A Class Apart – The Pashmina Mums

26 06 2009
Hell of a long time in editorial meeting this week. Last week’s feature on baby bottles brought out all the usual nipple nazi loonies, and I spent far too long with the new editor explaining again… he really is pig shit stupid… that woman HAVE TO HAVE A CHOICE. He mumbled on and on about the comments about the WHO code thing, and I told him AGAIN it’s all codswallop and just to ignore the fascist frenzy. He appears to have forgotten that I told him to freeze the comments on the column as it was about bottles, and the bullies would be out in force. I was exceptionally good ‘tho, and didn’t scream IT’S ALL YOUR FAULT in his face, and told him if he was really worried, doesn’t he think the lawyers would say something? He backed down then, and I moved in with “It proves they’re reading my column, is that a problem?” He went off in one of his silent and pensive moods. If he does this again, I swear I’ll tell M I am going to resign. Idiot has no business editing women’s features, if he doesn’t get CHOICE.
Got copy in for next week’s column and celebrated at Magio’s with J. Allowed myself the double cream lemon torte, which is 800 calories a slice. J watched me swallow every mouthful. She isn’t back to pre-birth yet, and only allowed herself the coffee biscuit. It was worth it, even if I had to skip supper with L later. When I got home, there was a package for me, a freebie of a new ‘scarf’ based ‘breastfeeding aid’, made by a Mum (whose husband owns a promotions firm). It was a lovely soft lilac, with a very clever fold in one corner, that lets it be tucked up and over very securely. But you’d never know it’s not just a normal scarf when it’s on. Phoned her for a short discuss, to provide some fleshing out when I do the ‘cover up in style’ feature next month. So much lovelier than most of the shower curtain things I’ve been sent. She said she’d thought of it after someone made a rude comment to her, in her local cafe, and didn’t want other mothers to have to go through that. I felt this was a lovely ‘hook’, showing concern for all new Mums, and after a few minutes she’d promised to send me the rose pink and the primrose ones – so nice chrimbos there for sure.
Had an appalling time fighting my way through to the Nursery pick up, with traffic just Out Of Control. By the time I’d loaded them both into the back seat, we were running very late for 1’s piano lessons, and 2 was screaming hungry. Cracked open an emergency UHT carton from the boot with disposable push thru teat thing. Silence was Golden. Thank you Katie Price! Must remember to mention this on next suitable column.
Dropped in the Mums’ group, on my way to the gym. Was very harassed as not only had I found 1’s brie and grape sandwich in my shoe on the way out the door, L phoned to say he’d be very late tonight. Sat with J and P, and discussed that appalling programme on the 8 year old breastfeeding, again. J was mentioning it to P, as P’s little girl is nearly 8 months old, and she’s still only breastfeeding – never has had a bottle. P did confide she was struggling, and was unsure what do to. She was feeding in front of us, and we all got a rather unflattering flash as baby moved her head about to look at us. No pashmina was going to cover such a strapping baby, folded cover or not. This really was shower curtain territory. P turned bright red and stuffed herself back into her bra, whilst we pretended we’d not noticed.
Had very little sympathy actually, as both J and I had taken great pains to help her out earlier, and let her know she was setting herself up for trouble later. But P hadn’t listened, and had got very sniffy when J had said formula wasn’t poison. We’d been a bit worried actually, she was going to turn into one of those women, but we didn’t let it show. I told P I’d plenty of info on weaning, and I’d pop it round. J told her about the going on holiday technique, and that S had used weaning to get a two week break in the Seychelles out of her hubby. When she came back, baby was perfectly happy and never went on the breast again – and you don’t have to hear them crying. P said she wasn’t sure, didn’t the baby miss her Mum and her milk? It’s extremely unfair of P to talk like this in front of J. She knows J couldn’t breastfeed her own as her milk never came in, and I admire J so much for taking it on the chin so much, and still supporting Mums like me and P. I popped some weaning leaflets into P later, and also gave her one of the shower curtain things from my freebies. Said I just wanted some honest feedback on how easy it was to use, and would she do me a favour and review it for me, for the column, so she didn’t feel too bad. It was a favour to me, sort of thing.
Had the most outrageous row with one of those bitch lactivists, who was furious with me about the bottle feeding column for last week. It was very embarrassing, at K’s lunch time think tank meet, for the local community school fundraising. This woman had just joined the group, and went bright red when she was introduced to me – and asked me straight out if I was ‘that women with the article’. K didn’t know where to look, and it was left to me to try and make her back down. It was infuriating, she was spouting the usual nonsense ‘formula is poison, gives babies two heads and forked tongues’ stuff. I told her if she had actually read my column, she’d know I’d breastfed BOTH of mine, and that I was very supportive of breastfeeding, and often do columns on what equipment you need and things. In fact I was preparing a new one now, on breastfeeding aids… it cut no ice. It never does with these sort. Obviously, I wasn’t breastfeeding an 8 year old, so I don’t count! I asked her what about mothers who couldn’t breastfeed what were supposed to do, and she went on about making sure they got good support in the units. I ask you! J’s nipples were blistered raw from trying, with no milk, and her midwife has told her there was no milk in her breasts at all. This nutcase just did the usual tirade about ‘no such thing as no milk’ for most women who gave up and I just had to tune her out, I tell you. Does she think midwives are idiots and maternity staff don’t have any sodding training? I wish these women realised what harm they do. The rest of the meeting was very difficult, and after an hour, she made her excuses and left. K apologised and I told her no need. It’s not as if we’re not used to it, is it?
Did a web search and found this woman posts in a lot of the ‘lactivist‘ communities. Knew that B was preparing a column on nipple nazis and how they practically drive women to suicide, so knew she’d like some of the ‘posts’ I found. Copy and pasted them over to her, with a short note about yesterday’s horror. B responded quickly, and thanked me. Looking forward to B’s column in two weeks.
L went into the office again this morning, so I took 1 and 2 to the park, and mused on this week’s column. Sent a note around my flist, asking for horror stories on being bullied to breastfeed, and started a file. N phoned later on that afternoon, her Dad was in hospital for a routine procedure and had caught a bug in there, and ended up staying for three weeks so far. N had gone in to find him in dirty sheets with his hair uncombed and his face not shaved for three days. He’s lost weight and doesn’t appear to be eating. I calmed N down and sent her over several articles on how the NHS fails elderley patients, and gave her the details on how to complain to her PCT. She was very grateful. She phoned back later to say she’d sent a rocket up one of the consultants, and her Dad have been moved to a private room. Success! It never fails me how often you have to remind people to complain about shoddy service with hospitals – people are too timid. Glad I was able to help N.
Blissful lie in, whilst contemplating this week’s column on new cot designs. L took the kids whilst I worked all afternoon. Would have given my first born to have had the interactive ‘home unit’ cot, with the air conditioning, the TV on the side and the sound bafflers. Of course, if I’d given my first born, wouldn’t have needed the cot! Must get our Stokke on Ebay, as we’ve decided No More Rugrats!
Arrgghh. I am going to kill him. He’s said he’s unhappy with the ‘cover up in style’ piece, as I’ve not mentioned the Equality Bill and how Mums can breastfeed in public without covers if they want to. I told him I knew that, as UNLIKE HIM I’m a breastfeeding mother! And if anyone should know how needed a column on how to do it with some style and class was, it was me! I’m not a political column, I’m a light and frothy piece on the travails of intelligent motherhood… and if I wanted to do politics, I’d join the news desk! He was _so_ close to me calling him out for sexual harassment, and I think he knew it, which was why he backed off. I could spit tacks. Phoned B and had a long rant, she commiserated, as her editor is also a a bit dim. Although hers is never stupid enough to leave the comments column open if they ever mention anything to do with breastfeeding, or bottles.
Submitted copy on the cots and met up with J at Magio’s again. P came too and thanked me for the weaning leaflets, which she’d found interesting. A relief to know other mothers went through the same pressures. Both J and I refrained from a chorus of “We told you so.” Thankfully, baby was asleep entire time, so didn’t have to worry about her flashing Magio’s staff. No shower curtain in her nappy bag, that I could see… R turned up and was down in the dumps about her weight loss sponsored bike thing. She was thinking about packing it all in, as she’d got a bit down on how much work it was, and was it all worth it? We told her – never give up, she can do this: woman are strong! R left considerably cheered to go back to the gym, and J went with her to drop round to her printers to check on proofs for her new book on sleep training – CBC is doing the intro, she had confirmed. What a catch! P and I chatted for a few minutes, and confided again, that she was struggling with the breastfeeding. I told her straight – she’s not a martyr, and she needs to think of herself first – all babies need a happy Mummy, don’t they? That’s all that matters. I’d given it 4 months and mine were fine, weren’t they? She seemed happier too.
Felt drained from how busy it had all been, so checked myself in for a spa and a massage. L made supper tonight, and I had a half a bottle of red wine. Made a note to mention to P, that another advantage to weaning would be she could drink again.
Opened my inbox to find an explosion of emails about a new breastfeeding campaign Up North somewhere, that has a picture of a toddler breastfeeding, with the words “Normal, natural and healthy” under it. I ask you! Fired off some replies as the phone was ringing. It was A, a girl I went to Uni with. We’d kept in loose touch, and she was now writing for the local newspaper in the area with the poster. Was more than happy to give her a couple of quotes. Then I pasted over some of the ripest comments in my inbox to both B and R to read. B was already hot on the case and had posted several times in the comments in the local papers.
After much hassle and several trips to several newsagents, got a copy of the local. A had done me proud, and had quoted me almost verbatim. I carefully opened the pages at the article, and folded back, tucking it under my arm. I placed the paper on the table at K’s, just as the meeting on the school fundraising started.
“What these extreme lactivists don’t realise, is how much harm they do. Breastfeeding is not the only factor in a Mum’s life, and alienating all the other mothers, and berating them for being abnormal and unnatural for bottle feeding, the way this offensive poster does, is completely unacceptable. We live if a society where women have choices, and must be free to follow their own choice, and do what is right for them, without others interfering. All mothers should feel supported, not criticised for their feeding decisions. “
It was of no use, she didn’t turn up. Not that it would have made much difference anyway – some people never listen, do they? There’s none so blind as those that will not see…

I Didn’t Make That Up – Rage & Farce in Westminster

18 06 2009

I swear I should have named this blog
you couldn’t make it up!

Don’t worry – don’t try to strain your eyes – I’ll explain it all out. Last month, after this post, Emily Pulling, founder of the Breastfeeding Picnics, wrote a letter to her MP…

I’m writing to request you seek clarification from the Government on the details of how breastfeeding in public spaces is protected under the proposed Equalities Bill. Specifically, could you ask what would happen if a mother was asked to stop feeding her child, and leave a cafe? Would she have to leave, when asked, and then bring a claim after the event?
I’d also appreciate you inquiring what protection a mother has if she is approached in the street, or on premises, from a passer-by and not the staff or owner of the premises? If a fellow passenger on the train, for instance, starts to demand she stop feeding and leave the carriage, what protection would the mother have under the Equalities Bill?
As you know, if this took place in Scotland, the mother could have either staff, or passer by, charged for an offence liable to a £2500 fine. I’m greatly concerned that the proposals in the Equalities Bill are not equal to this and would ask that you seek clarification on my behalf.

Yes, you may indeed recognise the words.

Today, by post, she received the above letter from Vera Baird, QC, MP, Solicitor General at the Equalities Office. It came via her MP, Cheryl Gillan.

So let’s just get that sequence straight shall we? Emily emails her MP, Cheryl, and asks for specific information on the breastfeeding section of the upcoming Equalities Bill. Cheryl forwards it onto Harriet Harman at the Equalities Office. Harriet forwards it to Vera, in the Equalities Office, who replies to the email, and sends Cheryl, the MP a detailed reply. Cheryl sends the reply, by post, to Emily.

Are we clear?

Good. Now, what does Vera’s reply say? It thanks Emily for her support for the Equalities Bill, and tells Emily how encouraged she, Vera, is, by Emily’s comments and how great it is that all the breastfeeding mothers are so happy about the legalisation.

No, I didn’t make that up.

So, there’s Vera, QC, MP Solicitor General… and unable to read. There’s her secretary, one presumes, picking up a letter from an MP, glancing at it, seeing the words ‘breastfeeding’ and ‘Equalities Bill’ and puts it into the “fulsome praise for breastfeeding and the Equalities Bill” pile (a very small pile, one presumes) and then prints out a form letter of fulsome praise and thanks… and Vera signs it. Without, one presumes, noticing it is actually a letter requesting information and clarification, and that it actually says that this breastfeeding mother is GREATLY CONCERNED about the proposed Bill.

And there’s Vera’s secretary, posting the letter back to Cheryl Gillan, who spots the problems and acts… or not. No, what Cheryl Gillan does, or I presume, her secretary does, is looks at the letter and pops it into an envelope with a covering letter to EMMA PULLING, and sends it to Emily, thanking her for allowing her, Cheryl, to “raise this matter” with the Government.

No, I didn’t make that up.

Isn’t it just wonderful? Don’t we have SUCH a responsive and responsible system of Government? That an MP can raise an issue on behalf of a constituent – without the MP bothering tho check what the matter being raised is, or if it was addressed in the reply? Who can even get the name of the constituent wrong? We should be grateful they go the address right I suppose. And that the Government minister the letter is sent to, can equally NOT READ THE LETTER and send back a form letter that actually talks about the original letter being a compliment, as opposed to a request for information on the basis of serious concerns?

I think not.

This is accountable, transparent and competent Government? It’s not even as if Cheryl Gillan is a Labour MP – she’s Conservative! You’d think given the current climate at Westminster, a Conservative MP might take the time to read a Ministerial response to a constituent who has raised serious concerns about current legislation. You’d think.

Although at least I now understand the Government’s concern about the fall in educational standards. It’s just terrible when the Government Minister’s can’t read – especially when they can sign their names.

It makes you proud to be British, don’t it?


Emily, once she’d calmed down… rage barely covers it, I can tell you… fired off a letter to her MP:

Dear Mrs Cheryl Gillan,

Thank you for the letter you forwarded to me which I received this morning.

Unfortunately, apart from the fact that you have got my name wrong, you and Vera Baird QC, MP have not read my original request at all. The letter from Ms Baird thanks me for my support for the Equalities Bill, when my original email to you was a request for clarification on the actual content of the Bill.

So that you can reassess my enquiry, I will copy and paste my original email to you.

“I’m writing to request you seek clarification from the Government on the details of how breastfeeding in public spaces is protected under the proposed Equalities Bill. Specifically, could you ask what would happen if a mother was asked to stop feeding her child, and leave a cafe? Would she have to leave, when asked, and then bring a claim after the event?

I’d also appreciate you inquiring what protection a mother has if she is approached in the street, or on premises, from a passer-by and not the staff or owner of the premises? If a fellow passenger on the train, for instance, starts to demand she stop feeding and leave the carriage, what protection would the mother have under the Equalities Bill?

As you know, if this took place in Scotland, the mother could have either staff, or passer by, charged for an offence liable to a £2500 fine. I’m greatly concerned that the proposals in the Equalities Bill are not equal to this and would ask that you seek clarification on my behalf.”

Yours sincerely

Emily (not Emma!) Pulling

The office were quick to respond:

Dear Ms Pulling

Firstly, I am very sorry to have typed the wrong name – and I do apologise for that mistake. Cheryl did send a copy of your email to the Minister, so sadly, the Minister made that assumption that you supported the Bill.

I will copy your email and re-submit that to the Minister and request that she focus on the point that you make below.

As soon as Cheryl has a response she will be in touch with you again, once again, sorry for the mistake on your name.

Kind regards

So, back to the bated breath for us! For those who’ve not been following it, the answer from Vera Baird should have been that yes, if asked to leave, the mother will have to go, and claim afterwards. And that there is no protection at all, from being asked to stop by a passer-by, or being harassed on the Underground, as Emily herself was last year. It will be fascinating to see if she has the courage to say so in her response, given the gushing self-congratulations she displays in the form letter where she states that Ms Pulling’s comments are particularly welcome.

That would be the greatly concerned comment, eh Vera?

What is so depressing about this, is it’s so familiar. Concerned Mums writing to their MPs to write the Government for answers, and getting garbage in reply. At least we keep catching them out on it, and can let others know.

Now, I hesitate to ask, I really do…. anyone else had this garbage? Or worse?

World Breastfeeding Week 2009 – Breastfeeding In Emergencies

10 06 2009

Breastfeeding: A Vital Emergency Response
Are you ready?


  • To draw attention to the vital role that breastfeeding plays in emergencies worldwide.
  • To stress the need for active protection and support of breastfeeding before and during emergencies.
  • To inform mothers, breastfeeding advocates, communities, health professionals, governments, aid agencies, donors, and the media on how they can actively support breastfeeding before and during an emergency.
  • To mobilise action and nurture networking and collaboration between those with breastfeeding skills and those involved in emergency response.


  • Children are the most vulnerable in emergencies – child mortality can soar from 2 to 70 times higher than average due to diarrhoea, respiratory illness and malnutrition.
  • Breastfeeding is a life saving intervention and protection is greatest for the youngest infants. Even in non-emergency settings, non-breastfed babies under 2 months of age are six times more likely to die.
  • Emergencies can happen anywhere in the world. Emergencies destroy what is ‘normal,’ leaving caregivers struggling to cope and infants vulnerable to disease and death.
  • During emergencies, mothers need active support to continue or re-establish breastfeeding.
  • Emergency preparedness is vital. Supporting breastfeeding in non-emergency settings will strengthen mothers’ capacity to cope in an emergency.

This year’s WABA World Breastfeeding Week, August 1-7 2009, is concentrating on breastfeeding in emergency situations.
Such emergencies are often closer than we think, given the problematic nature of powdered infant formula, with its need of both heated clean water and excellent hygiene conditions for its safe use. And it’s so easy to think you are insulated from the harm it can cause to not breastfeed, if you live in a world where clean water and heating for it is common place. The simple fact is that clean water and heating materials are often casualties within hours in even minor emergencies. I once spent a week without water in Glasgow, when the pipes froze solid, and we had to resort to bottled water to drink and wash in. Ice storms, such as the one that hit Glasgow, can freeze you out of water in a matter of hours.
Hurricane Katriona, which hit New Orleans in the USA, wrecked even the sophisticated support structures we associate with being ‘In the West’. Babies went hungry when clean water and heating disappeared in the floods – often the formula disappeared too. The worst story I’ve heard of Katriona to date, was the Mum left on a roof for five days with her formula fed two week old baby. The most distressing part of this tale is not that the baby died a few hours after rescue… it was that the Mum was then treated for engorgement of her recently post-partum breasts. That we’ve divorced ourselves so completely from our normative biology – to the point that mothers and new babies were being discharged out of maternity units into the hurricane zone, with doctors unable to say the words “You’re putting your baby’s life at risk.” and that a distraught mother watched her baby slowly dehydrate to the point of death, with milk in her own breasts… leaves me bewildered and speechless. Truly speechless.
Formula in baby bottles in emergencies is never the answer: that much is undeniable. Sometimes, formula given in an easily cleaned stainless steel cup, is a short term solution to the mother being supported to relactate, in order to feed her baby safely as she rebuilds their lives and her community. Or whilst a grandmother relactates to feed her grandchild if the mother has died. Yet well intentioned support agencies, and individuals, still set about gathering stores of donated formula, donated baby bottles, and trying to ship them to mothers who will watch their babies grow sick and die from such well intentioned recklessness. Worse, many breastfeeding mothers in communities in such calamity, often respond to the free giving out of formula and baby bottles, by stopping breastfeeding themselves.
Donate a baby bottle and formula in emergency: donate death.
Again, that such a basic connection to our own biology is severed, in times of such extreme stress and the need for it is at its greatest… speechless.
World Breastfeeding Week have produced a variety of excellent resources to support this year’s them, and they can be found here.
There is a pledge scheme for those who can run local events to raise awareness of this crucial issue. Details here.
I’ll be passing on other materials in the run up to August. Please propagate information and the URLs about WBW far and wide – help get the message out.