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New Study Reveals Moms Feel Pressure to Buy Expensive Baby Brands, Even in Down Economy

Study Shows New Moms Spend More, Cut Back Less, and Stress Out over Spending on Baby

According to a national study released today, moms are feeling overwhelming pressure to overspend on products for their babies even as they significantly cut back in nearly every other area of their lives to cope with these challenging times.

The "Brand" New Mom study of more than 1,900 moms, conducted by Kelton Research, found that today's new mom often makes decisions based on guilt rather than practicality, even when it is clearly proven that a high-profile brand offers no clear benefits over other far less expensive options. Over half of expectant first-time moms (58 percent) admit they are consumed by thoughts about what products they need to buy their babies every day, and nearly four in ten (37 percent) of moms express overall guilt about not being able to afford a specific baby product.

Adding to the "guilt" equation, 59 percent of moms said they are stressed about their personal financial situation or the economy, while more than half (53 percent) confess that thoughts about their baby product budgets plague them on a daily basis. Yet most don't do as much about it as they could. In fact, three-quarters of moms surveyed have recently cut back on dining out, clothing for themselves, and entertainment. Only 13 percent have taken the same savings measures for their impending or new baby.

A major reason for this, the study finds, is the overwhelming, often confusing, and anxiety-producing array of advertising and promotional messages hitting moms from seemingly every direction, inspiring a complicated array of emotions. According to Nielsen data, more than $688 million was spent on advertising baby formula and other baby products from September 2010 to August 2011.

This study found that 85 percent of moms are far more tuned into ads related to babies or pregnancy than those with any other subject matter, and this increased attention to advertising can produce emotional stress. When it comes to this constant bombardment of baby-related advertising, a growing segment of the moms surveyed tend to feel overwhelmed (23 percent), anxious (20 percent) and confused (20 percent). As a result, more than a third (35 percent) of experienced moms admit that because of advertising they spent more than they had originally planned when their first child was a baby.

"This study sheds light on what moms are going through from both an emotional and economic standpoint," said Sandra Gordon, national baby products expert and author of Consumer Reports Best Baby Products, 10th edition. "Moms are so intent on absorbing as much baby-related information as possible, and making the right purchasing decisions, that it can be easy to overlook inexpensive options that are just as safe and effective for their baby."

According to the study, more than half (52 percent) of moms are willing to buy store brand products for the household, yet just three in ten (30 percent) will buy store brand products for their babies. This is even more striking when the purchase is infant formula; less than a quarter (23 percent) is open to buying a store brand for that product category.

Baby formula is a particularly compelling touch point for maternal guilt. According to the study, almost half (43 percent) of new first-time moms feel guilty about using formula instead of breastfeeding, which may be why they're willing to overspend on formula.

"These numbers are very consistent with what I see in my practice, and a clear indication of the challenges today's mom faces with regard to the barrage of advertising messages she regularly sees," said Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg, assistant clinical professor of pediatrics at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. "We know that when it comes to taking care of babies, breastfeeding is considered the gold standard. The reality, however, is that 80 percent of moms will use formula at some point, and it is not something they should feel guilty about. Also, they certainly don't need to buy the most expensive formula just to alleviate that guilt."

Additionally the study found that misperceptions about the benefits of the more expensive infant formulas are pervasive:

  • 68 percent of moms believe a heftier price tag for formula means that it's a better quality product.
  • 49 percent of new first-time moms believe name brand formulas offer more nutritional value than their significantly less expensive store brand counterparts.

The key, Dr. Trachtenberg said, is to educate moms with the facts on formula and provide them with all of their options, rather than making a decision based on which brand is the most heavily advertised and may be the highest priced.

"According to the Infant Formula Act, all infant formulas manufactured in the United States must contain the same key nutrients and adhere to the same quality and safety guidelines. This survey found that less than a quarter of the moms were willing to buy store brand formulas, which indicates that there is a significant knowledge gap. Far too many families are spending twice as much as they need to for infant formula, just to get a brand that is advertised," said Dr. Trachtenberg. "Just like generic prescription medications have changed the healthcare landscape by proving more expensive does not mean better, store brand formulas can play a huge role in helping parents take the best possible care of their babies, as well as their budgets."

For additional survey findings from the "Brand" New Mom study, testimonials from moms about their perceptions on baby products, expert tips from Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg and information on store brand infant formula visit

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