27 March 2012

Dear BabyCenter, PostPartum Depression is not a marketing tool

This morning, as usual, I hopped on Twitter and started scrolling through my feed. There were a number of interesting tweets about everything fromPPD to the Death Penalty to the Trayyvon Martin case to discussions of the impending Wrestlemania 28 and everything in between. One tweet in particular from @mrsocraticmeth caught my eye, though: 

seriously.  kills and  has whipped back to the 50's to suggest women try prettying up some, not "SEE A DOCTOR RIGHT AWAY".

My initial reaction was "What the what?!?". I tweeted back asking for a link and then went searching for the culprit, hoping that this was all one big mistake. But no, I went to Babycenter's Twitter page and immediately found the Tweet and link I was pretty sure was causing the uproar. The tweet said

Can color cure PPD? (Bravado Spring Giveaway!)

Of course I immediately (after a solid minute of staring at my screen wondering if I was still asleep or, perhaps, hallucinating) went to the link. For posterity's sake, I'll copy the entire text here:
*Note* Photos removed since not everyone who reads this will want to see a bra picture
When I had my son four years ago, I was a hormonal mess. What with nursing round the clock, barely sleeping, and stressing about being a new mom 24-7, I could honestly say I’ve never been so dejected. Everything made me cry those first few months and I would go from being ecstatic one minute to sad the next. And while I would not color may not cure PPD, which is a very serious condition best left to doctor’s treatments, there is something to be said of boosting your mood through color therapy.
So when Bravado (the one nursing bra and tank that got me through that first year) told me that they were releasing brighter, happier colors just in time for Spring, I was thrilled. I started thinking: since mom practically lives in her nursing bras the first year, could the bright hues offer some color therapy and boost both her and baby’s mood? I really think the answer is YES!
Here’s why I love Bravado. They really understand women and post-natal issues. The tank can be worn anywhere. In bed, in yoga class and even under a nice outfit for work. You really feel they have you covered. And it’s not like it’s a little bitty bra shelf in there. The bra inside is completely fitted and comes in a variety of cup sizes for your new shape. The bras are also perfect for new moms. Seamless construction, perfect fit and just enough coverage to make you feel like you’re not going to fall out of anything. And while I only had black for each of these products, I still wonder how my mood could have improved if I had these gorgeous new colors to choose from.
So with all the new colors just in time for Spring, fashionistas can celebrate. Pair the bright orange Tiger Lily with muted earth tones for a look that jumps off the runway. The turquoise tank can be paired with white and fun beads to give you that I’ve been lounging in the South of France look. And the honeysuckle bra is a color known to attract bees, butterflies and obviously honey, so what better color is there to attract your new nursing baby?
Now remember, these colors are all limited edition. And Tiger Lily is only available for pre-order. So get ready to buy because these will sell out fast!
>>GIVEAWAY! To celebrate spring, color and new babies, we’re giving away an amazing prize package from Bravado worth $200! One winner will get the rainbow of colors assortment that include a Tiger Lily Essentials Tank, one Honeysuckle Body Silk Seamless Nursing Bra, Turquoise Tank, and the sexy Sublime in Black Purple for those last-minute date nights. Here’s how to win:
1. Comment here on your favorite color for Spring
2. Sign up for A-List Mom emails! That’s it icon smile Can color help post partum blues? (Bravado Spring Giveaway!)
Good luck!
Rules: Entries must be submitted by March 30, 2012 by 11.59 pm ET. U.S. residents only. No purchase necessary. Contest not open to employees of BabyCenter and their families. Winner must reply to claim prize within 72 hours of receiving the email notifying them they have won. Please expect 3-5 weeks for delivery of prize.
Photo: Bravado

I shook my head a few times, pinched my hand, slapped my cheeks, and was convinced that unfortunately, this was neither a bad dream nor a hallucination. While pondering and trying to process this nonsense, I went back to Twitter and continued scrolling through my feed. Lo and behold, I found that Lauren Hale of My PostPartum Voice had already blogged about it. Lauren is one of my favorite PPD bloggers and tweeters, right up there with Katherine Stone of PostPartum Progress, and for good reason. Not only does she run the weekly twitter support group #PPDChat, her tweets and her blog tackle difficult issues (as though there are any other kind associated with PPD) with passion, fire, strength, and grace. Her post about the BabyCenter kerfuffle is certainly no exception. I won't post the entire text because I want everyone to go to her blog and get sucked in like I was, but I want to quote the part of her post that struck a chord with me the most:

Imagine being presented with an ornately wrapped box. Your fingers deftly remove the gorgeous exterior paper, your expectations growing as you wonder what could be inside such a beautiful package. Once you have the wrapping off and open the lid, there’s nothing but stale air inside.
Is how vulnerable mothers feel after they read your post. Let down, disappointed, upset, and angry.
Postpartum Depression is very real and a rocky road to travel. Please don’t pretend it’s a premium paved interstate requiring us to pay a toll to you to catch a ride to recovery.

I doubt that I can address BabyCenter's ill-advised, disappointing, and offensive post as well as she has but I'm going to give it a go. The tweet itself is shocking. "Can colour cure PPD?". %$#^$$#@^. Now, as I've said before, I'm not one to say what does and doesn't work for anyone else, all I know is what worked for me. But what I can say is that my first thought was that someone got a wild hair up their tush and BabyCenter had decided to follow in the very dangerous path of offering a "Guaranteed cure for PPD", in the style of Sheryl Paul and Jackie Hall. Instead, I found that BabyCenter is doing something just as reprehensible (in my book anyways), they are reducing PostPartum Depression to a marketing tool.

Not even addressing the fact that this advertisement for this product is poorly written, jumps around, and lacks cohesiveness, and just doesn't flow well at all (if you're going to be offensive with your marketing, at least make it high quality), the first thing that jumps out at me is that they are essentially saying that PostPartum Depression isn't really a big issue, it's just something that can be toyed with and used to make money, generate page hits, etc. 

The second thing that jumps out is what Lauren addressed. I can not imagine being someone stuck in the middle of the nightmare that is PPD, seeing a tweet like that, feeling a flash of hope and thinking "Oh! Maybe this is something that could make my PPD goa away!", and then following the link and discovering that it's nothing more than a give-away that's intended to get people to buy nursing clothes. I think my mood would probably crash even lower than it was before, I'd probably feel some combination of despair, disappointment, heartbreak, and sheer rage. How dare they get my hopes up like that just for a stupid giveaway?

BabyCenter is playing a very dangerous game with a lot of people's emotions, many of whom are already vulnerable and at risk. PostPartum Depression is a serious problem and BabyCenter should know that well enough to treat it as such instead of playing around. Would they tweet "Can colour cure breast cancer?" to get people to go to a post about a pink bra giveaway? I highly doubt it and if they did, I can easily imagine the instant public outcry, perhaps by well-known organizations that participate in fund-raising and awareness campaigns, Change.org petitions that would have 500,000 signatures in the space of an hour, and memes and statuses that would go viral on Facebook in a matter of minutes. I doubt that BabyCenter would even dream of doing something like that, so why would they do this with PostPartum Depression, and why are more people not up in arms about it already? If it were Breast Cancer, people who have never had BC would be screaming for someone to by lynched, so why is it taking longer for people who have never experienced PPD to call for an apology from BabyCenter? 

My guess would be that it's just another indication of the fact that America doesn't yet take PPD nearly as seriously as it should be taken. Many of us are blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, and talking everywhere we can as loudly as we can to get PPD recognized more widely as the crucial issue that it is, to educate people and combat the stigma that exists around it, but it doesn't exactly help our case when you have a giant like BabyCenter pulling shenanigans like this.

PostPartum Depression is something I personally have dealt with. I was hospitalized twice with it and spent months on medication. My family was affected by it and I still sometimes, almost 3 years later, suffer from guilt, shame, and regret over something that wasn't even remotely my fault. To BabyCenter I say that to you it may just be a marketing tool, but to me and to others who have actually gone through it ourselves, it is so much more, and your trivialization of it hurts us deeply. I only hope that your little game doesn't do irreparable damage to someone who is going through this dark tunnel right now.



  1. Beautifully written post, Esther. I just caught word of this and went over to comment @ Babycenter's post with the giveaway. I didn't take a moment to see if anyone had posted or written enough about it - I just got swept up in the whole ordeal and had to have my (ever so small, but important!) say.

    Well said and I think you deserve a virtual round of applause. I stand up for you and with you in your strength-filled words!

  2. Hi Esther - Wow, I didnt see this...what a mess! thanks for the info!