Shame

29 09 2008

Excerpt from a letter written yesterday to Oxfam, by an aid worker sent to Burma after the cyclone, to help local women relactate:
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“…..baby bottles are impossible to clean for women who are living in poverty. They are often distributed by well meaning humanitarian aid agencies who do not realise that doing so can lead mothers to doubt their ability to adequately nourish their babies by breastfeeding alone.
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For your information I have attached a photograph of a bottle given to me by a mother who was affected by Cyclone Nargis. She mistakenly believed that because she was not eating as much as she had before the cyclone, her 2 month old baby would need to be fed milk from a bottle.

She did not realise that her metabolism would prioritise producing milk for her baby so that even if she became quite malnourished her baby would still grow well on her milk. She did not realise that feeding her baby milk would deprive him of many of antibodies her body was making in response to the poor sanitary conditions in which they both lived and she did not realise that the milk she was feeding him was contaminated and could cause his kidneys to fail. She did not realise that the bottle (and the milk inside) had in all likelihood caused her baby’s bronchitis. She had been using it to feed her baby only 24-36 hours before this photo was taken. The white flecks on the inside of the bottle and on the outside of the teat are maggots.
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There is good evidence that inappropriate infant feeding is responsible for 13% of infant deaths the world over. That is more than are caused by poor sanitation, dirty water or mosquito borne illness. So when I see a bottle being used to promote the Millennium Development Goals, I feel a deep sense of irony and some sadness. Would you consider contacting OXFAM International and perhaps whitebandaction and asking them to reshoot MelB’s spot without the bottle – and perhaps to include some information in the follow-up campaign on the importance of breastfeeding to the achievement of MDGs 1, 4 and 5?”

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Oxfam – Not In My Name

29 09 2008
. Oxfam should die of shame.
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There is a global campaign, to help end world poverty, called In My Name. It’s a very laudable attempt to get ordinary people to put their name to a petition, asking for the various Governments around the world to ensure the Millennium Development Goals are implemented. Millennium Development Goal #1 is to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
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As part of their campaign, Oxfam have launched a pop video by will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas, involving an engaging song with lots of ordinary people, and various celebrities, encouraging every one to act, and add their name to the campaign. People going about their daily business, adding their name to the campaign, and building to a sense of individuals becoming a community, untied in making a difference to the hungry of the world. Even some lovely shots of children sitting waiting for food aid to be given to them.
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This all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it?
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Well it is, until you get 1 minute and 58 seconds into the video and find… Mel B putting her name on a baby bottle containing white liquid, and the camera doing an extreme close up of the baby bottle taking up the entire screen, with her holding it.

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A baby bottle.
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Just like the baby bottle in the mouth of the baby just about to die, in the picture above us. A baby bottle, just like the one here, picturing a starving and sick baby in it.
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A baby bottle. To show Mel B gives her signature in a campaign to end world hunger.
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A baby bottle.
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Like many things I cover in this blog – you couldn’t make it up. Oxfam, wants people to support ending world hunger… and so produces an image of a rich and powerful female pop star – a black female pop star to boot – and puts a baby bottle in front of her? Those self same bottles kill four thousand babies every day. Each and every day. By the time I’ve finished writing this blog, a couple of hundred babies would have died from being bottle fed. Most of them black. And here’s will.i.am and Mel B showing us how to support the cause of ending world hunger… by showing us a baby bottle.
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It gets worse, you know. Honest.
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Oxfam have a blog site, to publicise and promote their activities. On being passed on the info on the video containing this obscene image, I commented upon the horror of finding the video containing images of the very thing that kills so many babies every day.
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Oxfam responded. They didn’t publish the comment, which was polite, literate and cogent – but they did respond. And in their response, they stated the bottle was there to represent motherhood:
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Hi Morgan
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Thank you for your comment on the Oxfam blog. It is always interesting to hear people’s views.
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The bottle in the video was used purely as an object that represents motherhood, not as promotion of how people should feed their babies. There is nothing in the video that indicated that the milk in the bottle is formula. It could have just as easily been expressed breast milk or cows milk (something that is often introduced after breast-feeding when the baby is older).
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I am sorry if this video has angered you, but I can assure you it was not our intention. Oxfam does not promote formula milk.
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With best wishes
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Emily Subden
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Interactive Campaigner
Oxfam works with others to overcome poverty and suffering.
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Now, you weren’t expecting that, were you? You were expecting an apology for the oversight, or an explanation that Mel B had done this bit, and no one wanted to offend her. You expected some sense of “oops, we got that wrong, better do something quick!”
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You weren’t expecting to be told it had been a deliberate use of iconography. An actual selection on how to convey a meaning in images – a semiotic construction.
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And if you’re anything like me, you certainly weren’t expecting the semiotic construction to be that a baby bottle… signified motherhood.
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Their answer, that they knew what they were doing, and that they did it with the thought of motherhood in mind.. just makes it all so much worse. As does their pat avoidance of the issue by stating you don’t know what’s in the bottle – which type of milk. How much more insulting can they get? End world poverty, by showing a rich mother with expressed breast milk in her bottle? Because she has the money for clean water, an electric pump, bottles, sterilisers and teats? Because Oxfam, I have news for you. The hygiene conditions that kills 4000 babies every day, from bottle use, means the baby is at risk from expressed breast milk too. And further, the pathetic reference to cow’s milk… babies shouldn’t get cow’s milk for at least 12 months, and by then, they would not be on a bottle. They should be on a sippy cup, or even a cup.
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In other words, your pathetic excuses for making this image in the way you have, just drives you deeper into the mire.
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Motherhood is not about bottles. Bottles are about profit and separating mothers from their babies. Pumping culture exits mainly in countries with no proper paid maternity leave, and it’s a huge sacrifice that many mothers make – pumping and sending their expressed breast milk to their babies in day care, whilst they labour on. Using this lack of paid maternity provision and the resultant struggle by mothers to get their milk into their absent babies… as the excuse to uphold your image of Mel B and this bottle… just further adds to the obscenity.
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As does the reference to cow milk – raw animal milk is the worst possible food for young babies. It’s fifth of five options outlined by the World Health Organisation and Unicef – below formula And cavalier comments that Mel B could be holding cow’s milk in that bottle just further degrades your message about ending world hunger. Because of bottle feeding culture, babies do get given raw cow and goat milk in resource poor countries, in dirty bottles, and they die from it.
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Four thousand babies, every day.
Four thousand.
Four thousand bereaved mothers.
Four thousand fathers digging a dirt grave.
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Four thousand.
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Four thousand baby bottles.
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Baby bottles do not signify motherhood. That’s a formula exploitation message. Baby bottles signify greed. They signify exploitation. They signify baby deaths. Baby bottles are an image based on corporate exploitation of the poor, whether it be in resource rich areas, or in the shanties of the world’s destitute. Baby bottles signify crippling debt and lack of proper medical care and support. Baby bottles carry connotations of death, disease and dirty water. Baby bottles contaminate lives.
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And Oxfam is contaminated by this use of such a low and demeaning image. Contaminated by their assertion that the act of separating a hungry baby from its mother’s breast by an artificial feeding device represents what it is to be a mother.
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Looking for an image that signifies motherhood, Oxfam? Try this one:
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What can you do? Well, you can follow in the footsteps of a lot of mothers today, and complain to Oxfam. Emily Subden, Interactive Campaigner, can be emailed here. You can leave polite, moderate but passionate complaints on their blog. Be warned ‘tho, that many mothers have done so today, and none have been published. But they need to hear your voice too. You can complain directly to your own countries Oxfam International office, and can find a list of eddress and contact phones numbers here. You can write your polite and reasoned messages on their Facebook website.
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edit: You can also contact the global In My Name blog directly, and point out how vital breastfeeding is to every single Millennium Goal, and how they need to be supporting breastfeeding, not glorifying bottle feeding. Comments are moderated, so it will be interesting to see if any are published here either.
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edit 2!: Wonderful! The whiteactionband blogsite has more courage than Oxfam! It is allowing appropriate comments about the baby bottle image to be published. Well done whitebandaction – you rock!
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You can email will.i.am asking him to edit out the offensive image on the video here (you have to register) and you can email Mel B and ask her to distance herself from this message, and perhaps reshoot her signature in a more appropriate way, here (click ‘contact’ at bottom of page).
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You can also leave comments on the YouTube video site, although again, many have been left today and none published so far. But someone has to be listening….

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Double click on the video image, to get to the YouTube site.

edit 3! You can also make your own ‘signature’ video of you and your breastfeeding baby, and send it to whitebandaction for inclusion on their web videos. You record you and your baby breastfeeding, with both your names clearly visible, and then upload the video to In My Name on YouTube. You could wear a name tag necklace with your baby’s name scrawled on the back of its chubby little hands as it breastfeeds. You could sit on a beach, and write both your names in wet sand as baby feeds. You could film your baby breastfeeding, whilst you help your toddler spell out all your names in spaghetti letters. You could draw your names on hopscotch letters on a grid in the playground, and film your baby breastfeeding as your older kid plays hopscotch on the letters! You could write your name in magnetic letters of the fridge! You could…. let me know what you’ve done. I’ll post any such videos sent to In My Name, here. Good Luck! Make A Difference!

edit 4: Oxfam responds and blames Mel B

“In my name is a campaign action recently launched by GCAP – the Global Call to Action Against Poverty of which Oxfam is a part.
Many celebrities, high profile people, activists and others worldwide have already given their name, photograph or video. Those photographed or videoed have chosen the way they would like to sign their name, Mel B chose to sign on a baby bottle. This is in no way intended to promote bottle feeding or formula milk, many mothers use bottles fo feed their babies after a period of breast feeding. This is the case with Mel.
Oxfam believes that breast feeding is the best nourishment for babies in their early months of life. Not only is it nourishing, nutritionally balanced, safe and free, but it also contains protective elements which help infants fight illnesses. Such qualities are not available in any so called substitute. Breast feeding should be continued with the introduction of solid food as the baby is growing.

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Poor Mel B. There she is, doing her best, and she’s let down by the very people supporting her. No responsibility at all, for those whose job it is to provide ethical support and advice to their celebrity endorsers. And Oxfam hang her out to dry like this, the very day after they stated the bottle shot was to represent motherhood. I hope no one here uses Oxfam’s statement against Mel B. As this very response makes it clear she has not been given any ethical, or compassionate, support at all. Let’s hope someone with a real ethical conscience at GCAP takes the time to engage Mel B, and will.i.am on these issues appropriately, and this image is removed quickly.





No Place For Children

27 09 2008

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The New Statesman is running a “No Place For Children” campaign, with several of the largest Children’s support agencies. The campaign is to help bring to an end, the UK’s policy of detaining babies and children in detention centres.
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Babies in particular, suffer from the lack of facilities and care in places such as Yarl’s Wood. Whilst the UK Government continues to claim that all detainees are detained appropriately (how come so many are then released back into the UK community then?) and that the highest standard of care is applied (including not feeding a hungry baby as they’d run out of prescription formula), the detainees themselves tell a different story. As do the visitors to the compounds.
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The New Statesman has been running the campaign for several weeks, and has built up a database of reports and articles, some of them written by the detained children themselves. It’s a powerful and moving set of testimonies, and worthy of your time.
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They’ve also included visitor testimony, including a filmed segment of my own report on visiting Janipher Maseko, separated for over two weeks from her two week old son, who was exclusively breastfeeding.
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They have also opened an online petition so you can add your name to this call, to stop locking up babies, infants and children in compounds. You need to have a UK postcode to sign. Sign up here.
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Such efforts are worth while. The pressure brought to bear on the UK Government on their appalling human rights treatment of detained children, has resulted in them finally ‘signing’ detained children in the full human rights package that they had previously been excluded from.
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The Black Women’s Rape Action Project, continues to be a mainstay of support for all the mothers and children locked up in the detention centres. They work as volunteers, and scrape by on whatever funding they can raise. If you want to help the children in places like Yarl’s Wood in a more practical way, send BWRAP a fiver after you sign the petition. You’ll be helping to keep their phone bill paid, so they can call back the mothers in Yarl’s Wood who need help there and then. You can donate online here.
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You can also spread the word: this petition needs signing! 🙂




What’s Missing… ?

26 09 2008
Have a look at this report, on the current outbreak of salmonella poisoning via infant formula in France…
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Good report. Well researched.

Question: What’s missing?
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Eurosurveillance, Volume 13, Issue 39, 25 September 2008
Rapid communications
Nationwide outbreak of Salmonella enterica serotype Give infections in infants in France, linked to infant milk formula, September 2008

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On Thursday 18 September 2008, the hospital of Nantes in west France informed the District Health Office of a case of salmonellosis in an exclusively bottle-fed infant. On Monday morning 22 September, two additional cases of salmonellosis in infants were reported by the hospital of Niort in southwest France. The serotype of the three cases was unknown at that time.

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At the same time, the database of the French national reference centre (NRC) for Salmonella showed a recent increase in the proportion of Salmonella enterica serotype Give isolates from infants. The overall number of S. Give isolates received by the NRC in 2008 was 19, similar compared to the same period in previous years. However, six of the recent isolates had been obtained from infants, whereas this proportion was zero in previous years.

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Epidemiological investigationsAn investigation was started to identify any common exposures between the three reported cases of infant salmonellosis, and to identify the serotype(s) involved. In addition, we investigated the cases of S. Give in infants identified by the NRC.
The parents of the three reported infant salmonella cases were interviewed by the district health office on their consumption of foods and drink and other exposures.

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The infants, aged 9 weeks, and 4 and 5 months respectively, had developed symptoms of febrile diarrhoea between 13 and 18 September and had been hospitalised between 17 and 19 September. The infants had not been in contact with other diarrhoea cases, and had no common exposures except for their infant formula milk. All three drank the same brand (brand X) formula milk. The batch number of the product consumed during the days before the onset of symptoms was known for two cases. The serotype of one of the three isolates was known on 25 September and confirmed as Give.
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As of 25 September, five of the six infant cases of S. Give in the NRC database have been investigated. The infants are between 1.5 and 4.5 months of age and live scattered throughout France. They developed symptoms between 17 and 28 September: all had diarrhoea, which was bloody for four infants, four had fever, and two were hospitalised. The parents of all five infants reported feeding their infants the same brand X of infant powdered formula milk in the week before onset of symptoms. The batch number is known for one case and it is the same batch as in the two cases mentioned above. No other common exposures were identified.

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The preliminary results of the investigation strongly suggest the brand X formula milk as the vehicle of transmission. On 22 September, the authorities and the producer decided to recall the incriminated batch. On 23 September, the producer initiated the recall of this batch. On 24 September, the recall was extended to all batches since consumers had difficulties identifying the batch number. Consumers have been advised not to drink the product and to return it to the place of sale.

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Investigations are ongoing, particularly microbiological examination of the product and investigations of additional infant salmonellosis cases. Since the recall, five additional cases of infant salmonellosis have been reported. All five infants had consumed the incriminated product before illness. The isolates of these cases are currently being serotyped

Answer: The name of the formula brand and company, and the batch numbers.

In fact, they refer in the report to brand X. Remember, this is a current outbreak. They are recalling this product now, today.

The brand in question is Novalac‘s AR Digest, as reported by Reuters.

You will find no mention of the outbreak, or the batch numbers, on the Novalac website.

Even the mention of the ‘traces’ of salmonella in the news reports, have been flagged as misleading by medical sites, who have pointed out how serious this infection is for young babies.
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Know what else is missing? Have you seen any news reports about this?
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Thought not.
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Babies poisoned by people making money out of cutting formula with lethal substances – equals news. Babies being poisoned by the innate bacterial contamination of the formula making process – does not equal news.
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Wonder why the report doesn’t name the company? Nowt to do with profits and public perception, I suppose. Nowt to do with being afraid of company backlash, or with not wanting mothers to understand the risks.
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Can’t be. For as we all know in the reporting of the Chinese contamination stories… we abhor putting profits before baby’s health, don’t we?
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Makes you sick.
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Literally.





Send Jack A Fiver

16 09 2008
This is a chain letter. We ask you send it on to at least ten people, and post it on a few bulletin boards to boot. Nothing will happen to you if you don’t. Your cat won’t die, your grandmother won’t fall off a ladder, and your car will not crash. If you do send it on, you will get a nice warm glow from A Job Well Done. If you then also Send Jack A Fiver, you will feel super human and invincible – You Have Made A Difference!
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Warning – do not attempt any super human feats during this time, you only think you can walk on water, or leap tall buildings in a single bound. You won’t actually be able to do that. But you will feel good for a moment!
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Dr Jack Newman is one of the nicest people on the face of the planet. He and his colleagues, are totally dedicated to one thing: happy breastfeeding babies.
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He and his staff give of their time, effort and expertise, to anyone, anywhere. Jack has sent one-to-one support letters to Nursing Matters, giving detailed professional opinion on babies being threatened with separation from their mothers – at the drop of a hat. He’s literally sent two pages of letter, return of email, late on a Friday evening after he should have gone home already.
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He is someone who gives to breastfeeding babies – wherever they are.
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And whilst he is physically located in Canada, his professionalism, and expertise, has touched, aided and encouraged, babies, mothers and lactation support people, all over the world. He gives free access to all his information sheets, videos and combined wisdom.
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Jack needs some money to keep up all this good work. His Government funding was budget ‘cut’ in 2005. Private donations that have kept the clinic running for over 3 years, end this month.
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So this post is very simple, it’s a plea to Send Jack A Fiver. And to ask others to do the same. If we all send a fiver, or even a dollar, if that’s all we have, maybe they’ll keep going for another month! Or even a year. 🙂
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Please cut-and-paste this message, and Send It On!




Archiving of Breastfeeding Photos

14 09 2008
This image is from the BBC website, and shows a mother nursing her baby as they shelter from Hurricane Ike.

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It shows perfectly why breastfeeding is so vital in emergency situations. The mother is calm and relaxed, as she waits out the storm, no need for panic over finding formula, or clean water, or bottles, or … anything. Have baby on breast, am safe and secure. Baby at home on her body, utterly secure too. 🙂

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Such pictures are rare, and in some ways, becoming rarer. It’s important that breastfeeding babies are socially documented, by such photos as above. The business of being a mother, and of being a child, is often overlooked in social history, and babies nursing at the breast need to be clearly seen at all levels of society.

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Something that Jennifer James has long recognised, and promoted, in her personal blog, Black Breastfeeding, which has always been listed at the bottom of this blog’s link sites. She’s always posted excellent and well researched photos and items about both breastfeeding and formula feeding.

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She’s taken this aspect of her main blog, and created a new blog, dedicated entirely to archiving such photos. “… she is on a quest to find information and historic photographs showing moms breastfeeding in public before it became taboo.”

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If you have such photos, I’m sure she’d like to hear from you. The new blog can be found here, and it is wonderful! I’ve lifted the photo below from it!

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Enjoy!





A Chink in the Barbed Wire….?

3 09 2008

http://services.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f8/1184614595