Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Silk Purse from a Sow's Ear

Well, who'd'v'thunk it?  Something useful has come from the Equalities Act debacle!

For newer readers, we have been campaigning for years, to get at least equivalent protection for breastfeeding in public spaces in England & Wales, and Northern Ireland, as exist in very fortunate Scotland.

The last Labour Government put together a huge Equalities Act, with lots of decent legislation.  But the breastfeeding protection was a joke - nothing at all in public spaces, and mothers had to sue privately if it was goods and services.  Loads of confusion about ages and pathways to sue.


And it's such a nice however...  UK Gov has published this handy dandy gorgeous little leaflet.  It's a business handy guide to the Equalities Act.  As such, it is very condensed, and contains bullet points, not long detail.

So it contains, on page 4, this LOVELY detail:

Breastfeeding mothers
The Act has specifically clarified that it is unlawful to discriminate against a woman because she is breastfeeding.

Ensure that women to whom you are providing goods, facilities and services are able to breastfeed should they so wish.

Saul, a bus driver, tells Kate, who is breastfeeding on the bus, that if she does not either stop or get off the bus she could be arrested for indecency.  This is not only inaccurate, but is unlawful direct discrimination, and the company will be liable under the Equality Act 2010 unless it can show that it has taken all reasonable steps to stop the driver from acting in this way. Saul will be liable whether or not his employer is.

So there you go mothers.  Go to the website, print off this nice little leaflet, and fold it into your bag, pocket or changing stuff.  Print off several,  Highlight the correct bit.  Hand them out!

Yes, it is missing essential detail.  But it does so in a way that is so very very very useful.  For scaring the arrogance out of people in shops and cafes!

Crown copyright leaflet, July 2010   JN40172  What an amazing little resource you are!  :-)

PDF: Here

Monday, 29 November 2010

Damoclean Dilemmas

The Sword of Damocles, by ikaa

I've been asked to repost here, in an open forum, two comments I made about the informed milk sharing, in the past 24 hours.  You can see by the context, I'm discussing attitudes to milk sharing, and the female body.  You can also tell by the picture, and the title, my thoughts on the position we put mothers into, when discussing this.  :-)  The comments stand alone, but I'll ask permission for the post I'm responding to on number one, to be published here - when the poster wakes up on the other side of the planet!

EDIT: permission given.  And can I just thank Karleen Gribble and award her the Nobel No Prize, for "peer to peer milk sharing" and the apt and accurate comparison between bed, and milk, sharing.  Go Karleen!


So my prophecy came to pass

A milk banking person saying how dirty and dangerous informal milk sharing is.... sigh... Jack Newman is quoted with similar sentiments in the same article. Very unhelpful and fits right in with the pervasive viewpoint that breastfeeding and breastmilk is icky, dangerous stuff that should be kept hidden- part of the reason why breastfeeding in public is so unacceptable and why working mums get such  grief about their expressed breastmilk from their colleagues and from the carers  of their infants. Shame! Shame!

Karleen Gribble


However, the society does not endorse informal milk sharing. "I think it's dangerous," says Dr. Sharon Unger, a neonatologist at Mount Sinai Hospital. "I completely understand why women do it, but you really don't know what you're getting . . . it's very unsafe."

Unger is spearheading an initiative to set up a Toronto milk bank, but says it's still a few years away - pending more research and funding - and will initially make sick babies its priority


Just to add my tuppence worth here to Karleen's prescience, and with respect to Diane, ask people to Watch Their Language.

Those of us in the lactation community who disagree with mothers taking control of their own milk supply, are using very specific language..

The Risks of Informal Milk Sharing.. casual milk sharing... unprocessed milk sharing... all of which are misnomers.

What is being discussed by the mothers taking control, is the difference between Informed, and Uninformed, Milk Sharing.

"Informal" milk sharing is being used to suggest no discipline, methodology or information about milk sharing.  It conjures up the Hoary Old Spectre of the slack alice mother, going on ebay to buy a shed load of human milk, from the woman keeping her breast pump in the dog basket.  The crack whore is also selling her milk, when discussing "Informal Milk Sharing."  said crack whore has just come from her HIV treatment centre (which is [not] a problem actually, as she'll be on ARVs, but let's not muddy the analogy with science!)  That woman down the end of the street with a fur coat and no knickers is involved in informal milk sharing, and she's giving it to the daft woman at No 6, who buys stuff from Internet channels as well.

However, when discussing Informed Milk Sharing, mothers are engaged in a discourse with each other, and the science and research, on which is the greater risk to their baby - donated human milk, or formula.  They are discussing screening options, and processing options.  They are scrutinising blood readouts and health check information.  They are deciding how to mitigate risks, so they are less than those of feeding formula.
The removal of this aspect of the discussion, on various forums and posts, is very troubling to me.  The various milk sharing sites make information known to all women, of the spectra of risks that can exist in milk sharing.  And most provide resources on how to mediate, or mitigate, them.

To deny that element to the discussions, is to do a great disservice to everyone.

So please, can we stop with the 'Informal Milk Sharing' and be specific.  You may as well just go straight to Icky Milk Sharing.

You may disagree with mothers making informed decisions on milk.  You may think it's a terrible idea.  You may genuinely believe that no mother can mitigate the risks.  But to present the concept as having no discussion at all of the risks, is disingenuous at best, and dishonest at worst.

Mothers can undertake discussions about risk: let's not rob them of that, no matter how we feel about Informed versus Uninformed, milk sharing.

Informed Milk Sharing is the activity under discussion.


The discussion about "peer-to-peer" milk sharing

Do you like that terminology better Morgan??

I think that the discussion about peer to peer milk sharing has much in common with discussion of bedsharing with infants- in that it's something that one cannot outright recommend because it depends on the situation. I've given many interviews over the years to journalists about bedsharing and many have wanted me to say that it's safe and parents should do it. I won't.

Why?? Because we know that there are situations in which bed sharing is not safe. What I do do is state that there are good reasons why mothers share sleep surfaces with their infants, that they should be given information about how to manage the risks of bed sharing and then that it is up to parents to look at their individual circumstances and make their decision about where their baby sleeps and what that environment looks like. It's much the same with milk sharing. Mothers have good reasons why they might want to use donor human milk from a peer. They should be given information about how to manage the risks of sharing milk and then it's up to them to decide what to do. No professional needs to endorse milk sharing, nor do they need to condemn it. It is entirely possible for professionals asked to provide comment to recognised why women might want to obtain human milk via peers (banked donor milk unavailable, infant formula deficient), how they might manage the risks associated with peer to peer milk sharing (recognising that the risks are manageable) and that it's up to parents to decide what to do.

Karleen Gribble


No one is minimising risks, or invalidating actual risks.

But the construction that women are inherently diseased, and must be tested and tested and tested, to maintain their purity, is one we cannot allow to stand.

That we live in a society where women are healthier, better fed, more intelligent and have more power to make informed decisions, than has ever occurred on the planet before... that is what needs to be the opening statement.   In that context, other women are a resource to help keep our babies alive.. a resource that has to be looked at where the majority of women are perfectly acceptable donors, with some work done to ensure risk has been minimised... is the one we should be aiming for.

That wonderful Chinese police officer, who breastfed, and kept alive safely, 5 babies, in an emergency, would, in terms of this discussion, being told to let them die, rather than infect them with whatever she couldn't prove she didn't have?  She was breastfeeding her own baby, so what?  She's AUTOMATICALLY too dangerous to feed another without a battery of testing? 

The irony here, is that we're asking for a level of purity that is nigh on impossible, from the cleanest, safest, healthiest nations on earth.

And this notion that we must assume disease, rather than work with each individual circumstance, is going to do so much harm, and harm so many babies, if we let this myth be constructed around us.

The vast majority of mothers in the countries considering milk sharing (which requires a huge amount of hygiene and money rich resources) have all been tested during their own pregnancy, just prior to their lactation.  Certainly, in the USA, where litigation is a more everyday fact of life, then more caution would have to be used.  but that's about context.

The spectrum of mothers available for donation, starts with the VAST majority being perfectly safe to donate, and all of whom, just about, have the blood work to prove it.  Only when you get into tiny percentages of overall population, do you run into the TINY percentage of the population, that should not donate.

Whilst we continue to discuss the entire spectrum as only the TINY minority, babies will be harmed.

Already, in the USA, double the newborns on formula, die as on breastmilk.  Seeing every mother who may give life giving milk to a baby without enough, as Typhoid Mary, is simply obscene.  And ignores the science, and the general population's actual behaviour and health.

Again, that heart warming story of the baby being breastfed by 5 young mothers, on a rota, as the baby's mother died in childbirth... gone.  That baby is now on formula. 

The double standard here is that you are asking more of a woman, than you are of a cow.  Even when we know the cow's milk has potentially lethal contamination in up to 14% of the product.  Yes, there is merit in the cross-species argument, versus same species, but that's part of the balance of risks for that individual baby - not a huge banner statement that infection and disease is running rife through our mothers and babies.

And we know that far LESS than 14% of the lactating population, is a risk.  And that's before we get to the fact that most women are looking at both screening, and home flash heating with donated milk.

I can see a doctor's office, in the not to distant future, where a Dr is telling a mother not to breastfeed her own baby, until she can prove her milk is safe. 

And the seeds of that horrible vision, are being sown in here, right now.

I grew up in a world where doctors and scientists had told mothers not to breastfeed, as their milk was not good enough.  I cannot comprehend that returning via well meaning intentions on fear based philosophies.  And you will see it rise, I can assure you, in the wake of these discussions on the automatic dangers of diseased women, and their polluting bodily fluids, that must be sanctified as 'safe'... by science and technology.

The risks are relatively small, the base population immensely healthy.  The way to mitigate the risks, quite easy and manageable.  The decision, the mother's.  She should be supported in her decision, in either direction.  That's the baseline.

I've stood by women who are HIV positive, who were being told needlessly, that their babies would be removed at birth, and they would never see them again, if they breastfed.  I've listened to their anger, and their fury, and their fear.  I've heard them cry. I've had to inform them of the dangers of the drugs they were being forced to take, to dry their milk.  When there is no reason for this AT ALL.  

Stand by the women I've stood by, and listen to their pain.  You may find yourself reflecting on how healthy our society is, rather than how diseased it is.  And how 'choice' is a dangerous, and load bearing, responsibility, that neither assumes, nor negates, hope.

The Sword of Damocles, by Paul Hudson

Thursday, 25 November 2010

ManHood Health Warns Of Contamination Fears

An urgent health alert has been widely circulated today, by ManHood Health, the world's largest health agency.  In a dramatic and quite clumsy fashion, ManHood Health made the following statement:

"It has come to our attention at ManHood Health, that women are gossiping on the internet.  Usually, we're fine about this, as the internet can be an excellent source of recipe ideas and general household support.  In fact, my wife got a stain out of my ManHood Science White Coat, just last week.  However, things took a serious turn, when my wife pointed out that a fellow woman, had posted about not using cow's milk to feed babies, but using human milk.  We looked at the site, and discovered it was true.  So we just had to act, by making this worldwide statement:


Not unless the female in question is a cow, anyhows."

ManHood Health went on to explain...

"What all those Pretty Young Things on the 'net don't seem to understand is that women are pretty diseased creatures.  They do that bleeding thing once a month, and all that hysterical jazz about you not putting the toilet seat back down.  Honestly, you just can't reason with them when their womb is all travelling round their body like.  Would you like to drink milk that's been near a womb?"

When it was pointed out that cows have wombs, Dr Testy Rone of ManHood Health, retorted "That's just like a woman - not understanding the deeper issues.  Of course cows have wombs, but they are scientific cows, and their milk is processed scientifically.  It's all perfect and sterile and not involved in sex games with human males.  Well, not usually anyhows.  But the point is we at ManHood Health, sanctify cow's milk as safe and free from bugs and dog hairs, and deadly sex diseases that eat your brain and get your insurance refused.  You can't say that about women's milk, can you?"

When faced with the mountain of scientific evidence that breast milk sharing can be safe and even HIV can be removed with a simple at home in the kitchen treatment, Dr Testy Rone exploded..

"Will you stop trying to read books!  Honestly, do you have a science degree?  I can assure you, that no matter what some other WOMAN has told you on THE INTERNET, it's just not true. Please don't feed diseased and flawed human female milk to your babies, unless a man has stated it's been scientifically processed to be as safe as formula."

We did mention to Dr Testy, the report that had been written by a man, earlier this month, about beetle parts and eggs in dried cow's milk being fed to babies, but he put the phone down on us.

So there you are ladies... please follow the advice of ManHood Health, and stop twittering about mother to mother support.  You're just not qualified to make these decisions, and cannot be trusted to do any such dangerous thing on your own.  Please refer to a ManHood Health specialist near you.  Or your husband.  Or your father.  Or your younger brother, maybe.

Next week, we look at Patriarchy, Hegemony and Toilet Seats... does the toilet seat always have to be down?

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Facebook Obscenity Strike Again!

This photograph is so obscene, the mother's entire Facebook account has been deleted.  Yes, it's Emma Kwasnica's account.  Or was.  Again.

Can you see aureole?  Can you see a nipple?  And I've enlarged it!


Record of all photos deleted by Facebook as obscene, here.

EDIT: And on the same day, they took out Kate Hanson.  For her obscene artwork:

Protest group: here.

Edit Oct 2:  Kate Hansen in back.  Emma is not.  This one will be interesting.  Kate is Art.  Emma is Photographs...  obviously, photographs of real mothers and babies, not the same as painted ones... ;-)

Edit: October 2.  Emma is BACK!!!!  :-)

Her status update:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”
~Margaret Mead

Friday, 3 September 2010

Cow & Gate Target New Midwives

Cow and Gate have started a campaign to target newly qualified midwives, to 'help' them in their day to day practice.

The In Practice website is full of useful information, resources and services for the exclusive use of registered HCPs. 

The site offers leaflets, study days and training days, And All You Ever Needed To Know About Cow & Gate Formula.  Including downloadable patient information sheets, on such things as the benefits of all that chemical junk they put in formula, to fool Mums into buying the top brand with all the untested ingredients.

Sickeningly, on top of all that, they also offer free podcasts downloads of Formula sponsored 'nutritional synposiums' on baby nutrition... including info on the pre-term baby and nutrition.

All targeted directly at a newly qualified midwife near you.

All of which directly contravenes Code:

7.2 Information provided by manufacturers and distributors to health professionals regarding products within the scope of this Code should be restricted to scientific and factual matters, and such information should not imply or create a belief that bottle feeding is equivalent or superior to breastfeeding. It should also include the information specified in Article 4.2.

4.2 Informational and educational materials, whether written, audio, or visual, dealing with the feeding of infants and intended to reach pregnant women and mothers of infants and young children, should include
clear information on all the following points:

1. the benefits and superiority of breastfeeding;
2. maternal nutrition, and the preparation for and maintenance of breastfeeding;
3. the negative effect on breastfeeding of introducing partial bottle feeding;
4. the difficulty of reversing the decision not to breastfeed; and
5. where needed, the proper use of infant formula, whether manufactured industrially or home prepared.

When such materials contain information about the use of infant formula, they should include the social and financial implications of its use; the health hazards of inappropriate foods or feeding methods; and, in particular, the health hazards of unnecessary or improper use of infant formula and other breastmilk substitutes. Such materials should not use any pictures or text which may idealise the use of breastmilk substitutes.

Go on, search their 'helpful' site, and find all that info on the social and economic cost of not breastfeeding, and in particular the research on the many problems on using soil bacteria to mimic mother's milk.

I'm sure you'll find it all there.

Cow & Gate: because the best person to tell you about your baby, nutrition and formula, is the company making a profit from selling it to you.  Oh, silly me... the best person to tell your midwife about your baby, nutrition and formula is.... the company making a profit from selling it to you....

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Breast: Why Settle For Less?

This is my idea of a breastfeeding support and protection poster.  I was wondering what yours was?  I thought of "Breast: Why Settle For Less?" as I was doing the housework this afternoon.  Ooops, better get back to it.  But I'd really like to see some positive, phrased appropriately, and home made poster ideas, from you all.  Really good ones, I'll publish on the blog.  Leave your feedback on whether or not you think (above) and the others, work for you, or you think they might work for others.

Slogan ideas, you can simply post in comments below.  Actual mock ups, comment with your eddress (email address) below, and I'll send you mine, for sending on the file.  No worries - your eddress won't be seen, or published.  :-)

Let's See What You've Got!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Have Fun Tomorrow!!!!

This is Elaine Scully, and her son, Robin.  Due to my son coming down with a high fever and being Quite Poorly, Elaine will be the main presence at Westminster tomorrow.  Which is only fitting, as she is in London, and is heavily involved in supporting mothers.  :-)

Just look out for her bright red hair, If All Else Fails.  

All the directions and instructions you need for the Westminster event, are here.  We meet in the large semi-circle of grass, with the small tree (for shade) in it, behind the Rodin Statue.  Last year there was a toddler group there as well, with toddler trucks and push along and toys.  That's not us!  

Elaine is very nervous about dealing with the MPs who are coming along.  Help her out ladies!  It's just nerves.  :-)

The regional picnics are here, although there are informal ones in Durham and Leeds as well.  I'll update all that link info, as I go along today.

Next Year's Picnic is all set - for the weekend of June 18th and 19th, 2011.  Explanation on why the changes, here.

If you want to organise a local picnic for next year, join this yahoo group.  You will be sent a pending message, and full instructions.

If you want to attend a picnic, either keep an eye on this blog, or join this Facebook Group.

Have fun everyone!  It's the UK, don't forget sun screen, woolly jumper and an umbrella!  ;-)

Friday, 16 July 2010

Write And Praise BBC Birmingham

... for this fabulous radio interview.  Shane O'Connor does what all journalists and presenters should do... have a perfectly normal conversation, about something, without setting it into all the myths and misinformation, or acting like it's not normal.

In terms of affecting our culture, writing and praising for positive approaches, does more than writing and complaining.  If you've ever written a complaint about shoddy journalism, sensationalism and bias in reporting breastfeeding issues, PLEASE write and praise this interviewer, and this production team.  They were even accurate on the law in England & Wales!  (Which won't please some!)

And do note, pressure to breastfeed etc, was covered without any problem, as it CAN BE.  You don't need a divisive agenda when discussing this issue.  Mothers are mothers, babies are babies: hungry babies get fed.

Articulate, intelligent and open handed interviewing on this subject, is possible.  PLEASE reward this team!

Write to BBC Birmingham itself:  click the 'contact us' button.  Or email here.

Also copy your comments to BBC Head Office:  scroll the comments box to 'appreciation'.

And weren't Kat and Claire, just wonderful?  *rounds of applause*

(Interview is the first 45 minutes of the show.)

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Breastfeeding Picnics 2010

First of all, an apology for the lateness of these updates.  More about that on the longer spiel at the bottom.

Second of all, this list will be updated further, between now and Sunday: part and parcel of why everything got so late this year!  See below.

Third of all, several of the picnics, may be linked live by ITV news, this year, and I will, again, update that, here, as the week goes on.  I think so far we are looking at Westminster, Birmingham, and Nottingham.


Westminster Breastfeeding Picnic
next to Parliament
Monday July 19th
noon - 3pm
Facebook Group

Birmingham Breastfeeding Picnic
Colmore Row
Monday July 19th
noon - 3pm
Facebook Group

Nottingham Breastfeeding Picnic
Waverly Street 
Monday July 19th
noon- 3pm
Warrington Breastfeeding Picnic
next to Town Hall
Monday July 19th
noon - 2pm
Facebook Group

Dorset Breastfeeding Picnic
Bournemouth Gardens
opposite big balloon
Monday July 19th
noon - 3pm
Facebook Group

Wrecsam Breastfeeding Picnic
behind the Guidlhall, Queen's Square
Monday July 19th
noon - 3pm
Facebook Group

Stroud Breastfeeding Picnic
Stratford Park
near the bandstand
11am - 2pm
Monday July 19th


Changes To The Breastfeeding Picnic 2011

I said above, that the picnics got squeezed out on organisation this year.  The primary reason for this, was the General Election.  Recess dates for Westminster aren't published that far ahead, and the delay on the forming of the new Government, which took, if you recall, weeks rather than a day or two, really put pressure on us organising Westminster.  In fact, we finally announced the date, before the Westminster recess dates were published, and crossed our fingers.

Realistically, we also had to wait until the Coalition Government, had set its own agenda for the Parliament ahead.  Not only could they have announced a Breastfeeding Bill, there was also the matter of waiting to see the tone and mood of their agenda: to speak effectively to them, in their own terms.

All this pushed the planning waaay down the line.  Combined with my moving house several hundred miles, and Emily Pulling, the picnic's founder, juggling family employment issues, meant there just hasn't been space to slowly build up, as we usually do.  After all, we are Just Mums With Attitude.  :-)

The huge upheaval of the political situation, has also meant there has been discussion of two of the thorny issues about organising the picnics.  Many picnic organisers, know they would get more turn out, at the weekend.  The entire point, however, was to highlight the issue to Westminster, which does not sit on the Weekend.  Our picnic organisers in Scotland, have also pointed out that when it's held in late July, Holyrood, the Scottish Parliament, is already in recess.  And as Scotland has this law, then allowing for MSP attendance, makes good political sense.

Emily and I had resisted changing the set-up,. as we felt a central MP presence at Westminster, was more important: we need at law for outside Scotland!  However, it's been pointed out, that feedback from MPs has often said, they would attend a weekend event in their constituency, but they are too busy at Westminster, at the end of the session, to attend the central one.

Therefore, from 2011, we are changing the structure of the National Breastfeeding Picnic.  It will take place over a weekend, late in June or early in July.

EDIT:  June18/19th, 2011

Local organisers will be free to hold their picnic on either the Saturday, or the Sunday, of that weekend.  This enables family and religious observations commitments, to be accommodated for the main organiser.  There will always be a Westminster Picnic, but it will be equal to the other picnics, not the central event.  So organisers can invite their MP first and foremost to their own constituency, and if they are in Westminster that weekend, they can attend the Westminster one.

Whilst I will be hosting the final "central" Westminster Picnic on Monday, from 2011 I will be hosting the "No Borders" Breastfeeding Picnic on the A1 at the Scottish/England Border!  Just to show the inanity, and inequality.  (Okay, a photoshoot will be done at the Border, but the actual Picnic will be in beautiful Berwick-Upon-Tweed.)

Over the four years since Emily's original Breastfeeding Picnic at Parliament Square, we've learned a lot about how to go about this, as a mother-to-mother thing, done on the cheap and with minimum work.  So we've also developed a clearer pathway on how to take part.  

If you want to organise a Breastfeeding Picnic, then join the National Breastfeeding Picnic group on yahoo groups.  It's moderated entry, to stop spam, just say in your message where you want to organise one.  Then you'll have access to the "How too.." sheets.  (Very simple, very clearly laid out.)

If you want to attend a Breastfeeding Picnic, join the Facebook group, and then each event is listed as an event.  Or read this blog.


See you on Monday!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Dear Friends..... WABA

Date: 2 July 2010 08:32:56 GMT+01:00

Subject: Breastfeeding Advocate thrown off the BBC World Service

Dear friends,

We have just received news via LACTNET (Lactation Information and Discussion) that Morgan Gallagher, Chairperson of Nursing Matters, a non-profit making, voluntary organisation that advocates for breastfeeding babies was thrown off a BBC World Service programme for saying that unsafe formula feeding kills babies in Africa.

Portions of her posting on LACTNET - reproduced with permission from Morgan.

" Just a quick note to let you know, I've just been thrown off a BBC World Service programme, for saying that unsafe formula feeding kills babies in Africa.The programme went out live at 6pm, BST time, here, and I was booked, at  the last minutes, to do an hour of the whole world programme, and then the 30 minutes afterwards, on Africa only.

When I asked the discussion about breastfeeding be 'creepy' be about women  being put in impossible position, and maybe we should look at why an intelligent, articulate, well educated woman in the UK would be so creeped out by a baby touching her breast... the mic was closed.  When I said we needed to address the pressure to formula feed, not the pressure to breastfeed... the mic was closed.  When I stated that 4000 babies die everyday from unsafe formula feeding... the mic was closed.

When I was then taken off air, and roundly shouted at by the producer.  I challenged her, and stated that we could not have global context discussion on breastfeeding, without discussing formula feeding, and how on earth could she ask a women in Nairobi if she'd support a woman to formula feed if she wanted to?  That ignoring the situation in Africa with formula, and acting  if we were all in the UK, was precisely the bias they were showing.  She said the World Service was for everyone, and I asked how a women in the slums in Kenya, tonight, would feel, listening to us prattling on about  formula feeding as a supported choice.  Did she have any idea who many babies would die tonight, in Kenya, from formula feeding? She blew up, said I'd said formula feeding kills babies, and that was making her very angry, and I was out of the programme.  A taxi would be called to take me away right away, and good bye."

Morgan has blogged about her experience in detail and you can view it here:


To listen to the entire podcast (about 50 minutes long) please click on the link below.

WHYS 30 June 2010: Is breastfeeding 'creepy'? Wed, 30 Jun 10

Kathryn Blundell is the deputy editor of a leading parenting magazine here in the UK and she's got women all over the the world talking. She didn't breastfeed her children - she says that her breasts are for sex not for feeding.

If you've had children, did you feel a pressure to breast-feed?


We hope that you will share this news with your network especially for those who have experience in living or working in resource poor settings to write to the BBC that as a worldwide broadcast - they must carry a world view perspective and understand they have a responsibility to ensure that it is made clear that while the "choice" to formula feed in the UK or Western Europe might be one that can be made with limited negative impact on child and mother that this is simply not the case in much of the world- that that formula feeding commonly results in death in much of the world.


Julianna Lim Abdullah, IBCLC
Senior Coordinator
Information, Communications and Networking

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Dear BBC World Service.... KG

From: Karleen Gribble
Sent: Friday, 2 July 2010 12:10 AM
To: 'worldhaveyoursay@bbc.com'
Subject: formula feeding in resource poor settings


I listening to your program on whether breastfeeding is “creepy.”  I thought that it was a very interesting program and that the exploration of the issues surrounding why women in a country like the UK might choose not to breastfeed was valuable. However, I thought that because the BBC World Service is broadcast worldwide that there was a responsibility to ensure that it is made clear that while the “choice” to formula feed in the UK or Western Europe might be one that can be made with limited negative impact on child and mother that this is simply not the case in much of the world- that (as Morgan Gallagher tried to communicate) that formula feeding commonly results in death in much of the world. This is a message that MUST be broadcast.

In two months I will be conducting training at a meeting convened by UNICEF in the Philippines on infant feeding in emergencies. One of the things I will be talking about is how whenever there is a natural emergency, media reporting drives the literal flooding of emergency areas with donations of infant formula- usually sent by well meaning individuals and organisations that are simply unaware of the risks associated with formula feeding in resource poor contexts. Programs like yours, that presented formula feeding as a simple, legitimate and costless choice add to this problem.  They cause harm. Increased infant morbidity and mortality results directly from media reports that present infant formula as something that will help infants, ignoring the risks. Health ministers and aid orgs like UNICEF and Save the children working in countries affected by emergencies tear their hair out trying to stop the container and truck loads of formula arriving in emergency aid arriving and being distributed. 

Please, could you consider actually having a world view in your programs and understand that what might be OK in the UK may not be OK in India or in Botswana or Peru. Could you please consider having interviewees  who know what they are talking about- are experts on infant feeding, on the marketing of infant formula, on the support needed by women to breastfeed, on the relative importance of infant feeding decisions in developed vs underdeveloped contexts?? The cultural blinkers of living in a privileged environment with good sanitation and health care were evident in your interviewer.

If you did consider doing something on this I could certainly put you in touch with a variety of such experts and would be happy to be interviewed myself.

Karleen Gribble

Dr Karleen D Gribble BRurSc PhD
Adjunct Research Fellow
School of Nursing and Midwifery
University of Western Sydney

Friday, 2 July 2010

An Unpalatable Truth

Sorry for not getting this post done until now.  I started it in my head last night, after some criticisms emerged on some pro-breast sites.  But a broken fridge door, has actually taken most of my time today!  (It's now fixed.)

Comments have been made that I wasn't speaking appropriately, for a discussion programme, and others have asked what I was told before I went on.  I thought I'd just make a few points.

I was asked to take part in a programme discussing an anti-breastfeeding article.  An article that denigrated breastfeeding, and upheld formula feeding, explicitly.  As part of that, in my interview by the journalist who booked me to appear, I was asked how I would respond to several questions, if they came up.  I was probed on how I would respond to the points raised in the the article, about both breastfeeding, and formula feeding.

Again, this is memory.  I didn't record the conversation!  (Although guess what I will be doing from now on...?)

What was my reaction to Ms Blundell saying it was 'creepy' to breastfeed?  

I answered that I wouldn't comment on Ms Blundell, as I didn't know her, but that in general, my reaction would be that someone expressing those thoughts, had a problem with their own body image and self-esteem, perhaps their sexuality.  Which was hardly surprising, given how confused and contradictory our society is about women and their bodies.  That some women did feel this, and it wasn't surprising, but really, working on it, for themselves, is the best thing.

What about a woman who had five children and needed to work, and she HAD to formula feed, what would I say to her, would I not have sympathy with that?

I replied that I'd tell the woman with the five children how lucky she was to be able to afford to formula feed her five kids.  That millions of women live with five kids, on under a dollar a day.  And if they don't breastfeed their kids, the kids might die.  How lucky of the Mum to live in a world where she can afford to buy formula, and have clean water to make it up.  And, if she really did want to breastfeed, she could.  She could get help and support.  That was the point, if she really wanted to, she could get support to make it happen.  Working was not a barrier, and she should get the help she needed, and others would help her do so.  But again, how lucky she was to live in a nice clean world where she COULD choose to formula feed, was what I'd say to her.

I expanded this point to say that's there is nothing wrong with formula feeding, as long as it was informed choice.  If a baby was hungry, it needed fed, and the WHO recognised that if nothing else was there, then formula was the fourth choice to feed a baby.  But it was fourth in line.  The issue was informed choice, and not enough women knew that formula feeding carries risks.

I then expanded that point, by stating that when my husband has his heart attack, and I sent my up till then exclusively breast fed three month old baby, out to my family to be formula fed, I had had no idea I was putting my baby at risk.  That when I needed help and information most, I was unaware that I was putting my beloved baby at risk, by sending him to a loving, caring family, who all had formula fed, but that they didn't know about formula safety.  That my own family made up batches of formula in the morning, put them in the fridge, and put them in the microwave to heat them up all through the day.  And I'd sent my baby out to that, not knowing that it was dangerous.

That that was the issue.  Women knowing all the information, and making informed choices.

Edit: knew I forgot a bit.

There was a moment in the discussion, when we talked about risk, when I stated that the risk was not limited to poorer countries.  That modern countries also had a problem.  In the USA, for instance, twice as many formula fed babies dies as breastfed ones, in the first six weeks.  It's a tiny tiny number, 2 per thousand, rather than 1 per thousand, but if you are the mother of that one baby in a thousand, it's a terrible thing.  So I said that CLEARLY to the very nice and very coherent person interviewing me.  Who was, in fact, as I've said, was lovely: very professional and extremely coherent and intelligent.  Just to clarify on those figures 'tho, I did say it wrong, on the phone.  It's 2 more babies per thousand, that die for formula feeding, in the first few weeks of life, than ones breastfed.  It's 2 per thousand for breastfed, and 4 per thousand for formula fed.  Reference  end edit 

She also asked if I could not understand the problem of women being confused about breasts for sex, or for babies.

I replied yes, I could, that was very valid, and support needed to be done there.  When women are told their breasts are sexual playthings, it can be difficult.  It is difficult being female in our society, and women needed support.

She then asked my husband if my breastfeeding had caused problems in our sex life.  He burst out laughing.  :-)

I was then told how well I'd answered, and how good it was that I could speak well, and pepper facts in, without it all becoming to 'fact' heavy.  That I had a good way of talking about things, and putting facts in as I went. Would I please come and do an hour and a half?  We did, as I have recorded prior, discuss thoroughly that it was a free discussion programme between the women, and the male presenter would introduce, then back away and let us communicate with each other, like we would at a dinner party, chatting.

I was then asked how I would like to be introduced.  After a few minutes discussion, - mother, breastfeeding supporter, lactavist etc I said I'd like to be introduced as a 'feminist' as this made the most sense to me.  

I was, of course, introduced as Chair of Nursing Matters. (Which I had given permission for, so that was okay, but my point is I was introduced for that formal role.)

So, this is the discussion that led to me being invited to speak.  Then not being allowed to speak.  :-)

PS  If you don't think I was speaking as I would at a dinner party, best not come round to dinner!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

A Tale of Two Worlds...

or... How I Was Thrown Off The BBC World Service, For Saying That Unsafe Formula Feeding Kills Babies In Africa...

Disclaimer: exact sequence may be out of synch.  This is memory, not documentary.  Lots of conversations, in a very short time.  Some of them may have been one phonecall, and not the other, etc.  But it's the essence of the event.  Sequences of the actual radio discussions, are in my memory as the bits I was reacting too - I may report them in a different sequence.  Also, forgive the epic storytelling.  I've learned this sort of detail is IMPORTANT in being heard.  You can skip down to half way through, if you want to, for the actual throwing off air bit.

So, it's a perfectly normal Wednesday afternoon.  I've decided that I'll go swimming with my 5 year old, for a session with us both, before his swimming lesson at 3.30pm.  I've not sorted out dinner, and I'm in the middle of sifting through how to layer the rest of the day, and get some work done, go swimming, and get some sort of dinner on the table.  I need to get some yeast going, to get tomorrow's bread going.  I've been making our own spelt bread now for 4 days, and need to keep the momentum going, or it's back to bought.  I sit down with 5 year old, and talk through that we will both be going swimming soon, he's excited!

I just check my email.  A new one is in my inbox.  It's from the BBC World Service: they've been phoning my old phone number, can I contact them?  It was sent at 13.52. Would I be interested in taking part in a global conservation about breastfeeding, in light of That Article, this evening?   At 14.08, I send them my new phone number. I then entice 5 year old out of the living room, so I can talk without interruption.  I phone the BBC World Service and have a lovely chat with the lovely journalist.  She does the usual, and both flatters and pushes, to see how I perform under pressure.  We cover a wide ranging series of reactions to the fuss.  She is delighted.  Of course, her FIRST question was "Are you still breastfeeding your 5 year old?"

So I knew where we were.

But it was a really good conversation.  Can I come on and be a main guest on the discussion at 6pm?  The male presenter, Ros, will introduce the various women from around the world who have been booked to speak, and then back out.  It's a conversation like we would be sitting around chatting after dinner.  Not too many facts and figures, short points, casual conversation, if that okay?  Totally, I say.  She emphasises the shortness of answers required.  "You want soundbites?" I say.  No, she says, not sound bites, your own words, just in brief.  When the other women are talking, if you want to respond, just say your name and then jump in.  Let everyone speak.  "Fine", I say.  I have to bring my five year old.  "No problem" she says.

How does my husband feel about my breastfeeding, has it affected how he sees me sexually?  "Ask him yourself." I say, and hand over the phone to David.  She chats with him for several moments, and then asks him to take part in the programme.  He can't come up, as he's in a wheelchair, but they'll phone him on the landline.  "Fine" says David.

How to get me to a studio?  She had no idea where I was, so I suggest Edinburgh, about an hour's drive away.  She goes and sorts out a radio studio booking in Edinburgh, phones me back, and confirms the booking.  The programme will be going out world wide, between 18.00 and 19.00.  However, there is a run on programme, for Africa only.  It's usually 19.00 to 20.00, but because of the World Cup it's only running to 19.30.  Can I stay and do the Africa only programme?  Of course, that's fine, I say.  But start to worry about Hugh.  Mummy in the glass box for an hour and a half is going to be hard on him.  But no choice, with this late a run in.

She books the taxis, and we decide times.  Hugh has his swimming lesson between 15.30 and 16.00.  It's now 14.40.  I suggest taxi gets here at 16.15, as you never know with rush hour traffic in Edinburgh.  She sends me an email confirming my booking from 18.00 to 19.30, and that taxis have been booked.  I reply to her, stating I will need help at the other end, to help me carry in the Child Car Seat, and it will need to be kept safe whilst I'm on air.

I've been here before, I know BBC reception staff do nothing to help anyone: "They're not allowed to."

My afternoon dissolves into epic rush.  My swimming session with Hugh is cancelled.  I literally pull my coolest dress off the washing line, and put it on wet.  Swimming for Hugh is rushed around packing enough things to keep him occupied, i go shopping for drinks and good quality snacks for him whilst he's in the pool, and literally rushing him back into the car in his wet swimming costume, and driving back home.  Taxi turns up at 16.20, and we load myself, Hugh, car seat and bags and supplies, into it, and drive off.

Driver is from Berwick-Upon Tweed.  He has no idea where the BBC studios are.  He's just been given a postcode and we know how good that is, in a city, right?.  BBC phones me to check I'm on my way.  I confirm we are, and ask if there will be someone at other end to help with child and car seat?  She phones back.  No, reception can't leave, but the taxi can park "right up outside".

I have a pretty clear idea what is happening at this point, and resign myself to doing all the work.

I phone David, and he looks on the map.  Taxi driver and me and David, work out roughly where we are going.  We get there, and stop a lady leaving the hairdressers, with expensive shopping bags.  Does she know where the BBC studios are around here?  Yes, she gives us direction.  Hugh falls asleep in car seat, 3 minutes before we get there.  *sigh*

We find the hole in the wall studio.  It's a good 100 feet, downhill, from where we can get the taxi to.  I leave asleep Hugh in car with taxi driver, cautioning him not to run off with my child :-), and carry the three bags of gear down to the BBC Alba, two room studio, under a shopping centre.  I look wistfully at the Pizza Express next door.

Reception man lets me in, and I dump the bags and explain I have to return for child, and car seat.  A total of 3 other people are in the very small studios.  I ask who is going to look after Hugh when I am on air?  They say I'm booked to take the child, and the car seat, into the studio with me.  Female journo working on shared computers, says she's leaving in 5 minutes.  Of course, this is what I really feared.  I'd just been drop kicked into any free studio they could find, and that was that.  I've worked in radio, it wasn't a surprise!

I return to the taxi, and we find a way to get within 30 feet in the front door, without being in the main traffic, and I wake up Hugh and carry him on my hip with one hand, and the car seat in the other.  Hugh wakes up grumpy.

We sit in reception.  No one offers tea, or a drink.  it's about 17.40.  Eventually, I ask if I can just go into the studio, which is about 8 feet by ten feet, and set up amusement for Hugh.  I go in, and set up a dvd on my laptop, settle him on his very comfy car seat on the floor, with the laptop perched on a chair seat, settle him down, and put some apple juice by him.  He's perfectly happy.  I point out the red light, and that he can't speak to me when it's lit.  He knows how radio works, and the lights, since the researcher who took care of him when I was on R4's "Today" took him through it.

I get out a pad, and a pen, a drink for me, opening it to make sure it doesn't fizz on the microphone, and put the silent head phones (cans) on, and twiddle my thumbs.

At least it's cool.  Air conditioning for small radio booths is essential!

At about 2 mins to 18.00, someone called Chloe, introduces herself on the cans and says "Hi" from the London end.  Takes me through the process again, quickly, and says we'll be joined with women from Argentina, Somewhere I've Forgotten And Didn't Write Down (USA?  Boston?), and Nairobi.  Reinforces the informal chat between women point.  Says there is a recorded interview with Kathryn Blundell, as she couldn't be on live, so could I listen carefully to it, and then respond with my reactions.  I ask her the name of the women I'll be chatting too.  She sounds nonplussed, then recovers.  It's Lee, Adriana and Bilac.  I write down the names of my fellow women.

The interview rolls out with Ms Blundell.  I hear how subdued she is, and how this has shaken her.  I also hear her say outrageous things, like the "wonderous" miracle science of formula.  When she's asked why she feels so creeped out by the thought of a baby feeding on her, she replies she had "not thought about it too much".  I write this quote down, as I think it speaks volumes, and is the point I'd like to react to, as requested by Chloe.

Ros takes the air, and slowly and methodically plods through the list of the four women, around the world, being kept in order by the power buttons in Bush House.  I am frustrated.  This is not the free chat between us that I was told would occur.  I'm also dismayed at Ros's clear attempt to get each and every one of us, to slag Ms Blundell off.  I am delighted when Lee in Argentina makes it clear that Ms Blundell's views of her own body, and are hers and hers alone.  I feel I have so much in common with these women, and I'm truly excited by the thought of being able to chat to them.  Ros gets to me, and the same ponderous "give us your reaction to that" occurs, and I give my reaction.  Ros them continues on with controlling the mike, and all the discussion, and lobbing in comments from emails.  At no point is the micophone open to the four or us.  We cannot talk to each other at all.

Ros tells me he's never noticed any pressure to formula feed.  I ask if he's ever watched television, and after talking about the glowing babies 'supported' by follow-on milk, move on to the point that isn't it interesting that follow on milk only appears in countries where formula ads are banned?  Ros has talked over me, and I persevere, sure that as it's bad radio, to overtalk, he'll back down.  I'm confused, but continue to maintain my subject.  He's overtalking me, and moving onto to another caller, even as I'm describing how much money is made by pressure selling formula to mothers around the world.

Yes, I was being a dunce.  I can only blame the adrenaline.  And that my experience is 'live in the same studio', where they can't do what they were doing so easily.

Lee in Argentina commends me for carrying on breastfeeding Hugh, as she couldn't get past two years.  I make sympathetic noises, and hope to feed back that I understand that feeling and to discuss how hard it is sometimes, and one of the problems is you are never allowed to say sometimes that it is work, and you do struggle.  I hope to reassure her that I think two years is marvellous, and she should look to what she achieved.  I try and speak up, but no one seemed to respond to me, no matter how hard I tried to be heard.  No, I still hadn't twigged.  

I was getting very frustrated.

The woman from Jamaica comes on, and pulls the "I did it for X time, and if you past when I did it, you are weird." card.  When she states that after one year, milk has no nutritional value, I interrupt her, and say "That's not factually accurate."  She carries on.  I repeat this 3, maybe 4 times, and am getting very annoyed that she criticised me, and when I respond that she is refusing to let me speak, and what she is saying is not factually accurate... I finally twig.

Yes, I am a dunce.

No one had been hearing what I was saying to her.  I was being controlled, and censored, by the buttons and sliders at Bush House.  There was no discussion space between the women on air.  I had no idea what of mine had been heard.  As I had clearly been carrying on after I was silenced, I didn't have any idea what had actually been said by me.

Realising this, I say into the the microphone "Morgan here, I wish to respond to that comment."  I'm livid.

Not at the women in Jamaica, I'm livid that I had been taking part in a two way conversation and escalating the urgency of my own voice, in order to get the space to finish speaking, and I'd been speaking into empty air.`

Ros returns me to a live mic, tightly controlling the intro, and I repeat to the woman what I'd been saying non-stop for a few moments.  It still really hadn't sunk in that although I was annoyingly repeating the 'facts' things, and the WHO stuff, that probably, it was the first time it was being heard, not the third or fourth!

And, of course, she gets to criticise me personally, whilst I have to bend over backwards not to criticise, or comment, on anyone else.  

Because I'm the weirdo woman.

And Ros goes off on one about there not actually being a lot of 'facts' about breastfeeding, and sidelines the entire discussion back to emails.  With me on the other end saying "There are lots of facts about breastfeeding, the science is undeniable..."  But you didn't hear that, did you?

So I sit, in the cool empty space of the studio in Edinburgh, with my 5 year old behaving impeccably on the floor, watching a dvd, and I listen to every opportunity for a proper exchange of views, being slammed down and controlled by the presenter.  Again and again, points that could be picked up and expanded upon, discarded and closed down, in favour of just spouting on the same point again and again.  The actual meat of the debate, the pressure on women to do what society wants, and how we polarise the issues, and ignore how much women need support... trying to be heard, and being strangled at birth. 

The sliding button of censorship.  The knot that binds.

This is the programme that did something so unthinkable, so mind bogglingly obscene, I cannot contain it.  They ask a breastfeeding support in Nairobi, if a mother came to her and asked for support to formula feed, would she support her?  What would she say?  A women who lives next to the Kibera slum.

Bilac answered the question with grace (as did all the women being goaded to criticise other women).  But I could not get my head around what was being said.  I just could not deal with the level of Western centric arrogance that was being displayed.  That was constantly, and consistently, positioning this debate within the cosy secure world of the London chattering classes.  How on earth could you ask a mother in Kenya, that question, without any reference to the dangers of formula feeding there?

I sat and fumed on this, as I was completely removed from the programme.  Half way through a sentence, Ros told me he was having to move the discussion on, as I was arguing or something, and I was completely closed down.

I really wanted to get up and leave.  I knew how I was being painted, and just as I didn't want my windows put through after "Today"... I just didn't want the aggro.  But I knew some of you would be listening, and cheering that things that should be heard, were being said.

So I sat, in silence, listening to the inane presenter carry on with their own reduced agenda.  Chloe came on the cans, to explain that I was acting inappropriately, and I clearly didn't understand the type of show I was on.  That they had wanted personal stories and opinion, not 'set speeches'.  I replied that everything I'd said was personal, and she cut me off and said she understood I was against formula, and pro-breastfeeding, but formula wasn't the issue.  I was biased, and they couldn't have that bias on air.  I said they had the bias, not me, and this was the World Service, and they had a duty to act globally, and not act as if the whole discussion was taking place in West London.  How could they ask a women in KENYA if she would support formula feeding?  She replied that they were a global service, and that was why my views were not suitable, I was biased.  I said how would a woman sitting in the slums in Nairobi tonight, sitting in a tin shack with a sick child, feel about us wittering on about breastfeeding without discussing the risk of formula feeding?  Did she know how many babies would die tonight in those slums, from being formula fed?  


Chloe went BALLISTIC.  She told me up front I'd made her REALLY ANGRY and that was it, I was off the programme and a taxi would be called to take me away RIGHT AWAY.  The one that was booked would be cancelled and I could go NOW.

"You just said that formula kills babies!"  It was a mantra, a safety talisman: I could be dispensed with, since I'd uttered those words, which she kept quoting back to me, as evidence of my bias and agenda.

So I was out, gone, away, no more.  I would not be on the Africa segment of the programme.

I tried to reason with her, and referred her back to what I'd said on air, about how 4000 babies die every day from UNSAFE formula feeding, and she needed to apply that to Africa, and how does she think the African woman had felt, being asked if she'd support formula feeding?  They had to be responsible for the global context, and think it through.

It was just making her angrier, and she retorted I had no right to speak for African women.  She just could not get past her own anger, and engage.  She finally snapped that she was running an on-air live programme, and she could come back and argue with me later, but she had a programme to run!  And she pulled the plug.

So I sat there, with Hugh, feeling that if I'd been in Bush House, not in Edinburgh on my own, my bags would be being picked up and I would be being escorted to the door, via security.  I had been thrown off air, and as soon as they could get a taxi to me, I would be out of the building.

Which, by the way, cost them a lot of money.  They actually phoned a black cab, to get me out of there as fast as possible.  A handsome cab for a 60 mile trip!

I simply picked up my mobile phone, and started phoning people.  Whilst I was still in the studio, waiting my Taxi of Doom, I phoned people and let them know what had happened.  Why I was being turfed out.  I phoned Patti Rundall, at Baby Milk Action, who happened to be in Brussels, and told her I'd been thrown off the BBC World Service, for saying that unsafe formula feeding killed babies in Africa.

I told everyone, very clearly, that I has been told precisely, by Chloe, that the reason I was no longer on the Africa programme, was that I'd said "formula kills babies."  I do think the phrase "4000 babies die of UNSAFE formula feeding" did get out on air.

But I ain't listening to it, I can tell you.  I'm not that much of a sadist.

I calmly packed up my things, Hugh played with the revolving chair, listening to how they thanked me ever so much for taking part, and making it sound like I was still on the programme!  My mobile rang, and it was the cab driver, outside on the main, busy, road.  I asked Hugh to stay in the studio on his own with his chair, explained to the reception man, who was quite bemused by everything, and took the car seat out, rather excited to see the black cab.

I walked past the pizza again, rather more wistfully.

I fixed in the car seat, and then went back for Hugh and the bags. Hugh was still waiting patiently, on his own, in the tiny glass booth.  Hugh said he needed to pee.  Reception man said the toilets were up on the second floor.  The taxi was in the street, and I had three heavy bags.  I took Hugh outside, and allowed my five year old, to pee up against the wall.

It was total coincidence he was peeing on the walls of the BBC.   But the image pleased me.  :-)

We then climbed into the taxi and took the long road home.

I didn't want to write this blog.  Not really a choice, .... it is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done before...  I may expand on it after I post.  

*inserts head*