Why A 30-Year Old Boycott Matters to You

September 22, 2010 · 5 comments

How much do you know about the food that you put in your mouth? Where it was grown? What is it made of, and what exactly are those ingredients? Do you know whose hands have touched it, and do you trust those hands?

These are questions I’ve asked before, and because I struggled to answer them, I changed the eating habits of my family. After reading this post on the PhD in Parenting blog (that I posted on Mama Eve’s facebook feed), I discovered another question to add to my list when I pick something up at the grocery store.

Where does the money that I just paid for that food item go? When we buy something, we don’t just pay for a product and the costs associated with producing it, we support the company that produces it: their advertising, their suppliers, and all their business practices.

That’s a lot of responsibility, and something I never considered as I perused the breakfast cereal aisle. But I do now, and this is why.

As a mother, and a blogger, I see the influence individuals have. Just yesterday, mommy bloggers made the news in Canada for getting a response from Old Navy over an ill-advised onesie slogan. And in previous weeks, another PhD in Parenting post about formula advertising in the breastfeeding advice section of a popular website put enough pressure on its administrators so they removed it.

We CAN make changes when we see something isn’t right. And in the mothering world, a lot isn’t right. Mommy-wars exist over how to birth, how to put to sleep, when to potty train, (and on and on and on), and show that many women feel marginalized, frustrated, and confused. From my observations, one of the most heated battlegrounds is over how to feed.

There’s a lot of publicity about how breast is best, yet according to the just-released CDC numbers, fewer than 15% of infants in the U.S. are exclusively breastfed at six months, the minimum amount of time recommended by the AAP since 2005. Looking again to the CDC report at initial breastfeeding rates (75%) and formula support sites like FearlessFormulaFeeders.com, where there are at least as many posts about getting over the guilt and sadness of not being able to breastfeed as there are posts about how freeing formula feeding is, clearly something other than women’s choice is getting in the way of more women successfully breastfeeding.

One of those is advertising. Although people will deny it, advertising works. If it didn’t, the fast food industry wouldn’t spend billions of dollars a year on it. I couldn’t find a number on how much infant formula makers spend, but with their lovely ads plastered throughout every parenting magazine and television show, I’m certain it’s not a small number. And what is the impact, aside from fewer mothers in the United States breastfeeding their children (where it’s estimated that higher breastfeeding rates could save 900 lives a year)?

It means that fewer mothers in need can get subsidized help to feed their children. It means that around the world, over 1.5 million babies die each year because they are not breastfed. And it means that when women go to what they think is a reputable website for breastfeeding assistance, they are sabotaged.

I think these few reasons alone make the advertising unacceptable. And then I discovered the Nestlé boycott. Nestlé, which owns Gerber, is one of the largest food corporations in the world. Walking around the baby section of my supermarket or big box store, and seeing their advertisements for raising “The Gerber Generation” of processed foods (specially formulated for every age until they’re able to buy stuff on their own) is enough to make me refuse to buy anything associated with them. But there’s more. According to PhD in Parenting, they’ve been “accused by experts of unethical business practices such as:

This is not about choice in what to feed your infant. This is a company that blatantly sweeps aside ethics to pad (their already substanial) profits. Please, ask yourself if this is what you want your hard-earned money supporting. When I realized how large Nestlé is, and how far their reach is, I was intimidated. I’m only one person. But I can tell you, and you can tell others. We can decide as a community of mothers that this is not what we want. We can put pressure on our government to enact the WHO code of marketing breastmilk substitutes into law (we are the only developed nation that hasn’t adopted a single part of it). We can let people know it matters, because it does.

Here is where you can learn more and what you can do:

PhD in Parenting’s excellent explanations, analysis, and resources

List of Nestlé Brands

History of the Nestlé Boycott

Tweet your support with this tag: #noNestlé

Post this on facebook, and write about it on your blog

Jessica Gottlieb, mommy blogger, explains her family’s stance on the Nestlé boycott

My family joined the boycott and is spreading the word. Will yours?

Image Credit: PhD in Parenting

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