Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Target's Idea of Breastfeeding Marketing

I have a love/hate relationship with Target. I hate they let their employees harass nursing mothers in their stores and don't do anything about it. But I love that they sell cute clothes for toddler boys for ridiculously cheap prices. But then I hate that every time you buy a baby item from them, they print a coupon for formula on the back of the receipt. But I've also always given them props for this:

Yes, at Target, the aisle that sells breastfeeding supplies is the "Natural Feeding" section. I've always sort of loved that, a lot. But when I was poking around the Natural Feeding section this weekend, I saw a new display that gave me some serious pause.

A new display advertising several different breast pumps and their various accessories was accompanied with the above sign that reads "Natural Feeding, get started in 3 (baby) steps." OK, so according to Target, how does one get ready to feed naturally?
Step 1 is to select the right pump. For feeding naturally you need a breast pump? Thanks for letting me know, Target! Who'd have thought you needed equipment to feed naturally? Not only does Target think you need a double electric pump (which is thankfully and inexplicably DISCREET) but you should probably buy a manual pump to supplement your primary pump as well.

Step 2 is to choose my accessories. And no, accessories doesn't mean anything like a nursing pillow or a glider or even a sling. No, Target wants you to buy a converter kit so you can use your pump with multiple types of bottles and different containers for your breast milk. And while you're at it, you should buy special wipes so that you can totally wipe up your breasts both before and after you nurse your baby because obviously having a mouth on your boob, even your own baby's mouth, is like, so gross.

And finally, take care of yourselves, ladies! Breastfeeding really HURTS so you'll need creams, gel pads and cooling packs for your sore, aching nipples. You'll also leak, which is SO embarrassing, so be sure to buy some breast pads to conceal that.

That's all Target had to offer. Nothing about how to actually enjoy your baby or breastfeeding. In fact, the baby seemed to be totally removed from the entire equation. So what's going on here? Why such emphasis on pumping, rather than the act of breastfeeding a baby? I understand that Target is a store and has a lot of product to move, but they do sell items to nurture the natural breastfeeding relationship. This is very similar to the marketing that has cropped up at Babies R Us, where Medela sponsors breastfeeding classes whose description begins "Ready, Set, Pump!"

So is it any surprise that a recent article in Time magazine states that more and more women are choosing to exclusively pump in order to provide breast milk for their babies, instead of actually breastfeeding? I know it's a complicated issue, but for the life of me I don't understand choosing this route. One of the biggest benefits to breastfeeding is not having to fool with sterilizing and preparing bottles. Breastfeeding makes life easier because you just latch the baby on and go about your business. The few times I tried to pump while taking care of my newborn were a complete and total disaster. If I had tried to do that every few hours in order to maintain a milk supply, I'd have given up on breastfeeding with a quickness. I know that some moms have no choice in the matter because the baby cannot or will not latch. I am talking about making the decision to not offer your baby the breast and instead pump around the clock to offer breast milk in a bottle.

There was an interesting discussion of this trend on the Motherwear Blog. The fact that it seems some moms are choosing pumping because they don't want to have to nurse in public is distressing and sad. But are moms also being influenced by this message, that pumping provides the benefits of breastfeeding without having to deal with any of the stuff that might be uncomfortable or weird at first? Or are the pump manufacturers and stores just noticing the trend and responding accordingly? Is feeding your baby breast milk in a bottle breastfeeding?

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