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*


Anonymous said...

Hiya Morgan,
Listening to the program now. I can imagine how frustrating it was. BBC need to understand the importance of the messages that they give.
Looking forward to working out a strategy to remediate this.

Jehefinner said...

Excellent Morgan, brilliant. I did listen, some of your comments did make the air, but it was obvious to me that you weren't finishing your sentences, so to speak. But what you did manage to say, was worth it, in a wider perspective at least.

Fiona Dilston said...

Take your head off the block and keep being who you are. Media schmedia, they wont forget you for sure and you did right Morgan.

(delete this if you don't want it btw )

septembergrrrl said...

It was very obvious you were being heavily censored. The presenter came off as ignorant and biased. I was listening as it was on and felt outraged at how you seemed to be painted into a corner, now knowing your side I'm beyond fuming.

Gill J, Edinburgh said...

I'm appalled at the way you were treated! The BBC, far from attempting to be objective and independent, clearly had an agenda and a set message they wanted to get across to the public in this "debate". You were inconvenient with your facts and knowledge, so they censored you.

Utterly reprehensible behaviour. However, I applaud you for trying, and for not kicking the hell out of the electronics before you left.

Unless you did. In which case, I also applaud you. xx

arwen_tiw said...

Aaaarrrrggh! I would like to go hit them upside the head on your behalf, but (although satisfying) it would be self-defeating.

On behalf of all the mamas and babies whose stories are untold and considered a mere triviality or an anti-feminist agenda (!), I would like to do something stronger than hit them upside the head...

Danielle Arnold-McKenny said...

you were awesome- I would love to hear all of it- is there any chance that you will be able to listen to the whole thing and be able to figure out which of your words they actually allowed to be aired?
...and I love that Hugh peed on the BBC, muhahahahahahhahaha!

Sundancer said...

Seriously frustrated on your behalf. Morgan you came across fantastic, given the circumstances and you managed to make it all the more obvious that the show was being heavily censored by a man with an agenda.

I applaud you for not shouting down the phone at him, and I laughed when he began to suggest you did! This made him look more of a fool as your voice was soft but well spoken almost the whole time.

It is a shame that they can be so biased and closed :(

Sheena said...

Hello Morgan, I'm very sorry how you were treated, what a shame, just for disagreeing with their "facts". But way to go for sharing truth, it seems in this world the truth just is too painful for some, so they attempt to shut it down. Keep fighting for babies and mothers in this world.

Sheena, RN and LLL Leader
in Iowa

Aly said...

OMG! What a horrific way to be treated.I'm going for a listen myself.The BBC should be ashamed not you!!

Norma Ritter said...

This was an absolute travesty of the concept of free speech - and on a programme call "Have your say!" What irony!
Loved the story of Hugh peeing against the BBC studio wall and the pic of the Mannequin Pis.
I am sure that we have not heard the last of this.

Clare Hesketh said...

Really sorry to hear this Morgan, I think you are a fantastic spokeswoman for mums and babies, i was fascinated by the talk you did at the abm conference. I feel like I have been punched in the stomach when I am in situations where I am shot down at every turn, my situations only ever include 'friends' or people i dont know who ask me about breastfeeding, just spurring for an argument or heated debate. I get upset and avoid such confrontations, now shutting down the conversation before it begins. I wish I was as strong as you!

Melissa Cline said...

The presenter did come across as biased--everything YOU said he felt obligated to challenge, while statements to the effect that breastfeeding past six months is ridiculous and has no nutritional value he followed up with "we don't have facts about breastfeeding." Your frustration showed but I think you handled yourself well under the circumstances.

One thing I am pleased about is that while they pushed and pushed and pushed the message that your partner will no longer find you desirable if you breastfeed, they couldn't get a single commenter to support that.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it because of the risk of HIV being transferred to babies that they try to promote formula milk to mothers in africa. Education about transfer of HIV in africa is quite poor in many areas and even those who are aware, many find the formula expensive and difficult to prioritise. Those who can afford it (who have HIV) would do well to use it. Perhaps the BBC felt that you claiming "formula milk is killing babies" would surely result in more babies contracting HIV from their mothers. When you mum has HIV no solution is perfect but not amount of anibodies from the milk is going to stop you contracting the virus. It is a shame they scensored you in that way, especially without making you aware and I did not have time to read ever word of the blog (sorry) but I wondered if this was why they took that action? Just a thought

Morgan said...

It's the opposite. Formula feeding is so dangerous to the health of babies, the WHO advice is for mothers with HIV to breastfeed.

Less babies die of HIV, than do of bottle feeding.

Profit drives formula pressure. Profit and the need to keep mothers in the industrial economy.

Lisa RM said...

I heard (what was left) of that show! Ros was definitely being a grade-A idiot. You were demonstrably frustrated, but with good reason.

Anonymous said...

Hi Morgan,
I stumbled over your blog and have been listening to the programme (while feeding my toddler ;))and I'm just speechless at how this ignorant host treated you. How can you leave out the FACTS in a debate on infant feeding?! But you did so well considering the circumstances!

Katie said...

Man he is a rude host! I just listened to the whole program. Us nursing moms are supportive of each other! I am proudly nursing a 16 month old little boy. I wish in the U.S. they would have bans on formula advertisements like they do in other countries. Sometimes I wish I could visit other countries just to nurse my little guy and meet other nursing moms.

Ahmie said...

Anonymous, there is new research coming out that shows that especially if the mother is being treated with antivirals, breastfeeding decreases transmission of HIV. Believe I saw it on the WHO/Unicef page the other day (just finished up a research proposal for breastfeeding research here in the USA, it wasn't relevant but I allowed myself to be distracted briefly to read the abstract).

Morgan, all I can say in regards to how you were treated... I wish your son had to make a BM instead of JUST peeing on the BBC! They shat on you, wish he'd shat right back on them!

Alison Sauer said...

I've listened to it a couple of times now and I think my conclusion is that a debate such as this just for a Western audience needs different handling to a worldwide broadcast.

Formula feeding can be very dangerous depending on the circumstances. Even in Britain women do not make up formula safely - and we are negligent in not supporting women who formula feed here to do it as safely as possible. Formula feeding in the slums of Africa can be downright lethal.

Many women in Britain and other Western countries who turn to formula do so because they did not get the support they needed. When you have a baby that is not latching my goodness do you need professional help - and most mothers do not get that.

I think the programme researchers need to get the research right on such an important subject and they need to set the agenda clearer and better. It is seems that because of the lack of knowledge and understanding of the interviewer he allowed the discussion to be watered down to the level of a coffee morning and that calling in an expert such as Morgan (have they actually read or blog or do they have you down as A N Other blogger????) for such a discussion was inappropriate.

In conclusion I think the whole episode reflects the lack of understanding of the importance of breastfeeding globally.

Morgan, you did a good job in difficult circumstances and I think you came across quite well. Those of us who actually know the facts understand how difficult a position you were in and are sad that, once again, the facts are too hard to hear or broadcast.

YvetteDownunder said...

I am really, really disappointed in this, as I thought the BBC World Service would have a global perspective on this crucial health issue. I regularly listen all the way from Australia and know that others around the world do likewise.

Morgan, you did nothing but state the facts - anyone who believes you can have this discussion without considering the risks of NOT breastfeeding.

Leah said...

Morgan, thank you so much for being the voice of reason and for standing up for the facts. I agree with the other comments. You actually came across quite well. In fact, the censorship may have inadvertently worked in your favor because when Ros cut you off, he sounded belligerent and reactionary. Especially his little dig at the end of the program.

Valerie W. McClain said...

Morgan, you were articulate, knowledgeable, humorous, compassionate, and passionate in advocating for breastfeeding on the BBC show!!!
Obviously, the show was not about the facts. Breastfeeding as a health issue is not very well understood. The risks of infant formula are very rarely discussed in any public forum. Mothers need to know those risks. Infant morbidity and mortality are increased by the use of infant formula in developing nations such as African as well as in developed nations.
We are living in difficult times where the media plays its games. I enjoyed hearing your wonderful voice. Your passion for advocating for breastfeeding speaks to us and empowers us. Thank you for doing a most difficult job!!! best wishes...

Leanne Roden said...

Am absolutely appalled. By this, the way they treated Lisa Cole just a few days prior to this and the hideous bias of both presenters.

I did try to contact you about That Article via the nursing matters email a few weeks ago, it was myself who brought this to the Lactivist and LLL from myself and the ladies on the forum I run... I also called the show and because I wasn't prepared to enter into a formula versus breastmilk debate I wasn't going to be allowed to talk.

I'm just so frustrated that clever, articulate and strong women are being portrayed in such a negative manner. Shame on you BBC world service, I don't know how that man has slept since...

But, well done you. For fighting back and speaking the truth. Little by little, we'll make an impact.

Leanne Roden said...

This might cheer you up a tad. A small reply I wrote to Ms. Blundell's "article":

"I breastfed. So what?"

Erin said...

hi morgan!

i saw the article on the internet last week, and then logged on again today to find this explosion. now ive been caught up i want to say that as i listened to the way you were ousted, i had this huge (and immature, i must say!) desire to kick that man in the pants for the leash he had on you!

well done for getting out there morgan! the world needs to know the facts!!!

Loopyloo said...

I cannot believe how unfairly you were treated. He said you were giving irrelevant speeches to his questions, however, I found everything you said very relevant and important. It did come across as a discussion against breastfeeding, in my eyes it should have been the opposite. I don't understand the women who say they felt pressured by their midwives to breastfeed, I did not feel any pressure with my 3 children. If I had been pushed a little harder to breastfeed, then maybe I would have been able to breastfeed longer than the 7 weeks I managed with my first, 5 weeks with my second, and 3 days with my third!
I was also getting so annoyed with the word creepy being used over and over. I would love to see more women breastfeeding in public and feeling completely at ease with this. I remember feeding my first child under a coat in a restaurant, I couldn't see what I was doing, and I'm pretty sure my child did not enjoy it either. If people have a problem with seeing women breastfeed, then they shouldn't look!!!!
Keep doing what you do Morgan, and well done for keeping your cool!

Doulamaddie said...

Hi Morgan, I listened live and was hopping mad at the way you were treated and can empathise from personal experience that saying anything that makes the press uncomfortable will just get censored or talked over. Until all kids have to learn about this stuff in school, nothing will change - we'll be forced to pussy-foot aound the whole 'guilt-trip' thing and react to misinformation and ignorance of the facts rather than being pro-active in just geting on and supporting women to BF.

Keep up the good fight and don't feel disheartened - we are all standing by your side.


Anonymous said...

Hi morgan,
thanks for trying to get heard, it sounds like it was totally beyond your control but you did an awesome job of getting your point across - grace under extreme pressure. and good job Hugh for letting your mum do it to!
The Beeb will have to lift their game.
Ceba in Adelaide

Anonymous said...

I'm a Senior Producer in BBC Radio, although I don't work for the World Service.

I think some of your treatment was appalling, for one I'd never book a live interview with someone who could only do it with their child in the room with them, and there should have been someone to help you get into the studio and with your bags (a 'meet and greet'). Having said that, letting your son pee up against the wall outside in an act of spite is out of order.

I can tell you 100% that the BBC does not have an agenda on breastfeeding. I haven't listened to the piece before posting this comment but it sounds like the discussion wasn't handled as well as it could have been.

If you truly feel the BBC was biased in this instance you need to complain via Ofcom who will listen to the item and adjudicate. If they find in your favour the programme in question will need to apologise.

Anonymous said...

Hello Morgan, Chloe here at the BBC World Service - I am sorry you feel that you were treated badly on our programme World Have Your Say. However I am pleased you have posted a blog so that we can have a right of reply. We asked you to come onto our programme to talk about our question "Is breastfeeding creepy?" That was the view of Katheryn Blundell the Deputy Editor of Mother and Baby Magazine. She wrote an article about this and as you can imagine there was a huge amount of conversation about this and we tapped into that. The role of our programme is to reflect conversations that are already taking place. We weren't doing a programme about the merits of breastfeeding, or indeed formula feeding.

I am pleased you write a disclaimer at the top of your blog, because your recollection of our conversation over talk back is different from mine. As a breastfeeding mother of a 15 month old daughter your comments about me are both untrue and hurtful. I am sorry you felt you had a bad experience on the programme but when our producer called you she did make it clear that it was a conversation where we ask all contributors to respect each others views.

I won't go through each accusation you make about me in turn, but I simply asked you to engage in a conversation and reply to the questions we ask. You also said we shouldn't have women on from Africa to talk about this. We are a global news programme where we value the views of people all around the globe. You also tried to speak on behalf of African women and I pointed out that we invited an African woman onto the programme so she could speak for herself. Just like you wouldn't want someone to assume they speak for you. I didn't, and never would, use the word biased

We didn't throw you off the programme. You and I had a chat about whether you felt you were able to have a conversation with other people about the issue, you started yelling at me and I politely thanked you and said we wouldn't be needing you for the next part of the show. I am sure you will agree no one should have to be abused in their job.

If you went to a dinner party you wouldn't sit and make speeches at the other guests but instead engage in a dialogue - that is all we ask. If you visit our blog - you can see very clearly the rules of taking part - put in place to protect all of our contributors and be fair to all. I am sorry you feel on this occasion that didn't happen.

Morgan said...

Hi anonymous. I'd just like to make it clear that I did not let my son pee on the building out of spite.

I had a paid for taxi, sitting in the road, a main road, not parked, but half in the traffic, that had already been there for over 5 mins. I had a 5 year old boy, who had been rushed out of a swimming lesson, into a taxi, driven an hour and ten minutes to Edinburgh, placed in a sound booth for two hours... and who wanted to have a pee.

We had over an hour long journey ahead of us, and as I rushed out the building to get into waiting taxi, he grabbed his penis and said he needed to pee. The reception man stated it was two floors up.

Most mothers would have done the same. The exit from the building was in a tiny alleyway,, which then opened up into a main seating area. I walked him a couple of feet AWAY from the taxi, to the alleyway entrance, to try and be quick and unobtrusive.

That was the scenario. Interpret it how you like, but I would have done the same in any situation where I had a frantic five year old, a waiting taxi blocking on a main road in Holyrood on a Friday night, and the only toilet being two flights up in a building I'd never been in. I did what was best for my child. The irony of the situation, was not making.

In fact, the irony that originally struck me, was that given it was Edinburgh city centre on a hot June Friday evening, a little boy's tiny pee would be nothing compared to what would be flooding down that alleyway come closing time.

I was, actually, quite embarrassed for my little boy, who knows it's not hygienic to urinate in public spaces, and was himself unsettled.

Ros Atkins said...

Hi Morgan. And hi to the rest of you who have commented. I was presenting the show that Morgan took part in yesterday.

I'm sorry you ended up so frustrated and angry. You say that were taken off the show because of your views on formula milk. This just isn't true. We knew your views when we invited you onto the programme so if we had an agenda against your opinions it'd have been simpler not to ask you on.

The issue that I had was that whatever question I asked of you, the majority of the answer tended to be about formula milk.

(The first question I asked concerned why you still breast-ffed your five year-old son, and your answer was very interesting, but after that formula kept coming up.)

This was an issue for two reasons.

Firstly we were talking about women's feeling about breast-feeding. Clearly formula comes into that discussion but this wasn't a discussion about the merits of formula. I for the impression you'd have liked it to be.

And second, this was a conversation and whatever subject other guests or emailers brought up, when I put a point to you, you avoided the question, and started talking about formula again.

This happened when I asked you about the expereince of breast-feeding in public. Well into a very long answer which was mostly about formula, I eventually interupted you and explained we needed to keep it a conversation and relevant to where the conversation was at the time.

It's also a problem when you start asserting that the UK system promotes formula, when any mother knows that from the moment you become pregnant doctors and nurses start telling you of the benefits of breast-feeding for as long as possible. Adverts are different but the NHS does a great deal to promote breast-feedings. But you got angry when I challenged you on this.

I appreciate you have strongly held views, but that doesn't mean you have the right to speak indefinitely until you decide to finish. Nor does it mean you have the right to not answer a question that you're asked. If every guest did that then the whole discussion would fall down.

despite all this, many thanks for making the effort to come onto the show. I know you had a travel a fair way.
best wishes,
ros atkins

David said...

Dear Chloe,

I was in the room and overheard your researcher talking to Morgan, and in fact talked to the researcher myself. What your researcher said was not what you claim.

The original article did a whole lot more than claim breastfeeding was creepy. Strangely your interviewer, for that was the role he played, seemed quite ignorant of the article, had he actually read it?

In replying in a discussion about the article you seemed to think it was irrelevant that the myths about formula feeding were not challenged. Most of us do not agree.

The hypocrisy about inviting people from around the world, a disproportionate number of whom were actually American, to discuss comments in a British magazine, only really UK culturally relevant, but denying a British person the right to discuss matters elsewhere is mind blowing.

Your attempt at damage control by painting yourself as the perfectly calm and rational person against the unreasonable Morgan I'm afraid is not believable. Morgan has an International reputation, and her probity is legendary, being painfully honest at times. Are your conversations off air with participants taped? But actually most people are becoming upset after listening, sometimes several times, to the programme itself.

I commend the fact that you personally are breastfeeding.

David L Brown - Morgan's husband.

Leanne Roden said...

Interesting replies from Ros and Chloe. However, having listened at the time and gone over it since I can honestly say... I think Morgan kept to the topics at hand but also wanted to reply to points made earlier that she had been unable to respond to.

We're fighting the unwinnable fight. Sitting where we sit, knowing what we know... formula ruins lives and it's a dagger every time somebody talks about how glorious it is, how it's an acceptable life-style choice and how it's made their lives so much easier. What of the 1.5 million babies who die every single year as a result of not being breastfed. This happens all over the world. What about the increased risk of SIDS? What about the babies who aren't afforded the luxury of choice?

The point seems to have been missed by the BBC. An anti-breastfeeding article (you're all intelligent people, the vitriol was astounding) appeared in the UK's best selling baby magazine and happened to have been written by one of the most senior members of staff. this isn't a formula or breastfeeding debate... it's a moral issue. If we accept that people have the capacity to be influenced, and advertising is a multi billion pound industry - so it's a logical assertion, then we can also accept that Ms. Blundell, who very unprofessionally used her position as a platform, has the capacity to influence people. And, if only one mother read that article and though "Hmm, I agree..." and formula fed her baby then that is a huge problem and an irreperable mistake. There are lives to consider.

All women have the right to choice, Kathryn Blundell can also think what she likes but where does the right to freedom of speech end when it's compromises te wellbeing of society's most vulnerable?

There can be no doubt, the BBC failed to discuss this in a neutral light. They failed to read between the lines and discuss the real issue. There will, absolutely, be complaints heading to ofcom.

I can only hope that it becomes clear, at some point, how dangerous it can be to enter into this debate and not stress just how much of a risk formula can be, to any baby, anywhere.

Maire said...

I think Ross and Claire forget that people actually listened to the program. Ross came across as if he felt he was some sort of omnipotent arbiter on the facts about breast feeding. He just sounded like an arrogant fool who hadn't noticed that men don't breast feed. As to advice about complaining to the BBC ant it not being biased you forget we the viewing public actually see the programmea amd some of us cam compare what is broadcast to what we ax
actually know to be true an some of us have actually used the complaints process and are still waiting for a rey weeks later.

Maire said...

I would also like to ask Ross what the point of the discussion would have been if there wAs no alternative such as formula. If the young woman in the original article had no alternative but to feed her baby naturally she might have elicited sympathy or even advice about a good psychiatrist but there would not have been such an outcry. The availability and promotion of formula is fundamental to this discussion and he is being either disingenuous or just hasn't bothered to give it any serious thought. A programme considering the relevence of such unhealthy attitudes to breastfeeding has a moral duty to consider the consequence of these attitudes spreading in the areas being broadcast to. The saying the road to he'll is paved with good intentions springs to mind.

David said...

Mr Atkins

The programme was not about breastfeeding. The World Service website prior to the programme was very clear that the programme was about a particular anti-breastfeeding article. The introduction included a somewhat incoherent piece with the author of that article.

You chose to ignore this, and resisted every attempt to draw the programme back to the article by Morgan.

If you actually listen, Morgan answered your question about her breastfeeding in full, without reference to formula once. She also challenged myths about breastfeeding in the article such as your breasts getting droopy, and not being able to drink whilst breastfeeding. Claiming she only wanted to talk about formula is a travesty unsupported by the actual programme. She did want to challenge false statements being made by other women such as your Jamaican (?) interviewee.

As for the NHS. Morgan is a highly respected, Internationally known breastfeeding advocate. She is much more in a position to know just what the reality of NHS support for breastfeeding is. The standard is the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative accreditation. This is the level recommended by NICE. Only 53 UK hospitals have full accreditation. None in London at all.

One hospital in the South East is so poor that less than 50% of mothers are still breastfeeding by the time they leave the hospital. Breastfeeding rates by hospital are actually published.

Some hospitals, with or without accreditation are very good. Many are appalling. You have anecdotal evidence, we have facts. If the NHS is pushing breastfeeding so much, would you like to explain why the UK has one of the worst breastfeeding rates in the world?

Mr Atkins, you do not have either the knowledge or the experience to make judgements about breastfeeding. Morgan however does.

David L Brown - Morgan's husband

David said...

May I make it quite clear that comments here are my own, not Morgan's. Morgan may or may not agree with them.

Leanne Roden said...

Very much agree with David on this, it did seems to come across as a discussion with Ros, global breastfeeding expert. Where's the neutrality? Surely the idea is to prompt discussions and ask the other men/women what they thought? Ros' own input was unprofessional, ignorant and dangerous.

sam said...

Appalled and seething at the behaviour of the BBC on this one. One question keeps coming to mind.... which formula company and HOW MUCH?! Disgusting, disgusting, disgusting!!

@Chloe: The BBC needs to act responsibly with a global view with regards to infant feeding (the alternative to breastfeeding is harmful and results in death in other parts of the world, and this was simply not taken into consideration in the discussion on air with those women). This is not the same as saying that African women should not be on the programme, nor is it speaking FOR African women.

@Ros: When one woman speaks up and says that human milk has no value after 1 year, why was that misinformation not challenged? The fact that it went unchallenged means there are likely now many mothers who have taken that little nugget as fact. What do you think the consequences of that are, and don't you think that is just a little bit unethical?

I would be wholly unsurprised if it was true that Miranda's responses revolved around the dangers of formula... If I were in her position I would have been horrified that the BBC seemed to be ENDORSING formula on a global scale and that would have coloured my replies.

sam said...

Edit - should have read Morgan, not Miranda.

Claire said...

Ros, you highly miss the point about formula promotion.

As far as the NHS is concerned their "support" is often lip service. They say breast is best (which, sorry it's not, it's normal. There's no advantage to having blood running through your veins because it suggests something lesser is normal and in the same way breastmilk is normal) but they don't follow through with it. When you have problems they spout common myths and ask what formula brand you wish to use. The most common reason for not breastfeeding is lactation support failure. Our medical staff don't have the time and often expertise to sit with mums as long as it takes to help her breastfeed.

But by the time a woman is in hospital it's too late anyway.

We start as young children being given bottles with our dollies (my daughter has made off with my training aid so she can breastfeed her dolls with it and you should hear her lecturing people - off her own bat - on why babies want their milk) then we have children's programmes like Pingu where the baby is bottle fed or Something Special's Justin "Yes! Babies NEED bottles!"

Then we put our daughter's in T-shirts with slogans on that say things like "so many boys so little time" these are sold at primary age size!

We buy little girls padded bras before they hit puberty.

They watch soaps and see how disgusting breastfeeding is and how every mother gives their baby a bottle.

Then there's adverts for everything that are sold with a pair of boobs.

Formula ads saying how wonderful breastfeeding is and telling you you've done a good job so far now you need us because we have all these wonderful ingredients that replace breastmilk.

Babies 'R' Us catalogue tells you all the paraphernalia you need to breastfeed that makes it look as complicated as bottle-feeding - what do I need a steriliser and bottles for???

Everything is about the sexualisation of breasts and normalisation of formula. These are messages that are ingrained into us from the moment we're born. Even with the best hospital giving the best support it's oftn too late for these women, they've been indoctrinated by formula.

Even if they come out of it breastfeeding they still have their HV putting pressure on because their baby isn't following the right line and they need extra formula. You have a sick baby and what are you asked "How much has your baby had today?" Then there's family and friends telling you it didn't harm them/ their kids, your partner is missing out (well tell him to change some nappies, give a bath and have play time! It's more fun than feeding a baby anyway!) you need a drink, you need to come clubbing...

You are living in a cuckoo land as you quite nicely demonstrated on Wednesday! Have you contacted Guinness yet? I don't think there's an entry yet for men having babies!

Doulamaddie said...

Neither Ros or Chloe have addressed Morgan's complaint about talking into 'dead air' or seem to understand that you just cannot discuss the article in question in a vacuum - attitudes about breastfeeding must be understood in their sociological, cultural and economic context, which Morgan was trying to explain.

It's about time that we stopped thinking their is an argument to be had here - their just IS not debate - fact - unsafe formula feeding is risky in any country. Fact - attitudes to breastfeeding can be uncomfortable and challenging so some but they need to understand - we in the West have the PRIVILEGE of breastfeeding, not a RIGHT. It's sadly not an equal choice, nor a feminist 'pro-choice' issue.

Alison Sauer said...

Dear Ros and Chloe

I have done media work in the past and been put in similar positions - although not quite the same or to the same degree - by the BBC.

It is a problem when one is unfamiliar with the programme and it's format and one believes that one is asked onto a programme to talk about facts. When both myths and facts are classed or dismissed on a programme as "opinion" the tempers of some of those in possession of the facts will rise (as one can see in the responses here).

One of the main issues is that breastfeeding is still seen, erroneously, as a lifestyle choice by many people rather than an important health decision. And many (perhaps most?) women who make a truly informed decision about breastfeeding and (in their words not mine) "fail" to breastfeed do so because they are not supported well enough. They are failed by a system that encourages breastfeeding but then in practical terms helps a bit but not enough. They are also bombarded with images of bottlefeeding being normal (adverts, soaps, nappy packets, birth congratulation cards more people bottle feeding than breast feeding past a few weeks)

Women who bottlefeed are in my opinion not instructed well enough either to safely bottlefeed. When I was a breastfeeding supporter I met many women left at sea at the end of breastfeeding because of lack of real factual and practical support for them. I can count the the fingers of one hand the number of women who I talked to who knew that powdered formula is NOT sterile for example. And guess what - as a responsible human I ended up being the one explaining it to them so that their babies would be fed more safely and I experienced being kicked out of a Children's Centre for doing that!

This all applies to the "western" world.

However your programme goes out around the world where bottle feeding can be down right lethal including to areas where "milk nurses" still operate (women who encourage bottlefeeding and are sponsored by milk companies).

I think what I am trying to say is that this format of programme in the relatively safe world of the UK etc is OK to some degree. Yes, in my opinion, I would like to see more myth busting (and my goodness are there myths out there like bonding with fathers = bottlefeeding or you can't drink and breastfeed) but the world I live in (Britain) is a relatively safe one and although children would be healthier if they were all breastfed they probably won't die if they are bottlefed.

However this programme goes out to places where bottle feeding is often lethal. Where families starve themselves to pay for formula because they have been told it is "better" or more "modern" than breastmilk. This world is a million miles away from the world of the programme and it's contributors. Partly because of this I think the format was inappropriate for such an enormously important subject which has different nuances of complication in each country.

Those in possession of the facts who work in health and support of women are trying to undo both the damage of decades of inappropriate and inaccurate formula peddling and the over-sexualisation of breasts - so maybe a documentary or an interview of an expert might have been a better format.

To tackle such a large and complicated subject globally with an attempt at light-touch is impossible I think. And to invite to such a format someone such as Morgan who stands up for truth, clarity and facts with a vengeance on this issue (which if you read her blog you will know) lead to the inevitable consequences of yesterday.

I am truly sorry for all concerned as this has been a painful experience all round but I do think it could have been handled and researched better.

Morgan said...

Oh, and anonymous Producer, on the small boy peeing...

Thinking through how I tried to shield my son from view, as he piddled on a stone wall in an alleyway, I realise that I did not have my bags with me. I had actually delivered the Child Safety seat and my bags, into the taxi, before installing the child safety seat.

Then I ran back for my five year old, alone in a studio booth, but safe as he was in sight on the reception man. But I don't like walking through security doors, and leaving my child on the other side, I can tell you!

So I was being asked to take him up two flights by lift, to a toilet I'd never seen, without my money, my phone, any belongings at all. All of which were in the taxi, with its engine running, half pulled over from the main Holyrood Road, in Friday evening traffic.

Would you, anonymous BBC producer, have not done as I did, and escorted your child to a narrow alleyway, and encouraged him to pee as quickly, and as unobtrusively, as possible, into the gutter by the wall? Or you you have taken the lift to whereabouts unknown, with him clutching his groin?

Inquiring minds wish to know.... what would you have done?

Liane said...

Sounds a bit to me that BBC didn't do their preparation very well. Being asked to speak so last-minute, I don't think anyone thoroughly communicated the purpose of the program to Morgan. She was thinking globally and the particular topic that day was some women feeling that bf was creepy. If I were Morgan, I'd be thinking "world," "Africa," "babies dying," how does that compare to "feeling creeped out by breastfeeding?"
I'm sure any sane mom, when faced with certain conditions, would manage to overcome her own feelings when she realized just how important it was to her baby's survival to bf when faced with those conditions. For instance, I doubt a woman shipwrecked on a desert island would worry about being "creeped out" by nursing her baby. I fear the situation is less desirable than that in some parts of the world.
So, maybe a little more communication next time and a little more courtesy all around are in order. Morgan is well-versed in this area and can prove to be a valuable resource for the media. What is radical to one person is perfectly normal to another. For instance, long ago I was introduced to the "radical" idea that one could raise a baby and never give it a bottle, much less formula. What? Radical idea to me at the time, actually perfectly normal for human beings and mammals alike.

Louise900 said...

The bias was sickening. It felt like the presenter had his own axe to grind the whole way through.
How can you have a discussion about breastfeeding without talking about formula? To expect one was silly. The reason why Breastfeeding rates are so low is because of the promotion of formula. I would suggest the Producer Chloe and the Presenter Ros do their research in future - maybe a look at a book like 'The Politics of Breastfeeding' would help them understand the issues we face!

Anonymous said...


'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'


'How on earth could you ask a mother in Kenya, that question'

It seems the only 'Western centric arrogance' being dispalyed was your own. Afterall, you're the one suggesting that a 'mother from Kenya' is incapable of making an informed answer.

As we all know, they're too stupid and need saving by the people pontificating in London studios.

Morgan said...

On the contrary, I stated quite clearly that Bilac answered with grace.

The issue was the question, not the person being asked it.

Maire said...

I wonder if anonymous above has actually hear the programme?

Anonymous said...

Please explain why a 'woman from Kenya' is incapable of a making a decision.

Julie said...

The frustration felt by you Morgan was obvious. The frustration from the presenter who couldnt get you to say what he wanted you to say was also evident.

The poor baby in the "debate" was the loser, there was no-one left to advocate for his rights, once you had been "eliminated" for not following the obvious bias by the presenter.

Keep doing what you do well, Morgan, I admire you, I am proud of you, Well done

Claire said...

Anonymous, do you know anything about the situation in Africa? Morgan did try to explain on the show that it's not a simple question of a choice there.

Mothers are being pressured by the medical profession into formula feeding. They're given enough free formula to prevent their supply from being established.

It then costs most of a weeks wage to buy the week's formula. So often families are watering down the formula so it lasts longer. They don't have the electricity to sterilise their bottles nor the clean water to make the formula up with. The tins are printed in English so they don't have proper instructions to make formula.

Millions of babies are dying each year because of it.

When Morgan said it's not a question you can ask a mother in Africa she was referring to that fact. It's not a choice they can make. Ros was asking from his nice comfortable London home with all mod cons and luxury. It doesn't occur to him that some people live in a place where they can't just casually choose how to feed their baby like they'd choose whether to buy a Silver Cross or P&T!

Morgan said...

I don't know why a woman from Kenya is incapable of making a decision, anonymous. Since you are the one to state that, surely you should answer?

Lisa said...

Morgan, I'm only halfway through the program, but I just wanted to commend your grace and professionalism on air – the breastfeeding community couldn't ask for a more informed or better-spoken representative! WELL DONE! Lisa in NJ, USA.

Anonymous said...


'I don't know why a woman from Kenya is incapable of making a decision, anonymous. Since you are the one to state that, surely you should answer?'

You obviously missed the quotation marks. It was you that stated: ''How on earth could you ask a mother in Kenya that question'

Why couldn't you ask a women from Kenya that?

Claire said...

Anonymous, she wasn't saying a woman in Kenya was incapable of answering the question. I'm not going to rewrite my last post, I explained there what she was saying. Morgan also explained that in her blog.

Morgan said...

You couldn't frame a question like that, about perceived prejudice on formula feeding, in the context of the programme, within the global context of the discussion, without showing/displaying breathtaking arrogance, and/or ignorance, of the reality of women's lives in much of Kenya.

To make the conversation relevant to the perspective of a breastfeeding supporter in Nairobi, you would need to frame the request on sharing formula feeding information, and supporting the mother to formula feed, in the context of the extreme dangers to the health of the mother and child, by formula feeding in resource poor areas of Kenya.

You would need to frame the question, in order to allow the woman in Kenya, to speak from her own experience, and not use it as a chipped in comment, to the debate in the world where formula feeding is relatively safe.

Further, if you were doing your job, and actually being a neutral journalist, you would pick up on the answer from the woman from Kenya, stating that she was sure that the formula feeding of her family member, was contributing to the child in question being repeatedly hospitalised.

As I said, the issue is the question, and the framing of the question. If you are a reputed journalist, you'd think about the position of Kenyan mothers, in relation to deaths and illness of Kenyan babies, from unsafe formula feeding, when you positioned your question.

Asking a breastfeeding supporter in London, how she would answer a mother wanting to formula feed in a resource poor area of London, is not quite the same question in Nairobi.

Not At All.

Jacqueline said...

I think the problem is with the question being asked of someone aware of the circumstances in the area referred to while the listener may be unaware. This results in it sounding as though the interviewee in question would recommend breastfeeding to EVERYONE and that bottle-feeding is simply unacceptable and women who do so should be ostracized.
The basic tone of the program was to make it sound as though "breast feeders" bash those who choose to formula feed/"fail" to breast feed when the truth is far from it.

Morgan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Morgan said...

Oh dearest heaven. Anonymous has replied asking me to answer the point, I'm apparently ignoring, which is why Woman From Kenya isn't entitled to make a response?

Do you think if we sent anonymous a sound file of Woman From Kenya's response, anonymous would get it?


arwen_tiw said...

I doubt it. Some folks have decided that you are being insulting by speaking about the situation of other women - in spite of the support these women give your work... and the obvious conclusions about formula feeding in the third world that the tiniest bit of research would lead to...

Kat said...


The point everyone is trying to make is that asking an African mother living in these circumstances how she would support another mother to formula feed is like asking a British mother how she would support a mother to help her baby smoke tobacco.

In Africa, in these living conditions, when you are making watered down formula with dirty equipment and diseased water it is dangerous and nothing like the choice to formula feed here. Morgan was not saying at all that an African mother cannot respond, she was saying it was rude and ignorant to ask her the question.

kat said...

Anyway, I agree with many of the previous comments. Particularly that the whole thing was in an incorrect forum, was ill-researched - I don't think you should open a debate about infant feeding without understanding the major problem with unsafe preparation and milk company propaganda in third world countries and the presenter had a clear agenda. I think unsurprisingly more people will be biased towards the formula side (although I hate that there are sides) given that breastfeeding rates are so low. There is so much bottle feeding propaganda and so much scare mongering about breastfeeding and mis-information. It doesn't help that most people who are trying to educate and support do not have the right level of training or experience and are over-worked. Either way, I think the BBC have clearly mismanaged the whole issue and owe you an apology Morgan. Shocking to me that anyone would hold an infant feeding debate live on world service and not understand simple and obvious infant feeding issues from around the world. Lazy journalism in my opinion.

Souad said...

I agree with many of the above comments, my views were put in better words than I would be able to. Morgan, I feel sorry for your frustrating and unfortunate experience.

I have just finished listening to the programme. I indeed feel the programme was poorly researched, particularly for the audience it was targeting, the whole wide world.

I suggest to the programme makers to read "The Politics of Breastfeeding" and/or "Milk, Money and Madness". Reading these two resources would make clear the central role of formula marketing in any debate on breastfeeding.

Ahmie said...

The responses to the challenges here have been eloquent and I commend you ladies. I'm exactly 6wks postpartum today and typing around my sleeping nursing newborn so don't think I can be quite as patient.

Speaking of propoganda to bottle feed, on thing that annoys me greatly as a known breastfeeding advocate locally is that each time my children are born lovely people from my church and friend group send "congradulations on the new baby" cards and sometimes gift certificates, and 90% of these items have bottles prominently featured! These are primarily people who met me as a breastfeeding mother with my firstborn (who was a month old when we moved back to my hometown) and know that I breastfed him well past his first birthday IN PUBLIC (I stopped nursing in public around when he started to walk out of containment/physical comfort issues - he got too heavy for my arms. He continued to nurse at home and in areas with good seating options such as parts of my church until he was about 30 months old and I was in my 2nd trimester of my subsequent pregnancy). When I go looking for cards and gift cards for other people who have recently had a baby, it is challenging to find ones that don't have bottles and/or pacifiers on them (pacifiers/dummies not being recommended in the first month to avoid latch issues, for those who are unaware and reading along). The assumptions of how someone will parent their child - feeding, diapering, pacifying, using a stroller, using a crib, etc - are abundant on these items and SO biased toward the mainstream Western norms (which make them inappropriate to even give to a Hispanic-American mother, who is statistically more likely to breastfeed, cosleep, babywear, etc). Sometimes I think about trying to get a group together to create some Attachment Parenting alternatives with at least babywearing presented regularly if people don't have the guts to actually portray breastfeeding on materials sold to the general public.

The problems with formula being diluted too much for appropriate nutriition aren't exclusive to developing/resource poor nations. Poor families in "first world" nations do that too - it happens in America with families receiving WIC assistance, since the formula provided by WIC is intended to be a *suppliment* not the full amount needed for the infant for the month. Plenty of families stretch the formula by over-diluting it because they can't afford to purchase more formula for their baby before the WIC checks come again. A study was just released in June about the breastfeeding rates among WIC mothers and they're pretty dismal, even with the breastfeeding peer counceling support and talks starting while the moms are pregnant. Medical support at the time around birth as well as lack of familial, societal, and employer support can make it nearly impossible for these women to succeed at reaching their own and the expert recommended goals in many situations. But we just blame the women and try to get people to agree that breastfeeding can be "creepy" because that's what's important, right? *sigh*

Anonymous said...

I see you've deleted my comments. This is the very reason you were asked to leave the programme: you are illiberal and intolerant. In short, a bigot.

Morgan said...

Actually anonymous, I deleted my own spelling mistake.

arwen_tiw said...

I will refrain from bandying insults on your behalf since you are being so tollerant... But ARGH!

Thankyou, for being the one to speak up for the rest of us. Thankyou for lending us your compassion, eloquence, intelligence, passion, and thoughtfulness. Thankyou, for having the courage to stand up to bullying and ignorance. Thankyou, for being here, keeping your integrity, and caring about truth and justice. Morgan, you are a star. Hang in there!

Ahmie said...

the irony of anonymous trying to look all intelligent by using not-as-commonly-used-words to insert a foot firmly in his/her mouth... priceless.

If anyone were to do a quick ctrl-f to look for all instances of "has been removed" on this comments section, it's obvious the only comment that has been removed is Morgan's own.

Debate FAIL, anonymous. Carry on with your trolling if you'd like tho.

YvetteDownunder said...

Why do people not understand it is impossible to discuss breastfeeding without reference to formula feeding, when so much of society equate the two as equal? In fact, it would be irresponsible not to raise the risks of artificial feeding in a conversation which presumes that equality.

It may be unpalatable for some, but babies around the world do die because they are not breastfed. It is an obligation upon all humans to protect our infants from risk - and that includes doing all we can to ensure they are breastfed.

A mother in Kenya cannot be asked that question because it presumes a mere lifestyle choice - which in most parts of the world is a child safety issue.

Claire said...


" Morgan said...
This post has been removed by the author.
2 July 2010 10:57 "

Need I say more?

Apart from epic fail!

Morgan said...

Don't feed the troll ladies. Anonymous is clearly not that internet savvy, and that's okay, not everyone is. Anonymous doesn't appear to understand moderation, and that multiple insult posts, repeating both point that has been answered several times, and personal insults, such as talking about us all being in our white western ivory towers, aren't being posted. Even as the point anonymous has been making, has been transmitted into the discussion, by me.

Thank you for all being so polite and tolerant. :-)

Claire said...

Oooh Morgan, that one line seems to point directly at who "Anonymous" is. I think it's on POB there's someone using those words in having a rant against you.

Morgan said...

Well, stalkers stalk! :-)

Morgan said...

At least if they're online ranting about me, they're off the streets! :-)

EVE said...

Hiya Morgan,

Well done, am listening now.

I would say though, I am now exclusively breastfeeding my 3rd child (he is 12 weeks) - I don't feel I have felt any pressure to formula feed, more the opposite, although do find the follow on ads annoying, and agree they should be banned.

I breastfeed in public, never embarassed to get my breasts out.... and no one has ever asked me to stop.

I did stop both times before a year, my older son at 5 months starting biting when it wasn't coming out fast enough and he wasn't prepared to suck when the flow was slow. As I felt neither of us were enjoying it I switched to formula.

I stopped feeding my daughter aged 6 months when I went back to work, in hindsight, I should have continued morning and night because it was a happy relationship, I hope with my current baby I will keep on feeding when I go back to work.

My opinion is that the biggest threat to breastfeeding as that women want their babies to sleep all night and most routine type books eg Gina Ford etc are not very pro breastfeeding.

motherwriter said...

Wow – a lot happening since I’ve been otherwise engaged!

Morgan, you're not a dunce. I’M not a dunce, and I’ve also had the experience of sitting alone in a small studio or wandering around my flat, only to realize I was talking to thin air! They beguile us onto their programmes and then try to manipulate us, in order to push the message they want.

Seems to me, the anti-breastfeeding camp are running scared. Research findings and increasingly vocal breastfeeders are relentlessly stacking up. Trouble is, the media is largely peopled by women/partners of women who artificially fed their children (or breastfed only for short periods), and thus only rarely do we have positive breastfeeding coverage.

It’s impossible to talk about breastfeeding without speaking about IF. Every child born needs milk, human or otherwise. Claire, you illustrated so well the daily onslaughts we’re subjected to – so familiar, they almost go unnoticed, but deadly effective.

I haven’t yet listened but I’m sure you did a good job, Morgan, in horrendously difficult circumstances.

All applause to the intelligent and informed commentators here! Would just point out, though, that the dangers and risks of artificial feeding are not limited to unsafe water and over-dilution, nor just to children in the developing world. For those interested, I’ve posted Appendix 2 Infant Formula from my book Breastfeeding Older Children on BOC Facebook page:

I’ll also post a link to this on BOC Fb page.

Morgan, keep on fighting the good fight, you’re one of our warriors!


Jess Parsons said...

I was involved in a segment on extended breastfeeding (as the one feeding the 5yo and 2yo) in New Zealand.

It was VERY clear that none of the media who got involved wanted to hear about, tell, or believe the science and rationality behind breastfeeding and continuing breastfeeding.

The media do not want to learn, they want to sell advertising and shock viewers into returning and responding.

I believe the mainstream media will never be a positive force for BF (or any real social change) and I would never participate in one of their stories again. There is such a thing as bad publicity, and they have the mike button.

I feel your pain and frustration.

Minimalist Mum

Jemmo said...

Perhaps if those so opinionated about an African mother's 'right' to choose IF over BF were equally concerned about the availiability of clean water, the battle against chronic poverty, and the correct instructions for making up IF printed in the local language, we might be a small step closer to helping people there rather than patronising them.

Well done Morgan for remaining polite, professional and persistant in the face of adversity. This programme about a local (UK) issue involving one person's psychological problems should never have been placed in a global context, at least not without realising and researching the huge ramifications of doing so.