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Breastfeeding Moms Boycott Old Navy

By paulabernstein |

infant formula

Is This Onesie Pro Formula?

It all started with a $5 onesie at Old Navy. Now it’s erupted into a national controversy over breastfeeding vs. formula feeding.

The onesie in question reads “Formula Powered,” which some in the breastfeeding community felt was promoting the formula agenda.

“We all know breastfeeding is best for baby…and mama. Formula simply isn’t the healthy option. So, why doesn’t Old Navy know it?” writes Cate Nelson over at Eco Child’s Play.

Now Nelson and other “lactivists” are urging moms to boycott Old Navy until they take the onesie off the shelves.

I agree that breastfeeding moms need all the support they can get. Although doctors and health experts say that “breast is best,” nursing moms get funny looks if they nurse in public and often don’t get support for pumping at work.

But, honestly, I don’t see how a humorous onesie is going to hurt the cause. Besides, aren’t moms who formula feed their babies allowed to proudly proclaim their choice?

I remember when I was struggling to nurse my first born. She wasn’t gaining weight and cried incessantly. To make matters worse, she had colic and was one seriously pissed off baby. When I tried to nurse her in public, she’d pull away howling and people would look at me as if I was torturing her.

Eventually, I decided to supplement with formula so that I wouldn’t have to worry about weight gain or suffer through her howls of hunger. I was proud that I managed to continue to breastfeed her and supplement with formula until she was a year old.

But when talking with my La Leche League friends, I felt that I had to make excuses for supplementing. I was feeding my baby in a way that worked for both of us. Why did I feel the need to justify my decision?

Breast may be best, but it’s not helpful to stand in judgment of those moms who can’t or don’t want to breastfeed. And I disagree with Nelson’s assessment that “formula simply isn’t the healthy option.”

As one supportive breastfeeding coach told me, “You’re job is to feed the baby. As long as she’s fed, your job is done.”

I wish breastfeeding advocates would devote their efforts to supporting new moms and working to improve laws that protect nursing women rather than dumping on those who formula feed. Shouldn’t moms who formula feed be allow to proclaim that their baby is “Formula Fueled?”

That said, Old Navy should also offer an alternative for breastfeeding moms — a onesie that says “Mom Powered” perhaps?

What do you think? Is the onesie sending the wrong message? Or are these “lactivists” misdirecting their anger?

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Photo: Old Navy

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About paulabernstein



Paula Bernstein is a freelance writer and social media manager with a background in entertainment journalism. She is also the co-author of Identical Strangers: A Memoir of Twins Separated and Reunited.

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60 thoughts on “Breastfeeding Moms Boycott Old Navy

  1. Sarah says:

    I’m a lactivist in that I support nursing, but I’m also a realist. My little sister wasn’t able to nurse do to medications she was on. Another friend had tons of problems nursing and gave up. I also feel many very young moms, like my sister, don’t have the patience and confindence that nursing often requires. That being said, I’m still not a fan of formula and don’t like to see it promoted on a shirt like this. Better than a bib I saw recently though, that said “forget the formula, I want Mountain Dew.” No joke. One thing that I wanted to mention though, I find that people so often blame Le Leche League for over reactions to this kind of thing. However, I found that it is not LLL leaders that are so adimately opposed to formula as much as very vocal mothers that go to the meetings. The 4 LLL leaders that I’ve met have all been very understanding that breast isn’t best in EVERY situation.

  2. Ri-chan says:

    “promoting the formula agenda”? “boycott Old Navy until they take the onesie off the shelves”? That sounds crazy, to be frank. Like a mixture between a conspiricy theory nut and a power mad cop.

  3. Paula says:

    When Will this unnecessary “battle” between breast feeding and formula feeding end? When will people realize that everybody already knows the advantages and disadvantages of one and another and leave each mom to choose what she considers best without being judged ? Plus, this is just an onesie for good sake! BTW, I’ve been nursing for 8 months now but totally respect other mom’s decision to formula feed and that should be the main point – RESPECT! Respect for each other’s choices.

  4. holly says:

    The lactivists are getting on my nerves. Really, if our kid is not “formula powered” don’t buy the shirt! Just like my kid is not a “drama queen” so I will not buy that shirt. They say they want the right to BF, they have it. They do not have the right to put their agenda in front of basic free market principles. I swear they want to make formula-feeding moms into devils – how dare Old Navy support such women! (That’s sarcasm, but the way.) They have a right to BF and other moms have the right to not. Everyone’s rights are equal so get over yourself and how about just offering a smile of support to every new mom, even the one with a can of formula in her shopping cart.

  5. bob says:

    You know, I could use some publicity. Maybe I’ll threaten to burn a Medela in the public square.

  6. holly says:

    I also think it’s funny that Sarah felt she had to give the excuses why her sis did not BF – from medical to “young and impatient.” Pass judgment much? Unless she is 16 and truly incompetent, you might want to rephrase that to, “my sister chose to bottle feed since that was what was what she decided was best for her family.”

  7. Mistress_Scorpio says:

    I was in Old Navy with my breastfed baby last week and considered buying this onesie because I knew it would piss the lactivists off.

  8. SW says:

    There are baby shirts about being breastfed, so why not formula fed?
    People just need to relax!

  9. Anonimom says:

    I’m going to go and buy something from Old Navy today to protest people who call for silly boycotts.

  10. goddess says:

    I[d buy it if I had baby, LOL! Just for giggles- and I would. Giggle that is, every time he or she wore it, I’d have giggles off and on all day, LOL.

  11. Sarah says:

    Holly, not giving excuses at all. I support anyone’s choice to formula feed, just pointing out that there are plenty of people who want to breast feed and connot and they get the backlash from crazy lactivists just as much as those who choose not to bf just because they don’t want to.

  12. Sarah says:

    If I wasn’t clear in my response, I think the boycott and the whole BF vs Formular arguement to be silly.

  13. holly says:

    Sarah, I understood that you were against the boycott, but wanted to point out that the need to make excuses is part of the problem. I recently read this:

    It kind of says it all!

  14. Stephanie says:

    Agreed- the boycott is crazy. Unless Old Navy starts selling “Palin powered” tshirts I’m still shopping there.

  15. [...] Via Strollerderby, we find that some lactivists aren’t happy about a new onesie on Old Navy shelves that reads, “Formula Powered.” In response, folks like Cate Nelson at Eco Child’s Play are telling moms they should boycott the store (and their accompanying Gap, Banana Republic, etc.) until they take the onesie down, which they say is empowering the formula industry. Nelson says: We all know breastfeeding is best for baby…and mama. Formula simply isn’t the healthy option. So, why doesn’t Old Navy know it? [...]

  16. finkle says:

    Relax- as a new mom (who breastfeeds btw) I understand the extreme social pressure put on mothers to breastfeed, there is no need to vilify those who make a different choice in the feeding of their children (for whatever reason they choose). We all know that “breast is best” but there are times when it is easier said than done. Lets just stop the guilt trip.

  17. jenny says:

    instead of turning this into something about personal choices, feelings and weird obsessive digs at “crazy” people on either side, I think we ALL ought to be upset that Old Navy is using something they know to be controversial and important to many women to turn a profit. Whether you breast feed or bottle feed, THAT is a feminist issue. Do we want our personal hurt/anger/guilt to be exploited for corporate dollars?

  18. SuZ says:

    Can’t we all get along? :) I’m a lactivist and a realists. I know that what is right for me isn’t necessarily right for everyone and I wouldn’t want anyone shoving their opinion down my throat because I choose to breastfeed my babies. So I would never do it to anyone else. I love the idea that Old Navy could offer a choice or either formula powered or Mom powered. That would make everyone happy… right? :)

  19. kittenpie says:

    I”m not a huge supporter of formula, and am surrounded by major breastfeeding supporters, so my first response is to be surprised that anyone would want to announce they feed formula and face the withering looks and disdainful comments. But really? why shouldn’t they get to put it on a T-shirt if that’s what they want?

    As far as Old Navy’s part, I only see it as strange and a little regrettable that they didn’t make a flip-side version that said “Powered by Mom” as well. Then again, there might be a fistfight in the baby aisle if they put them both out at the same time…

  20. Anelle says:

    I am SO going to buy this onesie for my new baby. I received so much grief from lactivists with my first child that I would love to shove something back without apologies!

  21. NMNY says:

    I confess. I am enthralled by Old Navy therefore I must immediately have a third child so that I can feed him or her formula and purchase this clever onsie. If only I had known before…

  22. Elisabeth@YCCII says:

    Ironically, Old Navy dressing rooms are a favorite place for me to stop and nurse while out with the baby. They’ve always been supportive, so I certainly see no need for a boycott.

  23. Gretchen Powers says:

    I am very much pro breastfeeding but to boycott or get in a snit over this onesie means these women have too much time on their hands. How ’bout boycotting over the (very likely) crappy work conditions of the folks that make those onesies in factories in Bangladesh or whatever? Style-wise, I think the onesie is ugly and stupid, but not offensive.

  24. alison says:

    Have we solved all the problems facing mothers with regards to breastfeeding (from promoting initiation and maintaining breastfeeding among new mothers to getting enough, if any, maternity leave for working moms so they can establish the nursing relationship to making sure those moms have a space to pump their milk once they go back to work to promoting public breastfeeding) that we are now forced to boycott a clothing store for a fairly innocuous t-shirt?

  25. Jennifer says:

    I think it’s a free speech issue on both sides. I don’t care if Old Navy has that shirt, but if people think it’s offensive enough to boycott, it’s their right to speak out about it. I consider myself a lactivist, but it’s from the perspective that women have a right to make choices, including formula, with no questions asked. I wouldn’t buy it, and wouldn’t put my kid in it since it wasn’t true in my case (well, barring laundry issues :=), but the shirt doesn’t bother me.

  26. michelle says:

    Love your comment alison.

  27. MamaCat says:

    Honestly, I don’t think Old Navy was out to insult anybody.
    I think this shirt’s design was merely a riff on a Formula 1 Racing logo design that some graphics designer thought was really funny, not realizing that they were about to enter a mommy war zone.

  28. Tammie Harris says:

    I breastfed both of my babies!! I wasn’t able to do it very long because they needed some formula to help with weight gain while in the hospital. I am not totally against this BUT.. If you are going to sell a shirt with formula powered.. then have one as well FOR BREASTFEEDING MOTHERS.. BOOOOOOBIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEE POWERED!!! *DISLIKE THIS OLD NAVY*

  29. Peter Flom says:

    The leeches are loony. Breast feeding is best, sure. But some women can’t do it. And there really are more important things to get upset over.

  30. [...] Breastfeeding Moms Boycott Old Navy [...]

  31. Roxanne says:

    Formula like Similac that has bugs in it. How can we ever trust formula completely ever again

  32. designHer Momma says:

    I was just at my local old navy, and they had onesies with the University of Michigan logo all over the. Since I graduated from Michigan State, this was highly offensive to me.

    Honestly, don’t think this is worth getting my panties in a bind over. And for the record, I’m happily breastfeeding my 10 month old right now, as I type. (which is powered by the burrito covered hotsauce I just ate for breakfast)

  33. Kate says:

    The entire universe has lost it’s sense of humor. It is just a flippin’ onesie. Aren’t there more important things to worry about???

  34. hawkmom says:

    I just think it’s an odd onesie to sell. Although here in Iowa you can get a shirt for you 6 month old that says “Corn Fed” I think that’s funny. Are the activists calling for a boycott on those shirts too?? If you don’t like the shirt just don’t buy it.

  35. Beaker says:

    Take it down a notch, people. Old Navy stores are selling an amusing shirt with a glib decal. It’s a shirt. It’s a shirt that resonates with a lot of people. If you don’t like it, don’t buy it. But don’t act like it impinges upon your freedom or pretend that a $5 shirt is a clarion call to action. Get a grip.

  36. [...] what if your goal is not to breastfeed your baby?  What if your goal, from day one, is to have a formula poweredtyke?  James’s suggestion that formula be available only be prescription is no less [...]

  37. krystal says:

    I find this hilarious because I seriously JUST ordered that onesie and it just arrived yesterday. I breastfeed my baby for 4 months exculsivly then was hospitalized with an infection and due to the medicaitons I was on I was unable to continue to breastfeed. However I dont feel like I am compelled to tell everyone that I did attempt to breastfeed my baby and don’t feel like I have to justify him being formula feed now to ANYONE. I just find the shirt hilarious and will be dressing my son in it probably tomorrow! (Guess I will just have to look out for the Le Leche Legue ladies and their pitchforks!)

  38. [...] Paula Bernstein of Stroller Derby points out, some mothers have a hard time breast feeding and need formula to keep their kids [...]

  39. [...] Yesterday, I posted about lactivists who are boycotting Old Navy because of a onesie that they say it promotes the formula agenda. [...]

  40. amber says:

    I’m going to go write my own post about this and link back here because I think the uproar is dumb. Stay tuned…

  41. amber says:

    …and here’s the post. I forgot to link back here – I’ll fix that later. Right after I pick my formula fed daughter up from daycare.

  42. [...] a $5 onesie? Is not worth getting so pissed off [...]

  43. Sara says:

    I’m a nursing mom and I am not offended by the onesie. I think it is cute! The lactivists should save their energy for more important battles such as guaranteeing the right, time, and place to nurse at all workplaces. And getting nursing supplies eligible for insurance or flexspend reimbursement.

  44. Sara says:

    I sent before finishing my comment. I am so tired of women fighting over such small issues when there are so many large issues such as the ones I mentioned above that need our attention and activism. Take the need for a national investment in better childcare, equal pay for women, better work-life balance, paid maternity leave…the needs are endless. Griping over onesies, even if you do find them personally offensive is a waste of time.

  45. Allie says:

    Why don’t we all band together and demand paid maternity or Canadian like materinity leave? Apparently those with the free time to boycott Old Navy don’t have time to focus on issues that could actually help Mothers.

  46. [...] Breastfeeding Moms Boycott Old Navy [...]

  47. Liz says:

    Lets be real here, no matter how many onesies get taken off the shelf, formula will always be an attractive option for mothers, especially working mothers, because it makes life so much easier. If you are going to boycott Old Navy regarding the onesie, then you should also boycott all the stores that stock formula out on the shelf instead of not at all or behind the Pharmacy counter. Boycott Babies R Us for sending mothers circulars with formula coupons. Or do something useful with your time and lobby for better maternity leave, raise awareness to lessen stigma of feeding in public, and lobby for better laws regarding pumping in the workplace.

  48. Tonya says:

    I have a 4 month and experienced problems when attempting to breast feed. I’m sad that it didn’t work out but I would never make another woman feel bad about their choice to formula feed their child. When I was pregnant I saw a onesie that read “Boob Man” and that it was the cutest thing. Now Old Navy has a “Formula Powered” onesie that I also think is adorable. Since I’m 5weeks pregnant again I will try again to breast feed and will get both “Boob Man” and “Formula Powered” onesies for my kiddos.

  49. [...] Breastfeeding Moms Boycott Old Navy [...]

  50. [...] Breastfeeding Moms Boycott Old Navy [...]

  51. [...] Breastfeeding Moms Boycott Old Navy [...]

  52. [...] Alia, one of wonderful co-facilitators, brought the following article: Breastfeeding Moms Boycott Old Navy [...]

  53. Leila says:

    Don’t we have more serious matters to worry about? Like the US’s disturbingly high infant mortality and maternal mortality rate? Or the fact that we’re the only developed country w/o a universal, paid maternal leave policy, or the fact that millions of American children don’t have health insurance? The fact that Old Navy has a silly onesie is the least of our problems, people.

  54. Denise says:

    I don’t get this whole lactivists vs. formula moms thing. I nursed exclusively. My son didn’t wean till he was 3. The moms I’m friends with run the gamut: some only nursed, some mixed it up and some only formula fed. I don’t remember EVER having an argument with any of them about their (or my) parenting choices when it came to how we fed our babies. We all commiserated about the problems and struggles that come up with any of the above options. I’m beginning to think this whole “mommy war” issue is made up.

  55. [...] boycott in which people vowed to shop more than usual at Old Navy. And, yes, there were a couple voices of reason amidst the fracas, too. So if you happen to be compiling a worst-baby-shower-gift-ever [...]

  56. Kourtney says:

    if you want to boycott somthing, fine….but at least have the forethought to think it through. i’ve seen onsies reference breastfeeding, but no one boycotts that why? b/c it’s STUPID! what if your baby is “formula powered”? who cares? breastfeeding is best no one is disputing that. but is your breast-fed child going to be a better/smarter kid than one who isn’t? NO!! people do what works for them and their kids. it’s fine to promote breastfeeding but don’t make to people who don’t or can’t feel bad about themselves. THINK!!!!

  57. skelly says:

    Here’s a late update comment. Recently I noticed old navy selling a line of 0-3 and 3-6 baby onsies that say something like ‘shhhh….I’m eating’ on the back, which would only really make sense if read while baby was held in a nursing position. Perhaps a tactic to change image after this ridiculousness? Maybe. Would I have killed for either to have been around during my now 19 month old’s newborn stage of breastfeeding with formula supplementation? Hell yes!

  58. lynn says:

    wow, people need to get a life. It’s supposed to be funny…you know, a JOKE? People are so beyond sensitive these days over stupid stuff. If they had a onsie that said “I prefer the breast” would that make it ok? No, because then people would get upset over that.

    People, use your energy for something good…go volunteer at a shelter, donate time or money to help those who have lost their homes because of the storms,etc. Imagine how much nicer thigs would be if people used the energy they use for little stuff like this for stuff that MATTERS in life.

  59. Mounique says:

    I am so tired of the “breastfeding Nazi’s”. These people are out of hand! I don’t breastfeed and nothing a Doctor, Nutritionist or random stranger has to say will change my mind! I think it is creepy and totally un-necessary this day and age. To each his own but leave me and my formula fed baby alone! They should be more outraged that a onesie is $5.00!! Also no one wants to see you breastfeeding your baby in a store, restaurant or church, etc. That is just NASTY!!!

  60. MayasMomma214 says:

    I plan to breastfeed, but this onesie isn’t offending anybody for real… not when there’s “does this diaper make my butt look big” onesies out there that nobody seems concerned about.

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