Letter to the President of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

Thomas McInerny, MD, FAAP
The American Academy of Pediatrics
141 Northwest Point Boulevard
Elk Grove Village, IL 60007-1098

Dear Dr. McInerny,

The Board of Directors and membership of Breastfeeding USA are deeply disappointed in the decision of the American Academy of Pediatrics to allow its prestigious name and reputation to be used in the direct marketing of formula to mothers. Breastfeeding USA is a national organization providing mother-to-mother support and promoting breastfeeding as the biological and cultural norm. Our counselors encourage mothers to work with their pediatricians as they grow in their nursing relationships and resolve challenges they may encounter. Most women place great trust in their pediatricians as they try to make decisions affecting their children’s health, including feeding and nutrition. How can we trust that a physician will truly and fully support a mother’s decision to breastfeed her child when the AAP has chosen to very openly support a formula company and its dishonorable marketing practices?

The AAP has a history of close association with various formula companies. Since last year its logo has appeared on the discharge bag for Mead Johnson and this year its breastfeeding booklet, also a part of the discharge bag, includes the Mead Johnson name. What kind of message does this send to new mothers?

A resolution,” Divesting from Formula Marketing in Pediatric Care,” was presented to and adopted by the AAP’s 2012 Annual Leadership Forum, which clearly states:

“Whereas, the American medical community has been severing its bonds with pharmaceutical companies because of the negative impact pharmaceutical advertising has on human behavior; and Whereas, research has demonstrated that the free distribution of commercial materials such as formula samples, diaper bags, formula coupons, or other gifts via commercial infant formula marketing implicitly endorses formula feeding and creates the impression that clinicians favor formula feeding over breastfeeding, and research demonstrates that this activity decreases exclusivity and duration of breastfeeding, therefore be it RESOLVED, that the academy advise pediatricians not to provide formula company gift bags, coupons, and industry-authored handouts to the parents of newborns and infants in office and clinic settings.”

How does the AAP square this resolution with its endorsement of formula companies and the delivery of their discharge bags at a time when mothers are most vulnerable and in search of information and support? The mixed message that the AAP sends to its members is that breastfeeding is best, but formula is just as good. We feel that physicians and mothers alike continue to be confused by mixed messages from the medical community; we want you to breastfeed, but here is some free formula, endorsed by the AAP.

Breastfeeding USA strongly urges the AAP to reconsider all of its ties to any formula companies and to especially consider the implication of its logo and information being directly associated with Mead Johnson in its discharge bags. There is a rising tide of support for preventative medicine in this country and the road to a life of good health can begin with breastfeeding. It is time for the AAP to prove its support by abandoning the mixed messages and its association with formula companies. Actions always speak much louder than words.


The Board of Directors of Breastfeeding USA

Patty Jacobs, President
Lisa Wilkins, Vice President
Jennifer Olynyk, Secretary
Carol Delaney, Treasurer
Carol Kelley, Director
Sharon Knorr, Director
Genevieve Colvin, Director
Alison Kulenkamp