For my baby shower when I was pregnant with Aurora, my friend Nysa spent a lot of time trying to find baby-friendly themes that didn’t include bottles, and we made sure people knew to please not buy them either. Not only would they be a waste of money because I didn’t plan on using any (except maybe the one or two that fit my pump), but I’m also not keen on babies being represented by the image of bottles.
I know I’m not alone either, as Dispelling Breastfeeding Myths talked about her problem with the Peppa Pig magazine she got for her daughter, and PhD in Parenting talked about Medela being no longer WHO compliant since you can’t advertise bottles either.
I received a KIWI magazine, my first ever copy of it. I’d never heard of it, and here it was. I saw “Growing families the natural and organic way” and eagerly opened the magazine. Two pages in, there it was — baby with a bottle.
The advertisement it’s on is for Earth Friendly cleaning products, and it shows a whole nursery with arrows to different areas, discussing how they need to be healthy and what bad toxins are commonly put there. The text at the bottom of the ad says:
Rocking chair? Check. Soft toys? Check. Soothing music? Check. Your baby’s nursery is a comforting sanctuary, but chemical-laden cleaning products can pose health threats to extra-sensitive little bodies. Green to the rescue!
Honestly, I own some of their products and I like them. I had absolutely no problem with the ad at all, until I saw that tiny white-and-orange bottle.
Why? Why is that even necessary? In an entire healthy nursery, discussing ridding of chemicals, was it really so much to ask that you not include a bottle? I’m not asking for the image to be of a breastfeeding mother, but by including a bottle, it speaks directly in opposition of breastfeeding.
I left a message on KIWI magazine’s Facebook page, with the picture, and they said they’re forward it to the advertisers. I know I need to leave a message there as well, but the comments on the KIWI page are already disheartening enough. Aside from the completely neutral “Thanks for your feedback” message from the magazine, I already have two women defending formula feeding and bottle use and claiming I need to chill out and “it’s just a cartoon.”
It’s no surprise, of course, but it’s so disheartening. As I pointed out there, it’s also much more complicated than that.
The power of bottle imagery
Bottle imagery is powerful. Everywhere you look you see babies being bottle fed. At the mall, on television, in magazines, on wrapping paper and gift cards, in children’s books, in your doctor’s office, at the pool, on the bus, at the park, at day care, and so on. In addition to just being what is considered “normal”, the bottle industry and the infant formula industry are spending large sums of money to ensure that you see bottles everywhere. There are segments of the population in the United States where young adults have never seen a baby being breastfed and where they may not even know that breasts can be used to feed a baby.
That’s just a tiny tidbit from a brilliant post by Annie at PhD in Parenting called Are we asking the wrong people to comply with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes?
I wish it were so much easier to explain to people that there are people like me, who were raised in a way where the body was no secret, wasn’t something to be hidden, and bodily functions are normal, but who was never exposed to breastfeeding and it was never discussed. Or Gina of Feminist Breeder, who wasn’t exposed to it and found it disgusting initially. Both of us could have really benefited from growing up seeing images of babies being breastfed, of seeing it as a normal thing, a natural thing. There are some lovely dolls out there that demonstrate birth in a non-graphic manner and show breastfeeding, and people take it so far as to claim kids would be traumatized by it, and yet somehow, this is more acceptable?
Because obviously, that’s how babies are born, by popping off the optional “baby belly”, right?
And things like these, feeding a baby bottles of orange JUICE, when juice shouldn’t ever be given in a bottle and doesn’t have any place in the baby’s diet for the first year at least… this doesn’t influence children at ALL, right?
But it DOES. It really, really does. Children who are breastfed into the toddler years or siblings with breastfed smaller siblings often play-nurse their babies, and even make announcements proudly that that’s how their siblings are fed. But if all kids see is bottles and pregnant women who magically have babies, that’s what they’re going to expect when they’re older too. It SHOULD seem strange to see a baby with a bottle, not breastfeeding — but as long as we continue to allow all dolls and advertisements and even party supplies that are baby-related to contain no breastfeeding imagery, but only bottles, should we really be surprised when ladies end up pregnant and find breastfeeding strange?
Yes, there are obviously situations in which bottles are necessary, whether you work and pump, pump to be able to have a babysitter for an EBF baby, or formula-feed. I’m not saying bottles are evil. But we need for children and adults to think of them as secondary, as supplementary. I’ve seen too many first-time moms who plan on exclusively breastfeeding and being stay-at-home moms load up baby registries with bottles, as if they can’t fathom not using one because it’s so ingrained in their brain that Baby = Bottle.
So sure, it may seem like “just a cartoon” or a silly ad, but it’s NOT. Especially for a magazine and a company who are supposedly advertising and promoting organic living and chemical-free health, a bottle is the opposite. But man, it can be so hard to feel the drive to explain to people why this is so much more than just a silly picture because everyone thinks that advertisements don’t affect them… but if that were true, why would companies pay millions to advertise? Because it DOES work, even subliminal advertisements, and especially works for our children.
If we want breastfeeding to be considered normal, we can’t allow every image of a baby to also contain a bottle.