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Does the Similac Feeding App Sabotage Breastfeeding?

Michael Brian

When my first son was born almost four years ago, I tracked his diaper changes and feedings on paper (because I gave birth back in the era of dinosaurs). But, now that iPhones are ubiquitous and there are apps to do just about everything other than actually give birth for you, new parents can easily keep track of all that enters and exits their babe with the help of any number of apps. The newest to hit the market is the Similac StrongMoms Baby Journal app, designed to track feedings (breast or bottle) and diaper changes, and ultimately show “trends that can help predict an accurate feeding schedule.” Awesome, right? Wrong. On a number of levels.
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A brief description of the app on the company’s website reads, “You can predict the next feeding time. And see connections between what goes in—and what comes out. When you know what to expect, you can make the most of your time. And your time together,” and in the company’s video preview of the app, the following message appears: “New babies and a predictable schedule have never mixed. Until now.” Reality check, Similac: babies are not predictable. Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the World Health Organization, and La Leche League recommend nursing on demand, not on a schedule. An app that tries to force a schedule is bound to drive a new mom bonkers, and possibly sabotage her efforts at breastfeeding.
Plus: Dr. Sears on Why Rigid Scheduling Doesn’t Work for Breastfed Babies

(For more info about why this app could disrupt nursing, check out this awesome analysis from Best for Babes.)

Even more disturbing: if you’re having nursing problems (or if the app tells you you are), you are directed to Similac’s feeding hotline to talk to a live expert. Only the “expert” will not be a certified lactation consultant, since they are forbidden from working for formula companies. We have a feeling the “advice” you’d get would involve using formula. Asking a formula company for help with nursing is kind of like asking a junk food company for diet tips.

There’s also another issue: Abbott Laboratories, maker of Similac, paid a number of mommy bloggers to review the app, via a third-party. The problem? It’s not clear on the reviews that the bloggers were ultimately paid by the maker of the app and the formula it promotes. Pharmalot, a pharmaceutical blog, recently examined this problem of lack of transparency, as did CBS BNET and Marketing Mama, the latter of whom so aptly summed it up: “A formula company is not about supporting breastfeeding - period. Let's just get that straight. They are about selling formula.”

Do you think a formula company has any business dispensing tools or advice that support breastfeeding, or are there always ulterior motives?