Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Good Stuff

Warning: Photo contains minor, non-gratuitous nudity.

Julian was weighed on his 3-week birthday. He gained more than a pound and a half and had reached 11lbs 13oz, up from his birth weight of 10lbs 2oz. One could surmise that his diet of exclusive breastmilk is meeting his needs.

And that's why I was completely furious and confused when a big can of infant formula arrived in my mailbox on the same day. It had just a clear, plastic shrink wrap and it was addressed to me with a return address for Mead-Johnson in Etobicoke. Imagine: the mailman carried this big UNCONCEALED can of formula with MY NAME ON IT all the way down the street for anyone to see!

Somehow Mead-Johnson had acquired my name, address and private reproductive information (i.e. my due date) and apparently the law allows them to use that information to market their product. I get it that in rare circumstances a woman is unable to breastfeed and must resort to formula-feeding her baby, but that is not how formula is actually used in this country. The fact that less than 20% of mothers are exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months tells the story of how formula is the preferred and more-accepted way to feed babies in our culture.

For me, the formula was garbage and it disappeared on the solid waste truck this week. At three weeks post-partum I was not in the least vulnerable to using formula. My baby was nursing contentedly 12-20 times per day. My milk was plentiful. I wasn't sleep deprived (a term mothers use to describe the difference between the way they WANT to sleep versus the way the baby ACTUALLY sleeps). And I had all the support I needed: my partner is pro-breastfeeding, my mother breastfed me until I was 3 years old and I'm not really looking for outside approval anyway.

But consider the new mother who is still struggling with breastfeeding at 3 weeks. Her baby is gaining weight slowly. He breasts are sore and her nipples are cracked. She thinks she can't function because her baby wakes up to nurse every three hours and the mother hasn't learned how to nurse lying down or how to fall asleep with the baby still suckling. And worst of all, the poor mother's mother-in-law calls her every day to tell her that SHE gave formula to HER babies and they all turned out fine. Then a can of formula arrives in the mail. I guarantee that mother opens it and feeds it to her baby.

So with all this anger in my head, I immediately phoned Mead-Johnson and asked (demanded) to speak to the person responsible for sending out free samples. A very young-sounding woman came on the line and I explained that I was furious that Mead-Johnson was marketing to me, and that I strongly resent that the law permits them to obtain person information about me and then send me a product that is dangerous to the health and welfare of my baby. I requested that I be removed immediately from their database and I told them that I would be sending a letter to Stephen Harper to request that a law be put in place to prevent formula companies from marketing directly to new mothers. The woman had no comment, did as I requested and hung up.

Next phone call. I looked online for a phone number for WestList, the company which had apparently (according to the woman at Mead Johnson) sold my personal information. I left a message at a 1-800 number, and my call was returned by a T Weston, calling from a 905 number. He told me that WestList was a broker of names and Mead Johnson was their client. He made a big point of telling me that Mead Johnson did not break any laws by obtaining my personal information (including my due date) and by sending me the formula. I insisted that my name be deleted from the WestList database as well.

So what a hassle!! Maybe a well-meaning friend or relative signed me up to receive free stuff for new parents, since I certainly didn't sign up for anything. The guy at WestList said that they obtain names from all types of registries--even daycare waiting lists!--and that it would be impossible to track that information. Good grief. That'll be a lesson to me to NEVER fill out any form without asking if my name is going to be sold.

But just look at the photos of our little Julian! Isn't he fabulous? We are enjoying him so much and I am so grateful that he joined our family. We'll be taking a family photo for his one-month birthday and I will post it as soon as I can.
All photo credits for Julian go to my friend Julie Jay.

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