Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Importance of Breastfeeding Advocacy

If you've been following my blog lately, you'll notice that I've been discussing a 'Breastfeeding Conversation', sponsored by Medela and being aired on CityLine end of May (here and here).

When I first heard about this segment, I was watching CityLine and it was introduced to the audience as a Medela sponsored event, with their breastfeeding 'expert' not yet mentioned.  I followed the link to the Medela BFF Conversation, and again, at that point no breastfeeding 'expert' was mentioned.  So I wrote to CityLine, I posted on their Facebook page and I blogged... hoping to rally some fellow lactivists to question what Medela was doing sponsoring a 'Breastfeeding Conversation'.

When I realized that the expert was Dr. Dixon, I blogged again.  I explained that being a doctor does not automatically make one a breastfeeding expert.  I went to her website, with the help of friends and acquaintances, I looked for connections to the breastfeeding community.  After finding none, I emailed CityLine again (third time) and included a link to my latest blog posting.  I was polite (albeit firm):


I would really appreciate if someone could contact me, I would love for this to spark an honest to goodness conversation. I would love to know what/if Dr. Dixon's breastfeeding credentials are. I would like to know how CityLine intends to keep this as a scientifically grounded and unbiased discussion, supporting women with their breastfeeding problems. I would like to know what sources CityLine will be citing and I would really like to know why CityLine didn't approach Dr. Jack Newman to field questions in this segment. He is world renown for his breastfeeding expertise! I would like to know why CityLine didn't contact La Leche League Canada?


What I received in return, I feel is a halfhearted attempt to smooth my ruffled feathers... I was left feeling that they were merely going through the motions of placating me and that they hadn't really read the follow-up blog posting (where I discussed how just because their expert is a doctor does not necessarily make them a breastfeeding expert... where I also discussed how utilizing the expertise of a doctor who doesn't have further education in breastfeeding [such as an IBCLC, IBCLE, LC, LLL Leader] can actually result in the sharing of biased and unscientifically founded advice):

We thank you for your comments to Cityline and take them seriously. We are certainly supportive of breast feeding and have done many segments on it throughout the years. Our Cityline medical expert was the one who was answering the questions – not a representative of Medela. We will take a look at the information you have sent along to us and thank you again for your feedback.


I believe that had they read my follow-up post, they would have realized that I was already aware that their breastfeeding expert was not a representative of Medela.  Had they read my follow-up, I believe they would have realized that in no way did I say that they were unsupportive of breastfeeding mothers.  Misguided?  Yes, but not unsupportive.  My intent, was to express the opinion that not all breastfeeding advice, is good advice.  My intent, was to question the motives of Medela, and why they would be sponsoring a 'Breastfeeding Conversation' when mothers who exclusively feed their babies at the breast will not be utilizing their product.  My intent, was to question why, when Toronto has such a wealth of breastfeeding knowledge available to them, why they chose to go with an 'expert' that to the best of my research capabilities is not an active & contributing member in the breastfeeding/lactation community.

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I am sure that there are readers who are going over this, shaking your heads and muttering to yourself something about beating a dead horse.  I am sure that there are readers who don't understand why I so passionately feel the need to advocate for the rights of breastfeeding mothers.  I am also sure that there are readers who do not see the issue with Medela participating in a breastfeeding discussion, and are wondering why I feel so strongly that with Medela's influence behind the segment the forthcoming information will not be without bias. 

As a card carrying Lactivist, a Breastfeeding Advocate and a breastfeeding mother, I strongly feel that women deserve to be wholly supported in their parenting decisions.  Women deserve to be armed with unbiased, scientifically sound advice and information.  Women deserve to be completely informed, so that they may choose what path is the best for their family, themselves and their baby.  When a woman has a breastfeeding question (a problem, a concern or even just looking for confirmation on something), this mother deserves to have an accurate, complete and unbiased answer. 

As a Breastfeeding Advocate, I believe that every mother and every baby deserves the chances to establish and maintain the breastfeeding dyad if they choose to do so.  I believe that they deserve to have someone with experience and education to field their questions and alleviate their concerns.  They deserve someone who, with sound supporting data, can confirm that what they're going through is normal, and steer them in the right direction when things go awry.

As a Breastfeeding Advocate, I believe that mothers (expectant, new and 'seasoned') all deserve to treated with respect, integrity and honesty.  I believe that mothers are smart and intuitive enough to make the right decisions for their family, themselves and their baby; I believe that they only need unbiased and scientifically sound advice to do so.

I know I keep reiterating "unbiased" and "scientifically sound" because oftentimes mothers are given advice regarding breastfeeding that is completely unfounded.  Someone, somewhere at some point in time had a problem that their doctor had not dealt with, and their form of "help" was advising the mother to bottle feed their baby.  That doctor, with no lactation education or experience, couldn't be bothered to discuss the mother/babe's issues with an expert and so they made the mother believe that she was broken. 

We.are.not.broken!  

And that is the importance of Breastfeeding Advocacy -- supporting mothers, helping them and showing them that they are not broken.