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A Father’s Perspective on the Similac Ad

by Danny Pitt Stoller

Mommyblogs are buzzing about the new Similac ad—called “Sisterhood of Motherhood”—which ostensibly calls for a truce in the ongoing Mommy Wars.

It starts out as a sort of comedy sketch, where parents arrive at the park in separate, recognizable packs—the Stroller Moms, the Babywearers, the Working Moms, the Stay-at-Homes, the Breastfeeders, the Bottlefeeders, the Dads, etc. The various groups banter with one another, with insults hurled back and forth, as a parody of the Mommy War status quo. At the end, though, the parents unite to rescue a baby who is rolling down the hill in an errant stroller, which gives us our big “Sisterhood of Motherhood” ending: we all want the best for our children, we’re all in it together.

And if that’s the real message, then of course I applaud it. In our public discussion about parenting, one of the biggest roadblocks is this ubiquitous tone of competition and nastiness, this feeling that everybody is constantly being sized up as a good or a bad mom, this oppressive atmosphere of judgment. For anyone to stand up and say No More Mommy Wars! seems like a positive thing. Who could disagree with that?

That’s all fine and good, until you examine how the ad actually portrays these groups.

As the Breastfeeders enter, one of the Bottlefeeders mutters, “Here come the breast police…” The Breastfeeders proceed to start boasting about their 100% breastfed babies; moments later, one of them contemptuously remarks, “I guess somebody’s too LAZY to breastfeed!”

The breastfeeding moms are consistently portrayed as unrepentant bullies, and the Similac moms (this is, after all, a Similac ad) as their victims. OK, so the Bottlefeeders do use the snide epithet “breast police”—but their use of it is, in the skit, totally justified. These stereotypical Breastfeeders DO act like breast police. This communicates a message, not of moral equivalence, but of Breastfeeder-as-aggressor.

There is nothing in the skit about the negative judgments that breastfeeding moms encounter on a daily basis—the frequent suggestions that they are being exhibitionistic or otherwise obscene, that they are “spoiling” or excessively pampering their children. If the purpose is truly to expose the negative judgments moms must face, why not include these? In the world of this skit, all the judgment goes the other way.

So—it’s a formula ad. While we are still fighting to change people’s perceptions about breastfeeding—to teach people that it isn’t obscene!—what we have here is a skit that presents Similac moms as “normal” and breastfeeders as some kind of playground bullies. And this is supposed to end the mommy wars!

The fact is—if this isn’t too obvious to point out—Similac wants to sell its product. If formula is compared with breastmilk in terms of nutritional value, Similac loses the argument. So what is their strategy? To dismiss the argument as “judgmental.” They aren’t opposed to “judgment”; they’re only opposed to the types of judgment that might influence moms to avoid formula. The widespread negative judgments about breastfeeding are of no concern to Similac, and so they are not included here.

Families should be able to make thoughtful, informed choices without being badgered, bullied, shamed, or judged. But this ad does not promote self-assurance for all families. Instead, it feeds the sense of aggrieved victimhood that too many parents already feel. It tells them, “Yes, it’s true: the Breastfeeders and the Homebirthers and the Babywearers are laughing at you, judging you.” Though the ad calls for an end to the Mommy Wars, the ad’s power ultimately depends on that culture war, and brings that war no closer to an end.

What do you think?

Comments

  1. i love this!!!

  2. I could not agree more! I certainly do not behave the way any of these parents did in the ad, and I know few who do. I just didn’t enjoy the ad at all. If the overall message was truly that we should all respect each other’s parenting choices and quit arguing, that’s great, but it really seemed like it was painting a picture of the breastfeeding moms and baby wearing moms as the “bad guys”. Didn’t strike a good chord with me.

  3. Completely agree. I have fed my babies both ways hand have experienced judgmental stares amd comments from all sides.

  4. i am a badass breastfeeding now who also supplements and I wasn’t offended by the ad at all. I found it quite comical until the runaway stroller with that poor baby! I was almost in tears as that baby rolled down that hill and I was relieved when they got her.

  5. *mom, not now

  6. interesting! I didn’t even know this was a formula ad until now but I can definitely see that point of view. I also didn’t like that it just makes everyone seem nasty. Most parents are more keen on surviving parenthood than being outwardly mean to other parents.

  7. He’s right. I breastfeed…and thought the commercial was hilarious….but he’s so right. I didn’t even think about that.

  8. I could not agree more!!! The ONLY people that like that ad are the women that quit/didn’t try breastfeeding because of “inconvenience”!!! Just because I want to try to explain all of the ENDLESS amount of benefits of breastfeeding I shouldn’t be labeled a “bully” because you give yourself a guilt trip for not trying because of inconvenience!!!! That ad pissed me off quite frankly! And the people that posted it on Facebook were just like I said women who didn’t try to give their babies that AMAZING nutrients!

    • *Please* be trolling. The alternative is much worse – that you are actually living up to the stereotype. Not helpful at all.

      As a someone who is currently tandem feeding plus ‘extended’ breastfeeding, I found this ad hilarious (and moving). As Chrissy said I didn’t even notice that it painted breastfeeding mums as the bad guys until reading this article. Very clever advertising.

    • But really….. How women feed their children has nothing to do with you. Comments like yours are the exact reason why you are labelled the “breast police” in the first place.

    • Whoa there! I know that those who didn’t BF or quit bf’ing are NOT the only ones that thought this commercial was funny! I know this b/c I still BF my 13 mth old, and have never used formula! But Ya know what, some ppl do. That’s their choice, and no one’s place to judge. Yes I agree with the author on how it was portrayed, but I’m not a jerk walking around thinking formula moms are bad so I’m not offended. (Can’t really expect that it would be portrayed any other way since it’s from a company SELLING formula!). And if formula moms think it’s weird that I bf, well that’s THEIR problem, not mine. Yes I wish everyone would at least try to bf if they can & I know that breast milk is nutritionally superior to formula, and those that use formula do too, but those that don’t bf have their own reasons and I can respect that. There may be some aspect of parenting that they do “superior” to you or me!! Let’s all move on and do what we think is appropriate w/out bashing others! The best thing you could do if you’re so passionate about educating others on the benefits of BFing (and it’s awesome to be passionate about it!!!) is to start a group, be a LC, educate high schools/colleges, tell your friends, etc. Some will still choose formula, and I bet their kids will make it just fine.

      • I second you Julie.

      • I hate this argument. I think breast feeding is awesome, but my body did not let it happen (and I have heard no end of it from the “breast police” because of it). Thus was after 2 doctors, 2 nurses and a nurse practitioner tried to help. It really is hard to hear someone tell me about how natural it is and how awesome it is when I couldn’t, no matter how good their “intentions” are. I support anyone who loves and takes care of their babies, no matter how they choose to do it. With so many children going hungry, it shouldn’t matter how they are eating, as long as they are happy and healthy.

        • Same. I’m still trying to build up a supply for our twenty-day-old, but because of diagnosed insufficient glandular tissue, I can only produce about eight ounces a day when he needs closer to sixteen ounces, and he’s only getting hungrier. I was fortunate to come across an ‘inclusive’ feeding group for those of us who want to breastfeed exclusively but can’t and they’ve been my greatest support when I’ve gotten flack from exclusive breastfeeders. I’m hoping that continuing to take my supplements and starting domperidone will take me to exclusive levels of production, but all I know is that I haven’t received shade from formula feeders but I have received it from breastfeeders, and that makes me sad because I unapologetically nurse our son uncovered, remind everyone that boobs were made for feeding so they can deal with breastfeeding in public, feel that breastmilk is truly the best for babies and have an extremely hard time with the fact that I can’t feed him just breast.

  9. It was a funny and cute ad.

  10. In the ad everyone was bashing everyone else and vice versa. Everyone was a bully in that ad not just the breast feeders. And as moms we all think were the better mom when in reality we are all moms. If you are looking that Hard at this ad to only see the negatives about your belief then it’s insecurity. The ad was supposed to bring moms together and instead it did the exact opposite. It’s really sad we can’t just all get along as mothers. That’s just my opinion though.

  11. I think we are being WAY too sensitive here. It’s a commercial for goodness’ sake. Relax a little. Don’t be so easily offended. I was bottle fed. I’m very healthy. I bf all my kids to the “awkward” stage. Who cares?

  12. I totally agree! It’s driving me nuts to see so many people sharing this as the best parenting video ever. I love hearing this from a Dad’s perspective. I wrote a post over the weekend about my views on it too http://bit.ly/1CS3x7d hope it’s okay to share that here. I had a very similar perspective but I think you said it better than me!

  13. Tbh I did notice this a little when I first saw it. I assumed maybe I’d missed the bit showing the formula feeders as judgmental too, but not surprised at all that it seems one sided.

    What does bother me most about this isn’t the message at all – it’s the amount of money formula companies spend on ads. If they didn’t, the cost of formula would be lower. Which is better for the mums who need/want it – and we don’t need ads to tell us formula exists. Jeez everyone knows and if your baby needs it your midwife/health visitor will discuss all the brands with you.
    End formula advertising. Lower the cost of formula.

  14. Annie St. Cyr says

    I have watched this ad a few times. No parent looks good in the scenario in the front of the commercial, which is a satirical bit, like a caricature of each kind of parent. IT IS A JOKE. Actually, the dialog between the fathers and the mothers is FAR MORE CONCERNING to me being the wife and partner to a stay-at-home-dad, a feminist and someone who believes both sexes are equal. I’m surprised as a father, you are not more offended by that. The end to the parenting wars does not come from treating everything as an attack, that’s how they started. While I think there are some problems with it, more so with the treatment of fathers than any other aspect, I am a fan of this ad. It has a positive message and makes the point clearly. I admin over a mommy group thats sole purpose is to end the nastiness between mothers, and strengthen our bond. I would like to see more content like that out there.

    I am a breastfeeding mother, my baby has never had a drop of formula. So I have no stakes in defending Similac, no cross to bear. Just an understanding of satire, comedy, marketing and not being overly sensitive.

  15. The argument of breast VS bottle…and the suggestion that the ad paints breast feeding mothers as bullies, well, I can’t disagree. Throughout my pregnancy I had never been so bullied as I was from breast feeding mothers….I heard rants and speeches with numerous reasons why I should breastfeed from people I knew and complete strangers…I don’t understand why people who feel so strongly about breastfeeding feel entitled to place their opinions and decisions on others. I happen to be on the fence about breastfeeding in a conversation with one mother who was discussing breast feeding with me (which I have to say is already weird in itself…that is my decision and a private matter that I would prefer not to discuss in public or with strangers…) and her response was to badger me for the following 20 minutes about breastfeeding and how it is the ONLY option. It was embarrassing, inappropriate and uncalled for. Little did the woman know that come time to breastfeed I couldn’t produce milk and I had to feed via bottle…but thanks for making me feel like a horrible mother for not breastfeeding…some people just don’t think before they open their big mouths and their bull headed opinions.

  16. You all take yourself too seriously. It was a funny add. No need to be affronted by this. Make an intelligent, informed decision about what is right for your family.

  17. Shannon Rose Bell says

    I totally agree. I finished the ad feeling uneasy and only after thinking about it for a bit did I realize what it was…I’m a breastfeeding mother that feels consistent judgment regarding my choice to feed in public, not necessarily wanting to cover my child while feeding, pumping at work for my ‘older child’ and she’s less than 1 yr old, organizing my life/job/childcare to prioritize our nursing relationship…I feel judgment and yet I’m making an effort to do the best for my baby. And this ad, makes me feel like I shouldn’t try, like I’M the one judging and like I’m the one being pushy. Man, I just wish there was more support, like I didn’t feel like I had to enlighten others as to why I’m doing what I’m doing. I’m sure formula feedings mom’s feel the same way, and I think that’s the why people like the ‘idea’ of this ad, but it just does a poor job. and of course…it’s so blatantly obvious it’s about turing a profit for similac.

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