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Thursday, July 8, 2010

"Mother & Baby - Come now, are we really that shocked?"

This is a brilliant article written by Analytical Armadillo about the comments made during National Breastfeeding  Awareness Week by the Deputy editor of  Mother & Baby magazine (who claim to be staunch breastfeeding supporters), Kathryn Blundell,  who tells readers she "couldn't be fagged breastfeeding" describing it as "creepy". (for our North American readers "Fagged" in this instance means that she couldn't be bothered ;>)

As a breastfeeding mother who has struggled through bad latches, mastitis, blocked ducts, milk blisters, nursing strikes, poor let down, loss of milk supply, and ALWAYS managed to work through these difficulties and persevered to continue to breastfeed and have wonderful nursing relationships with my babies, I find these type of comments in the media so sad and infuriating.  How are we to encourage new mothers to breastfeed their babies when they are inundated with negative messages and propaganda advertising?

I love this quote from Analytical Armadillo's article:

Mother & Baby - Come now, are we really that shocked?

Would Kathy write an article announcing she had smoked her way through pregnancy? (despite those supposed pesky health risks) or not been fagged with a car seat, instead driving around with a baby on her lap?  Highly unlikely, remember the outrage when Britney tried that one?  Perhaps that she doesn't recycle but torches her litter on a weekly basis and sod the environment? (the environmental impact of artificial feeding is massive)

No, it's only politically OK to advertise you couldn't be fagged when it comes to feeding.  Why? because the majority don't do it.  Even if a huge percentage wanted to - trying to succeed in a place where only 1 in 100 mums manage to meet the recommendations is an incredibly difficult task. 

Imagine you had grown up only ever witnessing and tasting your local cuisine.  Someone hands you a Chinese menu and instructs you to cook a dish, giving you no recipe and only a vague description of what it is.  You've never heard of half the ingredients and what's more everyone around you seems to be doing "fine" on the local food anyway.  You seek help but unfortunately whilst you can hunt out some trained and qualified chefs in your area, the vast majority themselves made do with local cooking - so they are not really sure when you ask trickier questions.  Where do you start?  This is often the position a new breastfeeding mum finds herself in.

My grandfather used to recount tales of bus journeys pressed up against a mother nursing her infant - of relatives cooking, baby on hip, often latched on!  When something is normalised in this way from childhood, there is no mental shift required to appreciate breasts have a purpose other than as "fun bags" as Kathryn likes to call them.  In his day there would've been no call to find a "breastfeeding counsellor", one of the few that did make it and so volunteer to help other mothers (also known as "Breastfeeding Brigade, "Tit Nazi etc") they were surrounded by women who had done it! ...

 When it comes to other areas of infant health, nobody is marketing an alternate cause.  There is no "anti car seat lobby" saying mothers shouldn't be "made to feel guilty" for not looking out for their child's safety.  Tobacco marketing is banned entirely and there are no adverts showing a doted dad, arms wrapped round his wife caressing her growing bump whilst she puffs on a Marlboro red.  But when it comes to infant feeding, the profit is in the product.

This multi million pound industry requires women to fail at breastfeeding for them to profit, and in order to do that, they need to convince mums their product is "nearly as good".   In fact they spend hundreds of thousands of pounds per year ensuring mums receive this message, you only have to pick up a copy of "the politics of breastfeeding" to be terrified at just how this impacts on society.

So can we really blame the likes of Kathryn Blundell for her stance?   As Deputy Editor of a magazine, wouldn't releasing such a controversial piece during National Breastfeeding Awareness week be quite a lucrative move?  It has resulted in media coverage galore, radio interviews and how much free advertising for Mother & Baby?  What's the old saying, "there is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary". 
HERE to read the entire article on Analytical Armadillo