Family Matters

‘Formula Powered’? Lactivists Tussle with Old Navy

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Tons of parents — myself included — buy their kids’ wardrobes at Old Navy. The clothes are cheap, cute … and controversial. This month, lactivist (translation: lactation activists) mommy bloggers hit fast and furious in response to a green, long-sleeved onesie sold in stores and at emblazoned “Formula Powered.”

After much Internet indignance and calls for Old Navy boycotts, the romper is no longer anywhere to be found on the company’s website. But here’s how the clothier originally described it: “Baby’s too young to get a tattoo, but he can still rock the look with this adorably edgy bodysuit! Tattoo-inspired graphics and 2-in-1 styling make it totally bad (in a good way!).” (More on In the Battle Over Breast or Bottle, Guilt May Play a Role)

Bad in a good way? Of course, it depends whom you’re asking. If it’s Cate Nelson, a blogger at the green parenting site Eco Child’s Play, she begs to differ.

“We all know breastfeeding is best for baby … and mama. Formula simply isn’t the healthy option. So, why doesn’t Old Navy know it?”

One aghast commenter even compared formula to tobacco, musing, “What would you say if a pregnant mom had a maternity shirt that said ‘CIGARETTE POWERED!’?! You would probably freak out.”

Nelson has called for a boycott of the retail chain on the grounds that the onesie is unabashed commercial propaganda for the formula industry. (Not that it couldn’t use some TLC these days, what with beetles potentially infesting 5 million containers of Similac.)

Would a similar onesie proclaiming “Breast Is Best” engender the same vitriol from formula-feeders? It’s doubtful. Is that because breast-feeders freely tout their breast-feeding-is-healthier agenda, while formula-feeders cower in the closet with a bottle and a baby, afraid to promote their choice? It’s hard to say, but what’s for certain is that a company as big as Gap Inc., which owns Old Navy, should have anticipated the maternal furies such a logo would provoke. (Even this week’s massive formula recall managed to stir up breast vs. bottle passions.) (More on Why Most Moms Don’t Follow Breast-Feeding Recommendations)

“It was not meant to be anti-breast-feeding,” says Gap Inc. spokeswoman Louise Callagy, who pointed out that Old Navy also manufactures nursing bras and tops. The onesie was part of a fall clothing collection with a racing theme. Get it? Formula Powered? Formula 1?

“It was intended to be a humorous phrase,” explains Callagy.

If you kinda like that racing motif and green is your baby’s color, you’re out of luck. The onesie is sold out, says Callagy, who denied that Old Navy had succumbed to pressure and pulled the bodysuit from its stock. It’s safe to say, she confirmed, that’s one item that’s not on the re-order list.

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