China admits breast is best


The breast is best message is wide spread in the west and any advertising of infant formula is careful not to suggest that it is superior to morhers’ milk.

But in China advertising of infant formula is aggressive .

However, the ill-wind of the contaminated whey protein concentrate has blown some good for Chinese babies – promotion of the benefits of breast feeding.

China’s rates of breast-feeding are among the world’s lowest. But health workers and the government are trying to revive the practice, and a drumbeat of safety scares over commercially produced milk is giving them new leverage. Visitors to Internet forums for new parents are posting comments about the benefits of breast-feeding and the potential hazards with formula.

“The risks of formula feeding are increasingly clear to the Chinese public,” Dr. Robert Scherpbier, chief of health and nutrition for UNICEF China, said in an email this week. His comment came after China’s government ordered a recall of formula imported from New Zealand because of contamination fears.

“How many infant formula crises do we still need to convince mothers and policy makers that breast is best?” Scherpbier said. . .

Some women choose not to breast feed, some who want to can’t. But some good will come out of the WPC contamination scare if more mothers who could, do.

Families Commission sees sense on PPL


National  has got support  from an unexpected quarter for announcing it will veto any extension to Paid Parental Leave.

Families Commissioner Carl Davidson has said the country probably can’t afford it:

Until recently the Families Commission has helped lead the campaign for increased paid parental leave. It argued strongly under its former boss Rajen Prasad – now a Labour MP – for a full year’s paid parental leave and reaffirmed its position in 2010.

But Mr Davidson, appointed that year by Social Development Minister Paula Bennett, told the Weekend Herald that the commission’s 2007 proposal should now be seen as “the gold standard”, which had to change because of the worldwide economic recession.

He said paid parental leave encouraged people to start families, which was socially and economically desirable but had certain limits.

Has anyone seen any research on this? Does PPL really encourage people who wouldn’t otherwise have had children to have them and if so in sufficient numbers to justify the cost?
Does it make a significant difference to parents taking time off work after a birth and to breast feeding rates or would they have done it anyway?
We don’t want to get too carried away of course because that argument could be extended to infinity.

“I mean, wouldn’t it be great if none of us had to go to work and we could just stay at home and raise our kids and get paid for it?

No-one disputes the benefits of time off work to establish and continue breast feeding, to bond, to adjust to the demands of parenting not least of which is too little sleep.
A case for having at least one parent at home for a few weeks, months or even years could be easily made.
But does the public need to pay PPL to enable this?
Even in the best of financial times that’s debatable. It shouldn’t even be considered when we’re running deficits and there will be other more pressing priorities when we get back into surplus.

BHG boobed


Better Homes and Gardens boobed and they’ve apologised for it:

Our sincerest apologies to anyone we may have offended with our recent piece on Yahoo! Shine. At BHG our main focus is on the wants and needs of women and making our content available to them in our magazine, on the web, and beyond. To that end, we have a network of contributors that we work with all the time. Unfortunately a portion of this story was insensitively written and was not properly vetted by the BHG editorial team. This was our mistake and we take full responsibility.

And the offending content? A guide to modern manners for parents, written by Heather W, entitled the 10 commandments of dining with little kids.

It’s now been edited to nine after the uproar about the 10th – that mothers should take their babies to the loo if they want to breast feed.

It’s the 21st century and a woman is telling other women that breastfeeding should be done in the loo. Sigh.

If the mothers in question were dipping their breasts in the sugar bowl before the baby latched on the writer would have something to complain about. (The person who told me about that swore it was true, though I do wonder if it’s an urban myth). But what’s wrong with discrete feeding?

I’ve seen far  more breast falling out of inappropriate clothes than is normally exposed when a baby is fed.

If children – or for that matter people old enough to know better – are being noisy or in any other way obnoxious, it’s difficult to ignore. But anyone offended by breastfeeding can concentrate on their own meal, their companions, or simply look away.

A toast to Tony


Health Minister Tony Ryall has delivered on his election promise of extra funding for maternity services.

The extra $103.5 million over four years is to fund:

* Longer stays for new mothers in birthing facilities

* An optional meeting each trimester for at risk mothers, attended by the pregnant woman, their GP, and their lead maternity carer (usually a midwife)

*Obstetric training or refreshers for GPs wishing to return to maternity care

* Meeting the costs from the increase in the number of births each year, and

* Fully funding the Plunketline 24 hour telephone advice service – as previously announced.

I’m especially pleased about the longer stays in birthing centres because I put this forward when members were invited to Pitch a Policy at National Party regional conferences. I was then asked to put it to the national conference where it was greeted with enthusiasm and passed on to the health policy advisory group.

I explained my reasoning  in a post last year . My major concern was to stop new mothers being sent home before they had established breast feeding.

When I had my children it was normal for mothers who chose to do so to stay in maternity for about five days after an uncomplicated delivery and up to 10 days after a caesarean. The major benefit of this was that there was on the spot assistance if they had difficulty getting their babies to feed.

Stays have got shorter and in recent years. Some mothers have been discharged within a few hours of delivery and most within a day or two, before their milk comes in.

The extra funding should enable many more mothers to stay long enough to establish feeding.

P.S. Good to see the media release making it quite clear the Plunketline funding had already been announced and not pretending this was a new initiative as the previous administration used to.

Nats boost breastfeeding


National has announced its maternity care policy  which includes ensuring mothers have the option of staying in birthing centres longer to establish breastfeeding and be more confident before going home.


I’m delighted with this because it’s really good policy and also because I can claim a wee bit of the credit for it.


Last year National Party members were invited to pitch a policy at regional conferences. I pitched on allowing mothers to stay in birthing centres until breastfeeding was established. It was one of four chosen from all the regions to be presented at the party’s annual conference where it was greeted with enthusiasm.


The health policy committee added it to all the others up for consideration, did the research, costing and other work needed to ensure it was practical and now here it is, one of National’s commitments if we’re in government.


The pitch I put was:


Winston Churchill said: “There is no finer investment for any community than putting milk into babies.” 

He didn’t specify the type, but medical science and grandma’s wisdom agree that breast is best.


The benefits range from providing antibodies which help protect the baby to reducing the risk of some cancers in women.


But breastfeeding rates in New Zealand are just 68% at six weeks and plummet to 19% at six months for Pakeha, 17-18% for Pacific women and only 13-14% for Maori.

Read the rest of this entry »

Scandal behind milk scandal


Behind the melamine poisoned milk scandal in China is another one – the economic and commercial pressure on women to use infant formula rather than breast feeding their babies themselves.

Country women go to cities for work, leaving their babies back home with their families, and advertising persuades mothers that baby formula is better than breast milk.

You can read the sorry saga here.

No companies advertise infant forumla in New Zealand. No New Zealand company should be involved in a company which advertises it elsewhere.

Was Sanlu advertising infant formula?


Heinz was prevented from advertising a change in its baby formula  which made some babies ill in New Zealand because of a code banning the advertsing of alternatives to breast milk.

But in China, where four babies have died and thousands are ill because of drinking infant formula poisoned by melamine, the Sunday Star Times (not on line) reports:

… breast feeding has gone out of fashion.

Most mothers return to work soon after giving birth. Few work places provide a private location for expressing breast milk. even mothers who do breastfeed often give formula as a supplement in the mistaken belief that their breast milk is not enough.

World Health Organisation guidelines which discourage advertisements for breast milk substitutes are generally strictly adhered to in developed countries. But are they everywhere?

There are many concerns over the way Fonterra has handled the problem of Sanlu, in which it has a 43% share, using contaminated milk in the production of infant formula. This report suggests we have reason to ask if the company breached WHO advertising standards too:

“. . .  and its advertising was famous for boasting that its formula underwent ‘1100 tests, safeguards the health care of babies and is trusted by mothers everywhere’.”

No company Fonterra is involved in would advertise breast milk substitutes in New Zealand. It should not allow any company it is involved with to do anything to get in the way of the message that breast milk is best for babies anywhere else either.

Mothering not always natural


Deborah Coddington  is right to be concerned about the lack of care new mothers and their babies are getting from our health system.

Current policy concerning mothers and babies is to get them out of the hospital as soon as possible, regardless of how they are coping.

I blame the feminists who, in declaring quite rightly most deliveries are straightforward and mothers are not ill, went overboard in their quest for minimising hospital care (especially if male obstetricians or general practitioners were in charge of the birth) and made mothers feel pressured to get off the delivery trolley, pick up their blinking newborns and sail home pretending they could cope.

When our children were born 23, 21 and 19 years ago it was usual for women to have 5 days in hospital following a normal delivery and up to 10 days after a caesarean.

Now Ministry of Health policy stipulates that the Lead Maternity Carer will determine when mother and baby are clinically ready to be discharged; and that this is usually within 48 hours of the birth at least a day before breast milk comes in.


The Ministry’s list of reasons for delaying discharge includes feeding problems, so in theory mothers and their babies are able to stay until breast feeding is properly established. But this isn’t what happens in practice: women are often discharged within hours of birth and some maternity centres even offer incentives such as free napkins to encourage early discharge.


 Some women are happy to get home as soon as possible after delivery and of course should be free to do so; others may be unable, or choose not to breast feed. But many wish to feed their babies themselves and some of these need the immediate assistance which is available 24 hours a day in maternity centres to do so.


Without that help there is an increased risk babies will fail to thrive and mothers will develop mastitis or opt for bottle feeding in desperation.


I haven’t found any research into the link between feeding problems and our appalling record for violence; but an unhappy baby and the unexpected expense of formula will put strain on a family.


A birth blip has put pressure on maternity services and even without that it isn’t sensible to tie up tertiary and secondary hospital beds with well women. It may be better to establish mother care units but however it is done we need facilities that ensure 24-hour, on the spot assistance and advice is available from lactation specialists until breast feeding is established.

Please Give blood – I can’t


A friend encouraged me to become a blood donor when I was at high school and I continued more or less regularly for several years.

The day our daughter was born, a donation from someone else saved both our lives. The nurse who was setting up the transfusion mentioned AIDS then said – but don’t worry we only give blood from women to pregnant mothers. Ah yes, that seems most peculiar now but this was 1985 before blood was routinely screened.

Anyway, whoever gave the blood, it was fortuantely free from any infection because once I stopped breast feeding I became a donor again in between subsequent preganancies and feeding.

That all stopped several years ago though when anyone who had been in Britain for more than 6 months in the 1980s was precluded from being a donor for fear of transmitting Mad Cow Disease.

I don’t remember eating beef when I was in Briatin – we lived on tinned tomatoes becasue they were cheap – but regardless of that I can’t be a donor anymore.

Tomorrow is Blood Donor Day – I hope those who can will give because,  as the advertisement says the life you save might be your own.

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