A rant about breasts

It’s not often I get ranty here, but as a wise man once said: “There’s a time & place for everything”. I think it was Chef from South Park.

The Save the Children group are among a coalition of charities running a fantastic campaign at the moment called “Enough food for everyone IF”, highlighting child malnutrition & mobilising the powerful & the ordinary to make a change; showing us that we can.

I plan to write about it soon, and you can read the details here.

Alongside this Save the Children are also running a campaign called #firsthour, highlighting the importance of the first hour in a newborn baby’s life. Particularly how crucial for the baby’s survival  it is – especially where food is scarce & nutritional standards are low  – that they receive the miracle food that is breast milk.

There are some brilliant posts about it here & here, much better than anything I could put together. Myleene Klaas, Natasha Kaplinsky & Isla Fisher have been in the Philippines, Sierra Leone & Brazil for first-hand reports. Just click their names here to see their video reports. They are real eye-openers: for all our problems we  – I – often just don’t realise just how lucky we are here, in our relative affluence.

Photo credit: Save the Children

Two major concerns seem to have caught people’s attention from the #firsthour campaign.

1) Research by Save the Children has shown that an estimated 830,000 deaths could be avoided if every baby were breastfed within the first hour of life.

2) Save the Children have been reported as saying that they want cigarette packet style warnings to be put on baby formula products.

Many of us have seized on one or the other of these, myself included.

Now OK,  I know breast vs formula is a very emotive subject. Many women resent being told what to do or what not to do with their own bodies. I get that. And it’s not always possible for women to breast-feed & they should not be judged for not doing so. I really get that.

But hang on here, you who are so angry about this & who are trying to vilify Save the Children. Can we rewind a bit?

Please see point 1).

830,000 dead babies. Every year. That’s nearly a Birmingham of babies.

It’s likely that 3 babies died since you started reading this.

Simply for lack of breast-milk.

The research also suggests that 22%  – more than 1 in 5 – of newborn deaths could be prevented if breastfeeding started within the first hour, 16% if within 24 hours. Also that a baby given breast milk within an hour is up to 3 times more likely to survive than 1 fed a day later.

But someone wanting to put some writing on packets of milk substitute is what’s important here, is it?


I think we need some perspective here. Just a little bit.

I suspect that if Save the Children have said this that it was aimed at underdeveloped societies where women are less educated & simply don’t have the lifestyle choices that we enjoy.

I was really shocked to learn from this campaign that many women don’t even know that they can breast-feed. In many of these countries unscrupulous multinationals are spreading misinformation designed to keep these mothers in ignorance in order to sell their products. You can sign a petition about that here if you feel so moved.

Many of them as a result then buy the formula. It’s expensive, so many then have to stop buying food.

You get the picture?

This isn’t about us.

It’s about babies dying needlessly in impoverished societies.

It’s about women who are in ignorance regarding the most basic needs of their newborns & who are being kept that way, in many cases, just so some already rich people can get richer.

It’s about how we can stop these needless deaths & help these poor mothers.

I’d be quite happy if every time I switched on my beloved iPod Touch I saw a message on screen saying “You are fat & stupid & if you use this iPod Touch your testicles may fall off” – if it meant saving the life of just 1 baby.  I’d just tell it to shut up then put on “Gimme Shelter”.

So how about we all get together & save some lives? I hope to at least try.

And I’m sorry if anyone is offended by this post. That’s really not my intention.

And, for what it’s worth, our premmie twins were fed on both formula & breast-milk.

And were they breast-fed in their #firsthour?



7 thoughts on “A rant about breasts”

  1. Wow, that’s a pretty hard hitting post. I confess I was initially more offended by your second point than your first. Why, because we went through the whole “can’t breast feed” guilt thing with our first and so I get very frustrated when I read stuff like people wanting a warning on formula. Just another kick in the teeth for mothers trying their best.

    Why wasn’t I so shocked by the first point? I guess because there are just so many horrible things going on in the world that this just doesn’t shock me any more. I am disgusted by the corporations tricking women into not breastfeeding, and it is horrible that so many children will die needlessly, but I just hope that if this campaign has an impact, that the myriad of other problems that these countries have are also addressed, otherwise many of those 830,000 children will suffer needlessly for another reason.

    I for one am doing what I can and donate what money I can to both Save The Children and another local childrens charity. I’m not sure what else I can do. No one should die needlessly, but survival isn’t the only issue here.

    1. Thanks for your comment David. And I can sympathise with your views on breast-feeding more than you know & more than I can say! For me though 830,000 dead babies just doesn’t compare with feeling bad about using formula.

      Having read about it now I can see where Save the Children are coming from. The warning they want is intended for underdeveloped countries & they don’t see a need for it in the UK & Europe. The problem is that product is often exported from here to the third world so the warning needs to be here as well.

      The hope is that the warning will counteract the propaganda that is deceiving women into not breast-feeding from birth & thus will directly save lives. This we can do.

      I understand charity fatigue, but I don’t feel it. This to me feels very real. If a baby next door was dying & I could do something about it I would; to me this is no different. There’s just 830,000 of them.

      For me saving a baby’s life, hopefully the lives of many babies, is worth feeling a little guilty.

      Thanks for reading.

  2. Thanks so much for writing this. I knew when I agreed to be a part of the campaign that it would provoke strong reactions here but it really isn’t about telling women anywhere what to do. It is about providing help and support to women facing incredibly difficult odds to give their babies at least a chance at life. That’s really not too much to ask, is it? x

  3. agreed! people have totally missed the point of the campaign but also, if tins of formula DID say ‘this product increases the risk of your child suffering from SIDS, diabetes etc etc, I know I wouldn’t have so readily accepted it when it was unneccesary for us. thanks for linking to my post too 🙂

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