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Mama, Let's Talk about THAT advert


Photo Credit: Frida Mom

It is an important step in the right direction.

Change is the cumulative effect of actions, and I think that Frida Mom’s commercial adds value to the change I wish and will to be in the world, as an active advocate for breastfeeding.

However, there is a shadow over this thought-provoking commercial that depicts real breastfeeding mothers in a realistic manner. That shadow is cast by Frida Mom’s private industry interests, and it is a long and familiar one.

Frida Mom is a company, a private company whose aim is financial profit.

Frida Mom’s motivations are ultimately financially incentivised. I acknowledge that this is not a black and white situation, there are shades of grey. When Patagonia donated its Trump-administration era tax cut of USD 10 million to help combat climate change, was their motive financial profit? It would seem not.

Can private industry have significant goals in beyond financial reward? Yes. Do most? I would argue no.

Most companies seek financial profit as their ultimate priority, and most actions the company makes are in line with that priority. I argue that while Frida Mom produced an important, realistic commercial that adds value to the conversations around motherhood, its ultimate goal is to profit financially by framing breastfeeding as difficult and as requiring material goods to secure success.

Photo Credit: Frida Mom

“Breastfeeding is great, but it’s difficult, and the moms who succeed are more likely to shame you than support you, so good luck with that.”

Does that narrative sound familiar? This is the position of the formula industry.

Formula companies are legally bound to accurately frame their product as inferior to breastfeeding, BUT they do so with cunning. The formula industry intentionally frames breastfeeding as difficult to achieve, and perpetuates the message that mothers who succeed at it are haughty and unhelpful, and certainly not inclined to support a struggling mother.

So, how does this relate to Frida Mom’s position on breastfeeding? The commercial essentially says “Breastfeeding is difficult and fraught, and in order to succeed, you need these tools that you can buy from us.”

There is no mention of education or support.

There is no mention of taking a class beforehand, of the mechanics of breast milk production, of the free support that is available to mothers from advocacy or community groups.

The commercial does show a brief moment where a mother mulls over whether it’s too early to contact a lactation consultant, implying that a mother should not require support so early in the game. This notion could not be further from the truth: mothers often experience the most difficulties in the first few weeks of a baby's life, and that time is precisely the time to rally support.

Photo Credit: Frida Mom

Alas, when companies frame the solution to achieving higher breastfeeding rates as items a mother must purchase, they show their true colours. While heat pads, nursing pillows and…*checks notes* breast hydration masks have a place in a mother’s breastfeeding journey, they are not solutions to problems without education and knowledge.

Knowledge comes from experienced mothers and professionals who make it their goal to support women in breastfeeding, whether that is La Leche League leaders, lactation consultants, medical professionals, or simply a friend who wants to help.

Where were they, in the commercial?

While Frida Mom’s commercial and the company itself add value to increase the conversation around breastfeeding, I suggest their goal is to divert a mother’s attention toward items she must purchase for supposed success, rather than toward support that will be more instrumental in helping her to achieve her breastfeeding goals.

Ultimately, I see a glaring contrast between how Frida Mom positions itself as a supposed breastfeeding advocate, and how the organisation I volunteer for, La Leche League, positions itself.

I understand that Frida Mom is not in the business of providing free support, as LLL is.

What I disagree with is the sleight of hand Frida Mom uses to position itself as an advocate for breastfeeding, while simultaneously and intentionally omitting the true source of breastfeeding success: knowledge and support.

Photo Credit: Frida Mom

So, what could Frida Mom do differently, if they wished to tap into that source of success? Nothing that would make them money, likely.

Invest in prenatal breastfeeding classes for disadvantaged populations, campaign for longer maternity leave in the US, invest in nursing and pumping rooms in shopping malls, campaign to restrict the formula industry’s insidious marketing techniques, invest in free home visits to new mothers, etc.

Universal breastfeeding would yield significant changes for the global population. It would have a significant positive impact on issues of public health and education. I maintain that the main reason why universal breastfeeding does not exist (or rates that come close to being universal) is because there is no money to be made in it.

Selling things to anxious new mothers, however? Bags. Bags of money to be made in that.

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