An Unpalatable Truth

2 07 2010
Sorry for not getting this post done until now.  I started it in my head last night, after some criticisms emerged on some pro-breast sites.  But a broken fridge door, has actually taken most of my time today!  (It’s now fixed.)
Comments have been made that I wasn’t speaking appropriately, for a discussion programme, and others have asked what I was told before I went on.  I thought I’d just make a few points.
I was asked to take part in a programme discussing an anti-breastfeeding article.  An article that denigrated breastfeeding, and upheld formula feeding, explicitly.  As part of that, in my interview by the journalist who booked me to appear, I was asked how I would respond to several questions, if they came up.  I was probed on how I would respond to the points raised in the the article, about both breastfeeding, and formula feeding.
Again, this is memory.  I didn’t record the conversation!  (Although guess what I will be doing from now on…?)
What was my reaction to Ms Blundell saying it was ‘creepy’ to breastfeed?  
I answered that I wouldn’t comment on Ms Blundell, as I didn’t know her, but that in general, my reaction would be that someone expressing those thoughts, had a problem with their own body image and self-esteem, perhaps their sexuality.  Which was hardly surprising, given how confused and contradictory our society is about women and their bodies.  That some women did feel this, and it wasn’t surprising, but really, working on it, for themselves, is the best thing.
What about a woman who had five children and needed to work, and she HAD to formula feed, what would I say to her, would I not have sympathy with that?
I replied that I’d tell the woman with the five children how lucky she was to be able to afford to formula feed her five kids.  That millions of women live with five kids, on under a dollar a day.  And if they don’t breastfeed their kids, the kids might die.  How lucky of the Mum to live in a world where she can afford to buy formula, and have clean water to make it up.  And, if she really did want to breastfeed, she could.  She could get help and support.  That was the point, if she really wanted to, she could get support to make it happen.  Working was not a barrier, and she should get the help she needed, and others would help her do so.  But again, how lucky she was to live in a nice clean world where she COULD choose to formula feed, was what I’d say to her.
I expanded this point to say that’s there is nothing wrong with formula feeding, as long as it was informed choice.  If a baby was hungry, it needed fed, and the WHO recognised that if nothing else was there, then formula was the fourth choice to feed a baby.  But it was fourth in line.  The issue was informed choice, and not enough women knew that formula feeding carries risks.
I then expanded that point, by stating that when my husband has his heart attack, and I sent my up till then exclusively breast fed three month old baby, out to my family to be formula fed, I had had no idea I was putting my baby at risk.  That when I needed help and information most, I was unaware that I was putting my beloved baby at risk, by sending him to a loving, caring family, who all had formula fed, but that they didn’t know about formula safety.  That my own family made up batches of formula in the morning, put them in the fridge, and put them in the microwave to heat them up all through the day.  And I’d sent my baby out to that, not knowing that it was dangerous.
That that was the issue.  Women knowing all the information, and making informed choices.

Edit: knew I forgot a bit.

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

She also asked if I could not understand the problem of women being confused about breasts for sex, or for babies.
I replied yes, I could, that was very valid, and support needed to be done there.  When women are told their breasts are sexual playthings, it can be difficult.  It is difficult being female in our society, and women needed support.
She then asked my husband if my breastfeeding had caused problems in our sex life.  He burst out laughing.  đź™‚
I was then told how well I’d answered, and how good it was that I could speak well, and pepper facts in, without it all becoming to ‘fact’ heavy.  That I had a good way of talking about things, and putting facts in as I went. Would I please come and do an hour and a half?  We did, as I have recorded prior, discuss thoroughly that it was a free discussion programme between the women, and the male presenter would introduce, then back away and let us communicate with each other, like we would at a dinner party, chatting.
I was then asked how I would like to be introduced.  After a few minutes discussion, – mother, breastfeeding supporter, lactavist etc I said I’d like to be introduced as a ‘feminist’ as this made the most sense to me.  
I was, of course, introduced as Chair of Nursing Matters. (Which I had given permission for, so that was okay, but my point is I was introduced for that formal role.)
So, this is the discussion that led to me being invited to speak.  Then not being allowed to speak.  đź™‚
PS  If you don’t think I was speaking as I would at a dinner party, best not come round to dinner!



One response

2 07 2010
Hannah Hillier

I would speak exactly how you did at a dinner party. Just because you are at a dinner party, doesn't mean you have to back down on your opinions and agree on something you don't agree on! He was (in my opinion) very rude to you, for something that was aired worldwide, it didn't seem to be *aimed* worldwide. Well done Morgan!

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