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Thursday
Jul072011

My New Industry-Free Life

Last Friday my life changed drastically.  For the previous 8.5 years I worked full time at my day job as a lactation consultant for Ameda Breastfeeding Products.  In that role, I spent many hours on the phone It's the dawn of a new daytalking to mothers about pumping and breastfeeding.

In 2008, I thought I might have to leave when Ameda was bought by Evenflo, a U.S. juvenile products manufacturer whose marketing practices at that time were in violation of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes, also known as the WHO or International Code.  This Code was created by the World Health Organization to protect breastfeeding from commercial influences by restricting the marketing of infant formula and feeding bottles.  In the U.S. adhering to this Code is strictly voluntary and baby bottles were the founding product in Evenflo’s line.

Abiding by the International Code is part of my profession’s Code of Professional Conduct, which I take very seriously.  I was shocked (in a good way!) when Evenflo's then-CEO told me of his intentions to bring the company into compliance with the Code.  So I decided to stay on and help.  Some of you may have heard me speak about our efforts—with the help of many Code experts from around the world—to change everything from Evenflo’s website content to packaging until Evenflo met its obligations under the International Code.  This historic effort helped raise awareness of the Code in the U.S. among both clinicians and industry.  It even caused the International Lactation Consultant Association, my professional organization, to change its advertising and exhibit hall practices.  As ILCA’s then-President told me, “What you did made us realize that the Code is meant to be a change agent.”

However, nothing stays the same.  CEOs came and went and sales of Evenflo’s infant feeding bottles declined.  It’s tough to compete when none of the other U.S. baby bottle manufacturers adhere to this Code and continue marketing their products.

A week ago Monday the word came down that Evenflo was changing its stance and would begin marketing its newly released baby bottles to parents on its website, through its social media channels, and in print ads.  Although Ameda—my own little division of the company—did not even make products covered by the Code, my paycheck came from Evenflo.  My choice was clear, but that did not make it easy.

Leaving Ameda is a major life event for me.  But as many have told me, when one door closes, another opens.   My first love is speaking at conferences and to groups, and now I have more time for that.  If you are looking for a speaker for your breastfeeding event, please keep me in mind.

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Reader Comments (49)

Good for you Nancy! It is sometimes hard to stick to our principles but always worthwhile.

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterHelen Marshall

I am sure this was not an easy decision to make, but major kudos to you for sticking to your principles. And thank you for making me aware that Evenflo is no longer Code-compliant. I had no idea!

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterElita @ Blacktating

Wow, Nancy, good for you! That must have been a hard choice! You have been an amazing example to all of us, and a tremendous resource at Ameda, Your input will be missed there. I am so sad for the pumping moms of the world, because I always knew I could trust info on the Ameda site because I knew it had been vetted by you.

Thank you for all you do to protect moms and babies!

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTricia Elbl

Well done you for making this stand. As a person who left her beloved charity because of WHO code issues and is now with the most fantastic breastfeeding charity ever I wanted to add my words of support, and say it can be done, and good things do happen :)

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJenny

Oh &#$%, I just gave out a handout that listed Evenflo and Ameda as code compliant.
Good for you Nancy, for standing up for mothers' right to make their feeding decisions freely and with unbiased information. I hope Ameda/Evenflo gets the message.

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJessica Lang Kosa

I too am saddened to hear that Ameda/Evenflow is changing its stance on the Code. We are thinking of changing over to Ameda products in our hospital, one of the reasons being that they were Code compliant. This creates a dilemma for me now.

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary-Jane Sackett

I admire you Nancy.

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarla D'Anna

It always feels to me like I weigh less when I abide by my ethics, even when it makes other things harder. Nancy, you have been making decisions and living your life in a way that I admire for some time. Recently, even more so, if that's possible. Thank you for being an example we can all look up to, and find our own ways to emulate.

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSue Ann

Sorry that Evenflow will no longer be code compliant, that will hurt Ameda. They were such a early supporter of breastfeeding it sure makes it sad. Hope that somehow Ameda can survive this. Your work with them was good and now you get to do new things. The future is yours.
Beverly Morgan

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBeverly Morgan

Thank you, Nancy!

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJay Gordon

Truly admirable stance. Good luck in this next chapter of your life, Nancy! :)

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJen CC Tan

Hi Nancy. I think you did the right thing. I hope that many doors open up for you.
Best wishes
Alison

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlison

Thank you, Nancy, for all of your years of service supporting the moms, your book writing skills, and your professional stance. I am dismayed that Ameda will be taking the same path as Medela. All these years we have focused our efforts on counteracting the marketing effects of formula companies, never dreaming that Medela and Ameda would turn their backs on us and the moms. Good luck, may many opportunities come your way.

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLiz Flight

You are a role model Nancy.

I am proud to know you.

Carla D.

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarla

Proud of you Nancy! It's got to be tough after so many years invested. But hey...more time to visit that new grandbaby.

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKat Chiu

Thank you for your integrity and for being committed the the standards of your profession. Best of luck on your new journey, may you find a path that allows you to continue to positively change lives by helping mothers successfully breastfeed.

Though decision, but the morally correct one. Someone in Upstate NY admires you greatly :)

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAmy L

GIANT Kudos to you for this!! I can understand how difficult of a decision this was and your ethics are those to be admired!

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie Ott

Things like this aren't easy, but I respect you so much for sticking to your ethics. It really matters. On a much MUCH smaller scale, I walked out on a brand new job writing for Bravado a few months ago when I found out they were purchased by Medela. I hated abandoning my new job and new money, but the few hundred dollars per month wasn't worth losing my integrity in the eyes of my followers. If WE can't even adhere to the WHO code ethics, then how to we expect anyone else to?

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTheFeministBreeder

I listened to all of the Ameda podcasts while I was pregnant with my daughter in '07. I love the story that you shared with Elisabeth McLaury Lewin about the gorilla mom who learned to nurse by watching human mothers, and I share it with other women any chance I get. I would love to hear you speak at conferences. Good luck.

July 7, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMaryW
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