothers who want to breastfeed.

It may be useful for bottle feeding… but this app is being actively marketed to breastfeeders.

Blogging Ethics

This is where we get into more treacherous territory. This bloggers in this campaign disclosed. It is up to each blogger to decide what they want to do with their own corner of the blogosphere. It is up to their readers to determine whether or not they trust a paid review and longterm whether or not they wish to continue to read this blogger.

Whether you use the money for a sweater or groceries…that’s none of my business, either.

But without criticizing any individual blogger, I don’t think it is unfair to discuss some of the issues that come up when we partner with companies.

If a blogger considers the issues, decides this is a fit, that is her call.

But just as with so many campaigns where issues have come up in the past, there is nothing wrong with asking questions, discussing the issues.

No where in any of this are moms who bottle feed or formula feed under attack. These issues are separate from each mom’s choice.

Reply

Dagmar February 26, 2011 at 2:52 PM

Amen! So well said. Thank you for your comment, Candace.

Reply

Melissa February 26, 2011 at 12:30 AM

I guess I don’t understand the judgement that is going on here. Why so judgmental about women that bottle feed their children or Similac?

Did you download the app and take a look at it?

Before I reviewed the applied to review the app I actually downloaded it to take a look at it. And you know what? I liked it. I was excited and showed my husband.

I guess I am not as great as a mother as you and some of the people commenting.

I breastfed–YES I DID–and as a new mother I found it so overwhelming. I did not pick up on any cues that my son was hungry because he did not want to eat. So his doctor and the LCT I worked closely with told me to make sure to feed him every two hours and to keep track, especially because he lived on a bili-bed his first 2 weeks. I kept a notebook on my nightstand but if I had my iPhone then I happily would have used this SIMILAC App to keep track of how often I was nursing and where I was leaving off.

Now I’m reading this and feeling like a really crappy Mom. :-(

I’m actually not sure where in the Similac App it does this “all it will do is instill doubts about the “correctness” of them feeding their child.”

There is actually a Feeding Section in the App where is talks about Breastfeeding and says how the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding.

I loved breastfeeding my son. I was there with encouragement for my SIL when she wanted to give up.

I also had to formula feed my son when he was 6 months old and I had major surgery and was in the hospital for almost 2 weeks.

I’m always going to say breast is best but as long as a child is being fed, I’m happy!

I am hosting a Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Event on my blog starting March 1st, where I will be giving away products from Medela and beautiful artwork from Birgit Amadori promoting breastfeeding.

But I’m still going to stand by what I said about the Simliac App. I’m going to use it for Baby #2. Hopefully I’ll be like you and won’t have the panic of writing everything down and I’ll be able to know my baby’s “cues”. But if not I’m using the app.

Reply

jorie February 25, 2011 at 9:11 PM

Have you ever actually called a formula company for breastfeeding advice? They don’t tell you to switch to formula! (I did try out of curiosity…it was not especially thorough but they didn’t plug formula during the call.) Anyway, the formula app is to sell formula and I think they just throw in the “breastfeeding advice” because they have to, or as some kind of face-saving measure and to win over the moms who won’t be BFing for all 12 months. As a breastfeeding mom, Similac would be the last place I’d turn to for an app, anyway…I am betting anyone who does get that app is FF. And FF moms need support, too. You might not need to learn how to mix a bottle, but babies have a lot of trouble stomaching formula and do a lot of switching, and deal with constipation and other problems BF babies never deal with. Anyway, not a fan of Similac or FF, but I just had to comment that I don’t think this app is evil, just good marketing.

Reply

Ashley February 25, 2011 at 2:43 PM

I have to disagree. I breastfed my daughter for the first four months exclusively and then tried to just supplement and eventually had to switch to formula. I am a single mother and had to work and go to school, pumping just wasn’t an option. There literally were not enough hours in the day to keep up with her.

I would have LOVED to have this app. I breastfed on demand, but it was so important to keep track of how how often she was eating and how many diapers she was making, if for no other reason than for my own peace of mind. If she deviated from what was normal for her I needed to know because it was usually a sign that she wasn’t feeling well or about to hit a growth spurt. It’s easier to notice these trends when you track feedings. And doctors want to know these things! Maybe it’s anal, but I like to be prepared and not clueless at the doctor.

I’ll agree that having access to formula in those first few days home makes it easier for new moms to reach for it. But I don’t see anything wrong with that. When you’re exhausted and overwhelmed, and your baby is screaming because she’s too hungry to latch, you need SOMETHING to take the edge off and get her to calm down so you can nurse. So thank goodness for formula.

Reply

Jessie February 25, 2011 at 1:12 PM

This is so sad! I just don’t know why people will sell out for a few dollars. So many new mamas read those blogs and then think that it is acceptable. I had problems with breastfeeding my first 2 but made it work. Hopefully mamas won’t feel that formula is their solution because a popular girl (blog) says they used it. Sad.

Reply

Trendy Kids Market (AZ) February 25, 2011 at 1:36 AM

I’m not sure I have much nice to say about the formula companies discouraging Moms against breastfeeding. I especially liked your point on the letting your baby tell you when it’s time to eat! It drives me nuts when people try to put their babies on their schedules!

Reply

Anna February 25, 2011 at 4:30 AM

i do think this app is pretty bad, but to be honest, not any worse then a lot of other marketing tactics i’ve seen. it does sort of make me think, what is the world coming to…..

Reply

kate b February 25, 2011 at 4:07 AM

Around every corner someone has tried to sabotage my breastfeeding experiance. Just the other day someone said that I should switch to formula so I don’t have to deal with thrush. I am saddened that some bloggers that I used to love are aligning themselves with a formula company. I say “used to” since I have no longer reading those blogs.

Reply

Deirdre McLary February 25, 2011 at 12:45 AM

Rock on Dagmar for bringing attention to this VERY upsetting (but typical) unethical marketing strategy from one of the big formula companies! Brava, lady! xoxo

Reply

Missy @ Marketing Mama February 25, 2011 at 12:40 AM

Thank you for writing this post. I have the same concerns about you as to the app and how it’s NOT a good choice for breastfeeding moms. However, it seems your comments about the role of mom bloggers choosing to work with Similac has really touched a nerve with your readers.

I’m glad you raised that point – it’s a good question to think about. As the founder of the Minnesota Blogger Conference, we had two sessions focused on the ethics of blogging when it comes to giveaways and advertising and the rooms were packed! I’ve heard the same is true about these sessions at women-focused blogging conferences as well.

As a marketer who focuses on brand management (and a parenting blogger) – here’s my insight: Anytime a blogger chooses to recommend a product or service – whether paid or not – they are aligning their reputation and brand with the company they are recommending. Of course it’s important to be thoughtful and careful about which companies you align yourself with. Here’s a hint, the more controversial a company is, the higher the chances are that you are going to alienate some of your readers and be judged harshly for your decision.

Am I turned off when I see a blogger promoting Similac? YES. McDonald’s? YES.

Because… these are brands that I have negative impressions of in general and therefore I’m going to have a negative impression when I see their logo or products all over your blog. Period.

Thanks again for raising this point. The very fact that it hit a nerve is the reason why we need to keep asking the questions.

Reply

Not Blessed Mama February 28, 2011 at 3:06 AM

since infant feeding is such a personal choice, i think moms get defensive- both breast and bottle feeding ones. every mother does the best she can for her child, and i commend that. formula companies (on the other hand), i do take issue with.
try not to be too offended by callous remarks. if people have issues with formula/breast feeding, they are their own- and not yours!

Reply

Kathy Morelli February 25, 2011 at 12:36 AM

Thanks, Dagmar…..obviously a lactation consultant or LLL needs to write a BF app!

Reply

Dagmar February 25, 2011 at 1:22 AM

Yes, STAT! :)

Reply

Megan February 24, 2011 at 11:02 PM

It’s really none of your business how these moms want to spend the money they earn from reviews, whether for necessities or pleasures. They earn it fair and square just like you do. I recently started reading your blog and enjoyed it because I thought your whole commitment was to building up moms, even those who don’t agree with you. But now I see this completely judgmental and critical type of post and I gather that there are limits to your supposed tolerance of other viewpoints. I too am a committed breastfeeder but it’s not my religion, I don’t need to push breastfeeding or my exact approach to breastfeeding on everyone else. Say whatever you want about a corporation like Similac but it’s pretty self-righteous to come out against moms who choose to review those products just because they’ve made a choice that is different than yours. Or to criticize them for profiting from it when they are very clear that’s what they’re doing and you do the exact same thing for the products you yourself choose to promote.

Reply

Crissy February 24, 2011 at 6:51 PM

I am a Similac StrongMoms Ambassador. I was going to try to respond to some of this, but, it might be better to just direct you to my post. http://dearcrissy.com/similac-ambassador-baby-journal/

Reply

Whitney February 24, 2011 at 5:36 PM

I actually just checked out the website about the app, and looked at the “Feeding Expert” FAQ. There’s a section on bottle feeding and a section on breastfeeding. I expected them to refer new moms to formula if things got tough, but they didn’t! :-)
There was good advice about nursing strikes, pumping and they even state that “Your baby shouldn’t need anything else besides breast milk, unless it is recommended by your doctor for medical reasons. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), however, suggests all infants and children receive 400 IU of vitamin D daily beginning soon after birth and continuing throughout childhood to strengthen their overall bone health. But make sure to check with your doctor before making changes to your baby’s diet. ”

If you’re a super-techy mom, this app might not be a bad thing. But I admit the fact that it’s sponsored by Similac does seem like they’d want to push formula down your baby’s throat.

Reply

Tonya February 24, 2011 at 5:16 PM

As an IBCLC, I would NEVER use any app with the Similac (or any other formula company) name on it. I breastfed my babies on demand, and had successful breastfeeding experiences. That said, I did use a sort of “baby timer” with my second to justify my own self care! Both my boys screamed incessantly if I unlatched them for any reason until they were several months old. I was intensely sleep deprived, and had trouble remembering which end was up. The timer helped a little bit for me to say, “You’ve been nursing for the last 2 hours, and it’s okay for Mommy to put you down for a few minutes. I need to use the bathroom, refill my water, get something to eat, and change your diaper. Then we can nurse again.” There are a lot of tools out there that can be used for benefit OR harm, depending on how they are handled.

Reply

Mommy Boots February 24, 2011 at 4:46 PM

I’m going to second what Little BGCG said. You’re being awfully judgmental, and not taking into consideration moms who benefit from an application like this because they can’t breastfeed or – god forbid – don’t want to. I understand your problem with companies pushing formula on women who want to breastfeed but give in to formula temptation but there are women out there who choose to formula feed – and that’s their prerogative and nobody else’s business. I applaud breastfeeding mothers who remember that there are moms out there who don’t breastfeed and support those mothers as well as the breastfeeding ones.

And as far as people jumping at any opportunity to write a sponsored post for gift cards here and there, I understand why some moms do it. I myself write sponsored posts but I do keep my sponsored posts to subject matters I would write about anyway, and I only write them when I know I’m getting paid – not just for a chance to get paid in cash or a gift card. But there are moms out there who do it for their family’s needs – not for something materialistic like a new sweater.

Reply

Little BGCG February 24, 2011 at 4:34 PM

I don’t have much else to say other than a comment on number 4: I don’t do paid reviews so I can “buy an extra sweater” I do them so I can buy food for my family.

I didn’t do this particular paid review but before you get incredibly judgmental you should think about the fact that some of these Moms who did this review may have been struggling to provide for their families.

Reply

Mommy Boots February 24, 2011 at 4:38 PM

Very well said!

Reply

Dagmar February 24, 2011 at 5:29 PM

So you are saying that some moms will do product reviews to make money for their family, regardless of the product? That is very sad if that is the case and then renders their reviews basically useless in my opinion. To follow your logic, moms who would otherwise give a product a failing grade or not do the review at all will write a positive review just to get the cash. The fact that companies can take advantage of women that need for money is awful and hopefully doesn’t happen often.

I see your point but I don’t think many mommy bloggers are so desperate for money that they write paid reviews to put food on the table. Before someone spends time writing a blog and can’t put food on the table I think they would get a paying job and forget about blogging if the stuation is that desperate — there isn’t much money to be made from it for most. But maybe I’m wrong.

I still maintain that I could use an extra $50 just like the next mom, but I still won’t write a paid review and rather buy less stuff or use coupons to stretch our money, for example.

Reply

Mommy Boots February 24, 2011 at 6:24 PM

As a mother, I will do whatever it takes to provide for my family. The fact is this: some women have to work. And sometimes, even with mom and dad working they still need extra to make ends meet. I am not in this situation; I work and my husband does as well and we can pay all of our bills, provide for our daughter and have a little (and I do mean LITTLE) left over. However, if we were in a situation that left the both of us working & still not making ends meet you bet your butt I would do whatever it took to provide for my family – and that includes writing a post on just the hope that I might get a gift card from it. It’s very nice that you don’t have to worry about that but not every mother has that luxury. Some work AND blog so your argument about saving that time to look for a job instead of spending it blogging doesn’t work in all cases.

Reply

Little BGCG February 24, 2011 at 8:08 PM

Dagmar, I’ve followed you for quite some time but I’m very disappointed in your response to what I had to say. I agree with what Mommy Boots had to say and I’d like to add that your comment

” Before someone spends time writing a blog and can’t put food on the table I think they would get a paying job and forget about blogging if the stuation is that desperate ”

Is rude and condescending. Some mothers would love to do such a thing but the cost of daycare v the amount of money they make doesn’t work OR maybe they are searching for a job but haven’t been able to find one. I’ve heard the economy is really bad, has someone been lying to me?

Reply

Dagmar February 25, 2011 at 1:21 AM

I’m sorry you are disappointed. I think you misunderstood what I was trying to say. I’m just being practical — if a mom is struggling so badly with putting food on the table then she would be better off getting a work-at-home job that provides some reliable income — you can’t wait for product reviews to come around to pay the bills.

Since Similac would only pay successful bloggers with quite a following and a hefty number of unique followers so Similac gets the most exposure, I think it’s safe to say that non of the bloggers who reviewed the Similac app are literally struggling to put food on the table like you are describing.

I know all about the cost of daycare and having to make tough choices — somehow you don’t seem to believe me that we are on strict budget as well :)

Reply

Melissa February 26, 2011 at 12:09 AM

Actually I saw some of the reviews on many “smaller” blogs so it was not the big successful blogs with high traffic.

Reply

Hannah February 24, 2011 at 3:35 PM

I have the same hesitation when it comes to product reviews. I’m only interested in certain kinds of products. It has limited my options, but I sleep well at night. I would be horrified with the knowledge that I’ve somehow contributed to the booby traps of BFing… Money isn’t everything.

What you said about BFing scheduling needs to be said some more…its a complete load and fabrication to keep track of the poops & which breast was last emptied. This only adds to the intimidation of BFing. Out of 7 babes, I’ve had ZERO successful BFing schedules & 7 happy/content babes who pooped whenever they please.

I would suggest keeping track when a babe is showing telltale signs of being hungry after nursing…otherwise buy a pretty nursing bracelet and enjoy those chubby cheeks :)

Reply

Marla February 24, 2011 at 3:25 PM

In the end, this app was created to build brand loyalty/brand awareness. The company doesn’t care what you do with it or how you use it once you’ve downloaded it. They care that when you’re in the grocery store, you’ll buy their brand over another. They care that when you’re talking to other moms, you’ll say positive things about their brand. They care that the blogosphere is talking about it, positively or negatively. (Though I prefer posts like THIS! ;) ) The app is, I do understand, a logical extension OF their brand (vs. an app that could’ve been, for example, a puzzle game that was sponsored by said brand) but there are plenty of free, non-branded apps to help you remember the things that this one does, if that’s what a mom needs. I am probably just preaching to the choir, but advertising like this aggravates me.

Reply

Liz@Loving Mom February 24, 2011 at 1:51 PM

But why is it a bad thing? If you don’t need it don’t use it, but what about mothers who can’t breastfeed? or who do need/want something to help them track schedules etc. I am a working mom who had to return to work when each of my kids were ~2 months old. It was nice for me to be able to tell their caregivers when they eat, sleep, etc, it would have been nice to have something to help me track that.

Also as a cloth diapering mom, it helped me to track how many wet/dirty diapers my baby has during the day so I know how many diapers I needed to have ready.

I think this post actually does more harm by pushing moms who need loving support even further away for fear of judgement. I need to supplement with formula as my babies get bigger, I have no other choice, but such one-sided lactivists make it out as if I should be ashamed of this fact (which I am not!!). I will buy formula when I need to (and honestly I have found that Nestle’s Good Start was the best one for my babies!!)

I think the only thing that truly sabotages breastfeeding is a lack of education for new mothers and a lack of support from family, friends, work, etc. Breastfeeding is hard and it will take more than just an app to sabotage it, and more than just the “breast is best” tagline to promote it.

Reply

kelly @kellynaturally February 24, 2011 at 1:47 PM

Thanks for blogging about this Dagmar. I haven’t seen the app, but the idea of a formula company creating & aggressively marketing a product to “help with breastfeeding” is laughable. And I do feel sad that a breastfeeding advocate would take money to review it. Of course, it makes me uncomfortable when bloggers I enjoy reading review things which are obviously not interesting to them or their target audience, and they are doing just for the monetary gain or some other recognition. It really waters down the message you’re trying to send when there’s money behind it. Anyhow, thanks for bringing this to light. I’ve never liked any item marketed to new mothers to “help them breastfeed” than involves “keeping track” of feedings – whether it be a chart, an app, a bracelet, whatever – in the early days of breastfeeding, all a new mother NEEDS to watch is her baby, not the clock (or an app).

Reply

Alison February 24, 2011 at 1:20 PM

I know some breastfeeding advocates who actually did review this app. Now I would personally never use it because I just went with the flow and I don’t care how long the baby is nursing. It may be nice for some if it helps remember what side you started from last time. But you could just wear a bracelet and switch sides for that one.

My thinking goes along the same lines. Formula companies shove their message down breastfeeders throats. So if they have a rough moment, hopefully that mother will turn to them if they give their baby forumla.

But each to their own. I wouldn’t want someone to attack me because I chose to nurse my children for longer than 2 years… (Well over 2 years for Hunter and 17 months so far with Landon). So I try not to rock the boat with bottle feeders. Because it’s their choice in how they want to take care of their kids. :)

Reply

MamaBennie February 24, 2011 at 12:34 PM

This makes me sad. I don’t have a smart phone, but even if I did I wouldn’t review a program that tracks every one of my baby’s movements. It just isn’t necessary. While I was in the hospital with both my daughters, it was bad enough the nursing staff (forced by the hospital) were nazis about filling out papers of how many poopy/pee diapers they had and a breastfeeding sheet. If your baby didn’t nurse at the right intervals they would FLIP OUT. But then the hospital lactation consultant came in and said their paperwork doesn’t matter and she needs to have a talk with them. Tracking these things wasn’t my goal, it was to meet their needs when they wanted them. That is what I did. They are just fine, even if they didn’t always nurse every 2 hours as recommended (eating time schedules really irk me to no end). My whole beef with that is, what if someone told you that you HAD to eat every 2 hours, even if you aren’t hungry. You wouldn’t like it very much. That will just teach your child to eat when they aren’t hungry. Hence obesity. GAH….now I am ranting so I will stop now.

Reply

honeybee February 24, 2011 at 10:49 AM

i agree. Breastfeeding is about taking time to bond with your baby.
Healthy Beautiful Blog

Reply

kristin February 24, 2011 at 7:35 AM

As a breastfeeding advocate myself I understand what you’re trying to say but I don’t agree. Just because we are breastfeeding mothers don’t keep track of schedules because we feed on demand. We always have a boob out. I remember when I had my first daughter. At 19 I had to keep track of schedules. Now with my second I didn’t. I was older, and I had much more support. Mostly I was older.

Now this app wouldn’t work for someone like me because I don’t use apps nor do I have an iPhone. That said, just because the app may not be for you it might really be helpful to someone else. Politics and personal beliefs aside of course. ;)

Reply

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: