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Analyzing infant formula marketing

Posted Aug 23 2008 11:14pm

I’ve posted before about the marketing of infant formula through hospitals and about the practice of sending formula samples to expectant mothers.

Today I glanced through Nurture (Volume 08-1), a promotional magazine from Enfamil baby formula’s maker, Mead Johnson Nutritionals. The publication includes clearly marked advertisements for Enfamil products along with some articles on nursing and other typical new-mom questions, like whether babies can recognize colors and how to involve dads and grandparents in their care.

The formula companies go to some lengths these days to be seen as supportive of breast feeding. The first two-thirds of the relatively long article on returning to work focus on buying a breast pump, stockpiling milk at home and pumping at work. Only in the last third does the discussion turn to baby formula. That should satisfy most critics.

But the most interesting marketing pitches for formula are subtle ones, contained in pieces that are ostensibly medical or parenting advice. Here are two examples:

Q&A:

[Question] My 3-month-old is eating like a champ. Is she ready for solids?

[Answer] Not quite. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until your baby is 4 to 6 months before introducing solids. Before then, she won’t have enough control over her tongue and mouth muscles to swallow food, and it may increase her risk of developing allergies. But there’s no need to wait beyond 6 months either, even if you’re worried about allergies…

Subtle marketing message: As baby grows and starts drinking more and more, you may be worried about whether you are producing enough breast milk. Don’t give solid food, but definitely supplement with formula!

Here’s another example:

Make Room for Daddy

Want to get in on a little secret about the daddy-baby bond? Well, you can start by putting Dad on diaper duty. (We though you’d like that!)… The more Dad is involved in day-to-day caregiving tasks, the stronger the bond will be… So have Dad take the night-feeding shift, stroll with baby in a carrier, or just enjoy playtime…

Subtle marketing message: Tired moms definitely deserve a break on the night shift. Of course Mom could pump extra breast milk during the day or just before bedtime, and let Dad give it to Baby, but who has the energy? Just let Dad mix up the formula and feed it to Baby. After Dad does that job a few times the nightly formula routine will become well-established. And while he’s at it can’t Dad just take along a bottle of formula with him for that “stroll with baby in a carrier,” too?

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