Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Reservations Made, with Reservations

So, I'm off to Johnson and Johnson's Camp Baby tomorrow. A two day conference, all expenses paid.

As any Mommyblogger who has been paying attention knows, there has been more than a little controversy surrounding this event, largely because of Johnson and Johnson's decision to ban all children, including nursing babies, from the event. Many better bloggers than I have already written in depth about this subject, so I find myself without much new to say.

Before the controversy broke, I had been getting pretty excited about going to this event. First of all, it's a free trip, and who doesn't get excited about being offered a free trip? And secondly, due to several random unfortunate events, I haven't been able to make it to a BlogHer convention yet, and so Camp Baby presented itself as a fine first opportunity to finally meet several of my favorite fellow bloggers in person.

I was a little disappointed, mind, that some of my friends who had also been invited hadn't been able to register in time and wouldn't be able to go, and I understood their frustration at being shut out before the registration deadline. But when I found out there had only been 50 spots available, I could understand why the event had filled up quickly, and though I wished J&J had been more clear to invitees about how limited the space was, I understood why they couldn't accept every reservation.

However, when I first found out that some nursing mothers (of very young babies) had been enthusiastically invited to the camp, had registered, and then had essentially been disinvited from the camp after asking that arrangements be made so that they could bring their nursling infants, I was seriously upset.

Upset enough to email my contacts at J&J to ask them flat out why a company that focuses on making products for infants wouldn't be concerned enough about the health of infants to want to encourage breastfeeding by treating nursing mothers with respect.

Upset enough, in fact, that for a little while I considered canceling my reservation.

But then, two things happened to change my mind.

The first thing that happened was that one of the women in charge of organizing Camp Baby, Lori, responded rapidly to bloggers' complaints. She responded to my email. She responded to other bloggers' emails. She sent out a general apologetic email to the entire list of invitees.

She started calling several bloggers in person to apologize for the missteps, and wrote about the problems on Johnson and Johnson's own company blog, openly admitting that the J&J had made a mistake in not making the event requirements more clear from the beginning.

It seemed to me that Lori did feel sincere regret that some invited bloggers had been offended, and it seemed to me that the event organiziers at Johnson and Johnson sincerely did want to learn from their mistakes.

And the second thing that happened was that I talked to my mom.

My mom nursed me, and my little sister, back in the early eighties, when nursing in public was far less acceptable than it is now, and nursing mothers had far less support. She nursed all three of her children past their first birthday. She was a lactivist before lactivist was a term.

So I was interested in what my mother would have to say about this issue. And when I talked to her about it, she said, "If this is an all-expenses paid trip, surely, if you cancel, Johnson and Johnson can find another blogger who doesn't care nearly as much as you do about making life easier for nursing moms to take your spot in a heartbeat. Since they seem contrite and willing to listen, why don't you go on this trip, and talk to them while you are there about ways they can do more to accommodate nursing mothers in the future?"

So, that's what I'm going to do. But I'd like your help.

What would you like me to say to the event organizers at Johnson and Johnson about ways to better organize future bloggers' events?

And are there any other queries you'd like me to shoot their way while I'm in New Jersey tomorrow?

(Don't worry about asking me to ask whether they plan to try to reduce the presence of phthalates and parabens in their baby soaps and lotions. It's already on my list.)


Anonymous said...

Jaelithe, I hope you have a great time. I think you'll be an excellent advocate. Safe travels, and I'll be looking for your feedback on the trip when you return.

Awesome Mom said...

You might ask them why they made the program sound pretty superficial. I deleted my invite because it just sounded like something that did not relate to me in general. The description of the classes was so .. well kind of high schoolish. I think that they need to give us moms a little more credit than they seemed to in the invite. I wish I had decided to go though so that I could have met you. Have fun and sock it to them!

Jenny, the Bloggess said...

You are awesome.

Also, the pthlatate thing that I can't spell correctly totally freaks me out. Rage against the machine, my friend.

R said...

I seriously wanted to pop out a kid last week so I could join you guys on this trip-- how fun! Totally jealous.

As for the breastfeeding issues, I am really happy that you decided to go and that your mom gave you the advice she did.

J&J needs to know two things: 1) they really made a grave mistake by not being explicit on the limitations. What I'm curious about is why they weren't more clear? Did they really just not get it or think of it as an issue? Did they not realize how nursing mothers would feel? 2) It's absolutely their right to say "no babies," but they've got to know how that appears to the general public, as a company that is making products to benefit babies and mothers. They're pushing out a big portion of their clients and doing so in quite a public way. I can't imagine the PR nightmare.

Mom101 said...

To add to the paraben issue, I'd ask about environmentally friendy (er) packaging and manufacturing processes. Moms really are starting to ask questions about the products they use and how/where they're made.

Have a great time! Don't even worry about changing the world so much - just enjoy your fellow comrades in blog.