The other day in my various clickings around the internet I came across a webcomic devoted to the author’s fury at having received a formula sample in the mail. I scanned some of her other comics, which were mainly focused on being angry at people who put their children in cribs and have the audacity to try sleep training methods (one that particularly sticks out in my mind is the comic depicting the incredulous holier-than-thou heroine chastising an off-panel voice for attempting the Great Evil CIO after she had suffered a miscarriage before having the non-sleeping baby in question — because apparently enduring challenges on the way to parenthood renders a person ineligible for making their own parenting decisions, or something). While I pretty much got the feeling that this woman and I wouldn’t have a whole lot in common if we were to meet up on the playground, I wouldn’t bother to bring this up — because different strokes for different folks, right? — except what the hell, can someone explain what is so offensive about having a formula sample show up in your mailbox?

Because, see, I’ve seen this before, where people get all bent out of shape about the fact that sometimes hospitals include a little freebie of formula in that bag of crap they give you before sending you home, or how once you’re on that mysterious New Parent master list you tend to get a mailing or two that includes a coupon or a can of Similac or whatever the hell it is. This is totally confusing to me, because if you receive something you do not want, can you not just throw it away? Or give it to someone who needs it?

Even if someone considers formula inherently evil — and boy, I will heartily disagree with you on this point, since as a person who did not have the option of breastfeeding you’re certainly not going to convince ME that the substance my babies existed on exclusively for the first several months of their perfectly healthy, thriving lives is a product without value — what’s the point in throwing a fit about being mis-marketed to? Is there really the expectation that the companies that produce infant formula should quietly sit back and opt out of any advertising, because by god every mother on this earth had better be breastfeeding whether she’s capable of doing so or not?

If you ask me, the energy put towards a Samuel Jackson-esque tantrum of great vengeance and furious anger over a container of powder would be much better invested in packaging up that container and sending to someone whose paycheck is going to be strained by the months of PAYING for said powder.

Also, I’m pretty sure bringing up someone’s miscarriage in order to criticize their parenting choices earns you a special place in hell, hopefully involving being submerged in a vat of spat-up formula while having to listen to this commercial over and over again.


188 Responses to “Not exactly anthrax”

  1. Kate on February 28th, 2009 9:59 pm

    “There isn’t a guy in a black suit and curly mustache at the company plotting against the fragile ego of the newly breastfeeding mother.”

    Actually, yes there is. Just like there are teams of child psychologists working for Proctor and Gamble and Mattel.

    They don’t give the maxi pads and shaving cream out to children in elementary school because it’s a nice thing to do, just like they don’t give out formula samples in hospitals because it’s a nice thing to do.

    While it’s great that the women responding to this blog post seem to be able to make an informed decision about the matter, not everyone has access to the same resources you may have access too. There are a whole lot of women out there who don’t consider how they’re going to feed their baby until it pops out. Whoops–there’s a formula sample! How perfect!

  2. Nana on March 1st, 2009 7:38 am

    The dangerous thing about niche blogging is that you are insulated by your sychophants. So many of us agree with the comic creator, but we’re all congregated at another blog – so we think everyone in the world agress with us. Here, you all disagree with the comic creator – so you think everyone agrees with you.

    Here the effect is heightened by the pressence of the rabid sychophants.

  3. sundry on March 1st, 2009 9:54 am

    Ha! Nana, that’s the funniest thing I’ve heard all weekend. THE DANGERS OF NICHE BLOGGING OMG. Wait, this is a niche blog? Huh. Well, you do appear to be a Niche Commenter, as in, the type who rudely throws around a ridiculous, inappropriate term like “sycophant” in order to add exactly nothing of value to the discussion.

  4. Nana on March 1st, 2009 11:59 am


    That your minions haven’t skewered me yet is a surprise. It is the weekend, though. Surely they’ll resurface soon.

  5. jonniker on March 1st, 2009 12:12 pm

    Kate’s comment makes me think of the single biggest issue I have in this whole argument, which is that while the government, and many others, make a strong case for breast-feeding, the fact remains that support for it beyond rhetoric — that is, in the form of reasonable maternity leave, employee-based programs and other public health laws and programs, is painfully slim.

    So while you’re right, breast-feeding is “free”, I would venture to guess that in less affluent areas rife with single mothers, it’s not purely a lack of education, but a lack of resources and actual, useful support. If you can’t afford to take a reasonable maternity leave, or your employer doesn’t support pumping at work or you can’t afford a breast pump — and I’m guessing in most of those cases, that’s probably true — then yes, formula is your best option, and thank God for that. Hell, those things don’t exist for plenty of women who *aren’t* in some sort of difficult personal situation, and are relatively affluent.

    And until those things happen, I am all for free/reduced-cost formula samples being distributed, particularly in those areas.

  6. sundry on March 1st, 2009 12:15 pm

    The really goofy thing about you, Nana, is that if you’d read through the comments you’d see there is actually a diverse conversation going on where people are disagreeing and offering food for thought and generally being really smart and awesome. I mean, until you came along.

  7. Jean on March 2nd, 2009 7:40 am

    Nana! Have you read any of this thread at all?? Perhaps you are confused by the way intelligent, OPEN MINDED, individuals approach a debate.

    Kate: I really like all the points you made here.

    Sundry: I love you even when I don’t agree with you 100%. xoxo… Your MINION.

  8. Looney on March 2nd, 2009 10:01 am

    I would bet money that someone who knows “Hathor” personally put her on the formula mailing list as a joke.
    They knew it was like waving a red cape in front of her.

  9. Rachel on March 2nd, 2009 11:06 am

    Hathor? She calls herself Hathor? Could she be a little more pretentious? (In case reading about ancient religions isn’t your thing…Hathor is one of the more significant ancient Egyptian goddesses, very powerful maternal and healer figure, mother and daughter of the sun god, source of great power, basically is the sky).

  10. Tony on March 2nd, 2009 12:40 pm

    If you watch Stargate, she’s portrayed as a male dominating god who seduces men (by drugging them) to use them in her plan to take over the world.

    Perhaps that’s where she’s going? Her comics might be subliminal messages designed at taking over the minds of men on the internet. If so, she should contact those in charge of marketing at the formula companies. I don’t think she’s adequately reaching her target audience. :)

  11. Kelly on March 3rd, 2009 3:29 am

    Ok, so I should probably read ALL the comments before adding my own, but well, you know.
    My now Mr 7 would have literally have been lost to us at age 3 &1/2 weeks if I had continued to attempt breast feeding. For a number of reasons, in a foreign country, having just given birth, I hadn’t realised my baby was failing to thrive because he wasn’t actually receiving enough breast milk. A chance comment to a home visitor saw a local midwife come visit over the weekend and without actually panicking me, had us go to the hospital where they picked this all up. WHO says breast feeding should be encouraged so I pumped – he screamed blue bloody murder any time the actual breast came near him. Thankfully, Belgium is quite interventialist in these areas and he was supplemented on formula. Holy mother of god, he starts picking up and recovering. Quickly. I tried to breast feed for another day – and then with the support of the midwife, came to the conclusion my boy was not a breast man. THANK GOD FOR FORMULA!!!! It makes me sooooo angry, so blood-curdling angry that other women will tell me I should have persevered. That breast is always best.

    I tend to think life is best.

  12. Steph on March 3rd, 2009 11:11 pm

    I’m late to this post, so probably no one will read this, but giving it a shot…

    After giving birth in a big, NYC hospital — and sharing a couple of rooms, all with women (mostly quite young) of low socio-economic background — I have mixed thoughts about giving out formula.

    Although of course the comic is totally out of line, I do understand the point of people who don’t want hospitals to give it out. I don’t think those people are worried about you — someone educated and mature and able to make your own decisions. They’re worried about a poor, very young, single mother. If it’s possible, it would be best for that woman to breastfeed — it is best for the child, who most likely won’t be getting fabulous nutrition once breastfeeding is finished, and it’s best for the family, because formula is VERY expensive. But a young woman in that situation is often not well-equipped to make an informed decision about it in the days after she leaves the hospital, or to make a decision to take the more difficult path when there’s an easy one right in front of her.

    But, the flip side to this is what others have said — if this woman has a job, she’s not going to be able to breastfeed for very long anyway given the sad state of maternity policies here (and particularly for the very low-paying jobs), so she might as well get some free formula.

    Maybe a compromise would be for them to give out a coupon for free formula rather than the can itself? That way at least formula wouldn’t be an extremely easy option, because someone would have to leave the house for it.

    So anyway, that was longer than I meant it to be. But my basic point is that I think there is a decent argument that hospitals shouldn’t give out free cans of formula for the formula companies, but it has nothing to do with women like you or me — it has to do with poor and vulnerable populations who aren’t as able to make informed and long-term decisions.

    Also, FYI, there are definitely still medical professionals that push formula. I was shocked — I was in an EXCELLENT hospital (but again, a big NYC one), and yet the nurses were pushing formula. But here’s the thing — they never would have dreamed of pushing it on me or doing anything but helping me breastfeed — they pushed it on my low-socio-economic-level roommates. And they pushed it pretty hard — the second the girl started complaining that breastfeeding hurt but the baby was still crying, the nurse was like, “Well, you should give him some formula then.” I was pretty surprised, and thought it was pretty sad. (To the nurse’s credit, I wonder if it’s just that they know from experience that it’s overwhelmingly likely that a poor teenage mother is going to use formula, so they feel like it’s inevitable).

    Sorry for the long comment a week late.

  13. Steph on March 3rd, 2009 11:12 pm

    Oh, and P.S., I love your blog — you are a wonderful and very funny writer.

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