A photo of a young Minnesota woman breastfeeding her daughter in front of a table advertising Enfamil baby formula is rapidly spreading across the Internet and prompting heated debate along the way.
Some are accusing Elicia Binman, 21, of Maplewood, Minn. of trying to shame mothers who use formula to feed their children or making moms feel uncomfortable about seeking information at a formula vendor’s booth. But many others applaud her for taking such a public stand in support of nursing and call the photo beautiful.
Binman, for her part, told me that the now-viral photo — which has been shared on Facebook more than two thousand times — wasn’t planned. Her daughter, Winnie, she said, just happened to get hungry while they were near the Enfamil booth, so she plopped down on the floor to feed her. When she realized the irony of their chosen nursing spot, she asked a friend to snap a photo, which she later posted to her personal Facebook page, along with a caption that included the message: “At the baby fair today and was sad to see tons of formula stands but none for breastfeeding so Winnie and I did some advertising ourselves.”
According to advertisements, the baby expo, it should be noted, was sponsored by Enfamil’s parent company, Mead Johnson Nutrition.
Binman said on her Facebook page — and later reiterated to me — that the photo was “NO attempt to knock any non breastfeeding Mammas.” But, she added, she does feel that formula companies are predatory in their approach to advertising to women before they’ve even had a chance to breastfeed. She cites this blog post in TheAlphaParent.com in making her case. (Scroll down to the “Why do breastfeeders make us feel guilty?” argument.)
Mead Johnson Nutrition, meanwhile, said in a statement to me that they provide information on both breastfeeding and formula feeding at baby fairs.
See my Q&A with Binman, which has been edited for length, below. Below that, check out statements from Mead Johnson and Maplewood Mall, where the expo was held this past weekend.
Q: Why did you choose that particular spot to nurse?
A: My girlfriend Julie was checking out the stand directly across from the Enfamil stand so Winnie and I plopped down to rest and it so happened that she wanted boob. I thought it was kind of ironic, so I asked Julie to snap a quick picture. I meant no offense to mothers who choose to formula feed.
Q: Why were you and your daughter wearing wreaths?
A: Earlier in the day was my local “Big Latch On” and they were doing professional nursing photos, so I thought we’d dress up a bit. I thought we looked pretty darn cute.
Q: How did you feel about not seeing companies related to breastfeeding at the fair?
A: I was pretty disappointed because even upon entering the expo, you were handed a welcome bag with a bag FULL of free samples from different formula companies. I was so sad to see these businesses trying to get their foot in the door of mom and babes’ breastfeeding relationship to mothers who hadn’t even had a chance to establish one yet. What the formula company does in its advertisements is very predatory.
Q: Why do you feel that formula companies are predatory?
A: Enfamil gives out free product so that mothers supplement, causing their production to go down, causing a reliance on their formula. The formula companies KNOW this but they continue to push their product hard knowing full well that is it destroying a breastfeeding relationship all for a little profit.
Q: How do you feel about the fact that some find the photo offensive to formula-feeding parents?
A: If a women chooses to formula feed for whatever reason, that is up to her, and I for one would not criticize anyone for their choices, but I would hope everyone would have the opportunity to make those choices based on facts…. Formula companies spend millions on heavily promoting their products, yet those who support breastfeeding are not even permitted to make statements about the proven superiority of breastfeeding to formula feeding without being accused of bashing other moms. I think that is unfair and really sad.
Statement from Mead Johnson Nutrition, parent company of Enfamil:
Mead Johnson Nutrition supports a mother’s right to decide what is best for her baby. We applaud each mother’s decision to provide the best nutrition possible for her infant, whether that includes breastfeeding, infant formula, or a combination of both. Because every mother has a right to know the facts in order to provide her child the best start in life, we provide helpful information about both breastfeeding and formula feeding through a variety of channels, including baby fairs.
Statement from the management team at Maplewood Mall/Simon’s Property Group:
The management team at Maplewood Mall was very gratified at the success of Saturday’s Baby Shower & Toddler Expo, which catered to Moms and Dads and allowed exhibitors to share their products and services with the many parents who attended. We are planning similar events soon at Simon’s other Minnesota properties and, based on the overwhelming positive feedback received at Maplewood, are looking to grow this event in the coming years.
Photo courtesy Elicia Binman.
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