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Hooked on Similac

I used to think expectant mothers went with Doulas and breastfeeding for the natural, eons-old reason of understanding your own body and communicating with nature. As an expectant parent I’ve realized the real reason is that some people don’t like Similac pressure.

My first post-toddler encounter with Similac was in 1993 when I was working at a pediatric hospital. A salesman came by to work out a contract with the director, and stopped by my office, where we taught the interns and residents. “Do you want Similac? I can get you cases if you want.” He said.

“What?” I said.

“If you need cases of Similac, I can get it for you.” He said.

I said, “Cases? What would I need with cases of Similac?”

“You could distribute it to the doctors and residents. Or to the patients. Whatever you need.” The friendly, and persuasive, salesman said.

“Okay, I could see having a bottle or two around, but cases of Similac? What would I do with cases of Similac? Where would I put it?”

“That’s up to you. This is a fantastic offer to get free Similac.” The salesman said.

“Uhhh, Thanks. I don’t think I need Similac.”

“Are you sure? Perhaps you should ask around. Lots of mothers want free formula.”

“Yes, I’m sure they need it, but I’m not really able to distribute it.”

As a single man, I just didn’t see a need for Similac in my life right then. Fast forward 14 years – I’m married, my wife’s expecting, we need stuff – and I’m still not sure I need Similac.

Unfortunately Similac disagrees. Since we’re medically insured, middle class consumers seeing a licensed OB/GYN, Similac wants us to know that Similac cares about our baby. Enough to send us a huge box of formula via UPS. Enough to send us coupons for more Similac.

In fact, coupled with the memories of the Similac salesman, I’m beginning to think that these actions are strikingly similar to drug pushing. I mean, how often does Coke or Pepsi come up and offer you unlimited cases of their product? Or deliver it via UPS? Wouldn’t we all love a free case of Dr Pepper?

But of course we don’t get free soda, because Similac is technically not a beverage, it’s food for babies, and it doesn’t come from food conglomerates, it comes from drug companies. So they can Fedex you samples until your baby is hooked, and then they’ve got you for a year. Hopefully your baby will reject Enfamil and then they’ve got you!

Similac isn’t the only one – Pampers sponsored our birthing class, providing full-color layouts of birthing positions and baby information, along with free newborn diapers. Apparently newborn babies develop preferences, and Pampers is sure hoping that if you start using Pampers, you will stick with Pampers. The birthing class instructor also recommended them. Why? Because hospitals use them, so the baby’s already used to them when they go home, so don’t freak out the baby by switching diapers.

Now, I don’t have a baby yet, and I haven’t inquired among mothers, but that seems pretty sketchy to me. Three days, and baby has a preference for Pampers. It seems a little weird to me. Six months, a year, okay. But in three days that kid is going to be fixated on Pampers? Seems to me a little self-fulfilling truth stretching is going on. The same thing happened with the baby safety class. “Buy only flame-retardant bedding and clothes for your baby,” we were instructed. Why? Is it because hospitals and baby corporations are in league, and most flame retardant stuff is made by corporations that can handle the chemical treatment processing?

All this corporate pressure leaves me wondering about pricing. I’ve decided the baby industry is a captive market, because we don’t have to buy Coke or Pepsi every day, but we damn well sure need diapers. Or something like diapers, or something that replaces diapers.

The thing is that with some exceptions, corporate baby stuff is crap. It’s poorly made, it’s poorly designed, and it lasts a lunchtime. Our TinyLove mobile didn’t make it to Ronan’s birth, and is now lying in a pile on the floor waiting for the company to respond to my angry E-mails. After frickin’ weeks of trying to assemble this piece of shit, when we finally get it together, turn it on, the frackin’ thing explodes, ejecting the entire mobile off of the rotation rod. If Ronan was in the crib at the time, he wouldn’t have noticed because he’s a baby, but his grandparents would have had a global thermonuclear meltdown, that only would have ended with the death of the entire company staff.

Our latest trip to a baby superstore only confirmed my belief that this stuff is overpriced and under-made. Looking for a glider, we were told that one model had a giant metal bolt sticking out of it because “the recliner lever was around here somewhere, under the other merchandise…” Which shouldn’t worry us at all, because the glider was very well made. Yes, of course, Mr. Salesman, “parts that are essential to the operation of the expensive furniture just falling off and no one notices where they went” seems like a great sales technique. Where can I get one?

It’s not just that the $149 Ikea DICKTAD crib seems just as well made and solid as the $599 buybuybaby crib, or that sometimes I can actually hear the clock ticking on some baby merchandise. It’s that we don’t seem able to stop buying it. The most well-made thing we bought so far was the Amish-made organic crib mattress, that seems so well made that Ronan’s children may use it because it will last that long. The woman who made it, who obviously took a lot of pride in making it, signed it. Technically we got it from a corporation, but they sell hundreds of mattresses each year, not millions. It was about the same price as the corporate flame-retardant ones, but somehow I like it more.

Ronan will be able to use it until the DICKTAD crib breaks or he outgrows it. (DICKTAD cribs turn into beds when the child is too big for a crib.) Ronan never got to use the TinyLove mobile. It died before he was even born.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 19, 2007 12:38 AM.

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