Is it ethical for WebMD and Babble.com to have formula makers sponsor their breastfeeding content?
I've been reading blogs this week - more specifically, this blog: PhD in Parenting - about how WebMD and Babble.com both have breastfeeding guides on their sites that are explicitly sponsored (and peppered with advertising) by formula makers (one Nestle > Gerber Good Start, the other Similac). Annie of PhD in Parenting thinks this these sites are (knowingly or not) sabotaging women attempting to breastfeed and searching online for help, either because the ads will lure women from the harder, more beneficial course; or because the content itself is suspect, not IBCLC-quality, etc.
Rufus Griscom, CEO of Babble, says: "Our breastfeeding guide was created an entirely by the Babble team. It is unequivocal in it’s endorsement of breastfeeding.... Without these advertisers, we couldn’t do what we do every day."
Barry W. Wolcott, MD, FACP of WebMD, reportedly says the advertising endorsements will be reviewed and adds: "Were the mainstream opinion on the issue of commercial infant formulae [to hold that formula is dangerous to infants] (as it likely does regarding cigarettes) WebMD would not accept such ads (as it does not for tobacco products)."
As the internet goes, these are quite reputable sites. But then, hospitals who provide free formula samples in the maternity ward are also, generally, reputable hospitals.
What do you think? Is it ethical for WebMD and Babble.com to have formula makers sponsor their breastfeeding content? Is it sending a mixed message about breastfeeding, or is it providing needed content (for free, no less) in a business-sustainable way? What's your take?
I personally have no problem with this. I don't think it's sending a mixed message. I think it's hard for most sites to get any advertising at all. I agree with the second quote, where it's not really like tobacco advertising.