I write about breastfeeding much less than I used to, probably because I’m not doing it anymore myself. Since my son Jacob weaned nearly a year ago, I don’t spend as much time thinking about it as when it was part of my daily reality. This doesn’t mean, however, that I’ve turned in my lactivist card. Occasionally, I still encounter something that makes my inner breastfeeding mama stand up and take notice. This happened to me recently when I was walking through my local grocery store, and I came across a new product on the shelves called Natrel Baboo.
Natrel Baboo is a dairy product that claims to be specifically designed for toddlers aged 12-24 months. It’s supposedly easier for toddlers to digest than cow’s milk. It’s sold in tetra paks and ultra high temperature pasteurized, so while it says that it contains fresh milk and no preservatives, it does not require refrigeration. The idea is that Natrel Baboo will somehow ease the weaning process for a toddler, helping them to transition more easily from breast milk or formula to cow’s milk. Right now it’s 30 cents off at the Thrifty Foods near my house, so … score?
Like I said, the product caught my eye, so I had to check it out more closely. Specifically, I wanted to see what was in this stuff, anyway. But before I got to the ingredients, I got to the marketing message on the back. This sentence extolling Natrel Baboo’s virtues caught my eye:
It is easy to digest because its milk protein closely matches breast milk.
Do you want to know how to irritate a lactivist? Claim that a product which lists “reconstituted ultrafiltered milk permeate” as the first ingredient closely matches breast milk. That really gets our goat. It’s simply not possible to manufacture something that closely matches breast milk. Formula companies do their very best to try, and I commend their efforts to ensure that babies who aren’t exclusively breastfed are receiving the best possible nutrition. But those same formula companies are excluded from making these sorts of claims under the WHO Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. Natrel Baboo can get away with it, because it is intended for toddlers, who are not covered under the code.
There’s something else on the label that really raised my lactivist hackles, and it was this:
Important notice: Breastfeeding is the best method of feeding infants in the first six months of life and is recommended for as long as possible during infancy.
(The italics are mine.)
Natrel Baboo is sold here in Canada, but its makers seem to be unaware that the Canadian Pediatric society recommends that breastfeeding continue up to age two and beyond. That statement clearly implies that at some point during infancy breastfeeding is just going to become impossible. Or, failing that, it suggests that breastfeeding should not continue outside of infancy. I believe that it’s up to every mother and child to set their own breastfeeding schedule. This is not some sort of contest to see who can go on the longest. But many nursing pairs happily continue through toddlerhood, and even into the preschool years. That is perfectly fine – in fact, it’s better than fine – although it means fewer customers for Natrel Baboo, so it’s no surprise they’re not lauding the benefits of nursing during the second year of life, let alone the third or fourth.
Still, most toddlers aren’t breastfeeding here in North America. Let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that your toddler is already weaned, or never really got started with breastfeeding in the first place. Does that mean that Natrel Baboo is the superior choice? There’s simply no clear evidence to support that claim. Nutritionists and dieticians who worked with Natrel say it has added benefits over whole cow’s milk, but I read an article quoting at least one independent nutritionist who disagrees. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that toddlers who aren’t breastfeeding drink whole cow’s milk or follow-up formula from 12-18 months of age, and whole cow’s milk from 18-24 months of age. All of this seems to suggest that the product is likely unnecessary.
The big difference for Natrel Baboo is the cost – it’s quite a lot more expensive than whole cow’s milk. I’m calling marketing spin. I believe the company is trying to create a need where none exists. Frankly, that ticks my inner lactivist off big time.
Clearly, I’m not a fan of Natrel Baboo, although I do have to admit it comes in a very pretty package. I wonder what you think. Would you buy this for your kids? Why or why not?