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 talking 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 Ethics, 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.