MN WEBCHAT GUIDELINES 1. One question per member plus a follow-up question if appropriate, ie once you've had a response. 2. Keep your question brief 3. Don't be disappointed if your specific question doesn't get answered and do try not to keep posting "What about me?". 4. Do be civil/polite. See guidelines in full here.

Live webchat with Gabrielle Palmer, author of The Politics of Breastfeeding, this Friday (20 Nov, 1-2pm)

(179 Posts)
HelenMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 16-Nov-09 22:07:07


We're very pleased to have Gabrielle Palmer, author of the highly praised The Politics of Breastfeeding, as a guest for a live chat on Friday 20 Nov, 1-2pm.

Gabrielle Palmer is a nutritionist and a campaigner. She was a breastfeeding counsellor in the 70s and helped establish the UK pressure group Baby Milk Action. She has written, taught and campaigned on infant feeding issues, particularly the unethical marketing of baby foods.

In the 90s, she co-directed the International Breastfeeding: Practice and Policy course at The Institute of Child Health in London until she went to live in China for two years.

She has worked independently for various health and development agencies, including serving as HIV and Infant Feeding Officer for UNICEF New York.

As usual, if you can't join us on the day, please post your question here and Gabrielle will try to answer as many as possible on Friday.

moondog Mon 16-Nov-09 22:12:35

Why is this not a sticky?

AitchTwoToTangOh Mon 16-Nov-09 23:09:09





wuglet Mon 16-Nov-09 23:14:04

Just wanted to gush say how pleased I am. Will try and think of an intelligent question by Friday.

ditto wuglet, i can't think of a single good question now

actually i can think of one

many people in the developed world feel that the risks of formula feeding are something that apply only to the third world.
Can you tell us more about the risks of formula to children in the developed world (specifically the uk) and if possible do you have references to studies which back this up?

wuglet Mon 16-Nov-09 23:22:09

Oooh I thought of one.
Do you think social marketing has a role to play in encouraging BF in this country and where do you think it would be best aimed?

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 16-Nov-09 23:23:13

We'll sticky this right away - seeing as Moondog asked so nicely wink.

moondog Mon 16-Nov-09 23:26:08

Can you not excuse my indignation being that every flogging opportunity by dullards is up there straight away as is inane guff such as
'Give us you feedback on the reversible umbrella/Bugaboo/Kenco caftiere and win £4 in Primark vouchers!!'

You've restored me faith in intrinsic quality of MN, believe you me.

JustineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 16-Nov-09 23:28:57

Well yes Moondog but if you want the Gordons and the Gabrielles (not saying you do want Gordon) then you've got to have a few reversible umbrellas. Tis the way of the world. But very glad to have restored your faith smile.

moondog Mon 16-Nov-09 23:32:31

I thought you having Gordon was fantastic I really did and it demonstrates how seriously this site is taken by the mandarins.

Not so keen on some of the others, tis true but I am a churlish sort in general.


AbricotsSecs Mon 16-Nov-09 23:43:11

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AbricotsSecs Mon 16-Nov-09 23:45:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MarsLady Tue 17-Nov-09 00:46:42

Hi Gabrielle. I really enjoyed your book, the title of which caused great hilarity within my bookgroup. Sadly I couldn't persuade them to read it but I did manage to precis it for them grin

Now I was interested to know if the situation in Brazil has reverted back to allowing advertising? I note that in your afterword you say that after President 'Lula' introduced his Zero Hunger campaign that Nestle were very quick to invest money in the 'breastmilk centre' and provide the 1.5m units of 'special milks' hmm Don't even get me started on the chapter about Guatemala angry

don't think i can make it but book arrived yesterday and i hope to re-read and think of a question

AbricotsSecs Tue 17-Nov-09 10:54:05

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

policywonk Tue 17-Nov-09 11:52:56

Gabrielle, is there one, discrete action you'd like to see the UK government undertake to improve breastfeeding rates here? What do you think of the Department of Health's current efforts to improve breastfeeding initiation and retention rates?

MrsMotMot Tue 17-Nov-09 13:02:38

Excellent question thisisyesterday, it enfuriates me that people think bf and ff are pretty much equal in 'developed' countries. And it depresses me too!

Will try and think of a question for Gabrielle, am star struck delighted she's coming.

Gabrielle, I'm thrilled to virtually meet you.
I'd like to know what you think the NHS's priorities should be with regard to breastfeeding? Should they be concentrating on upping initiation rates or supporting women so they don't stop feeding before they'd choose to? And how?

fruitshootsandheaves Tue 17-Nov-09 13:32:23

The title makes me think that I am maybe influencing my childs political future depending on whether I feed more from the left or right breast .

foxytocin Tue 17-Nov-09 13:39:14

I don't know if I will phrase this one properly but here goes.

I wonder how you think your book and some of its themes relate to the topics of Land Tenure Rights, Land Management (in the Developing World) and Food Security. How also do its the ideas relate to the developed world in the topics of food security and Food Policy.

I kept thinking of the book 'Fast Food Nation' when I was reading TPOB. That book should be a must read for all A-Level students, tied with yours of course.

I was very pleased to meet and talk to you at the ABM Conference this year. You may remember me as they one with the 8 month old in a wrap sling. I asked you a question about breastfeeding and Cuba.

Thanks for coming on Mumsnet.

JackBauer Tue 17-Nov-09 13:52:15

No intelligent questions but think it's fantastic you have her coming on. Welcome to MN Gabrielle!

AbricotsSecs Tue 17-Nov-09 14:47:57

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

pooter Tue 17-Nov-09 15:07:31

thisisyesterday i periodically link to this study (then get flamed grin)here "Breastfeeding and Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes in Developed Countries" produced by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, US Department for Health.

(also star struck thinking about "meeting" GP!!)

My main question is how do i stop myself getting too angry and upset when reading your book so i can finally finish it?

LeninGrotto Tue 17-Nov-09 16:48:04

Hello, can you point me at any info on natural term (extended) breastfeeding that shows typical weaning ages across different cultures (at a glance if possible) please.

Also, I read about a case in the US of a woman being prosecuted for committing a lewd act for bfing her child who was over one I think. Is this an urban myth or a frightening reality? If the latter, what can we do to promote the benefits and normalcy of permitting children to self-wean in the developed world?

See, this is why I should have prioritised getting the book, I kept putting it off! [headdesk]

Will still be here on Friday! smile

pistachio Tue 17-Nov-09 19:10:15

Gabrielle, I would like to know where we can draw the line between informing women (particularly antenatally) about the risks of FF, and minimising the guilt and sadness they will feel if BF fails. I ask this because I very much believe in informed choice and not patronising women by telling them it doesn’t really matter, yet obviously I don’t want to cause unnecessary upset further down the line.

In order to increase BF rates in our society do we have to accept that a few generations of women will need to be exposed to the facts yet not have enough support in place to facilitate higher success rates, or is this too high a price to pay? It would seem that the formula companies have done very well out of this ‘avoiding inducing guilt’ when it comes to disguising the truth about their products.

I suppose I am asking this from a ‘what to say to pregnant friends’ perspective as well as a more professional, HCP point of view. Thank you.

you bet i am hoochie!!!! but sadly that's not the first one that has gone down that route.

thank you for the link pooter, no time to read it through now but the title sounds promising :-D
(though i suspect some people just can never be told)

BrigitteBardot Tue 17-Nov-09 20:35:28

I loved the book. Thank you. Trying to think of a good question.

popsycal Tue 17-Nov-09 20:59:08

I have not read your book - but have fed ds2 til a few weeks shy of his 3rd birthday and am still feeding ds3 (14 months)

My question is:

What is your opinion of the new cow and gate (I think blush) TV camnpaign ie 'Do I look like my tummy is suffering' (disclaimer - this is not exact fromadvert) - essentially referring in reversal to benefits quoted for breast feeding

sorry if that is not clear - am feeding ds3

popsycal Tue 17-Nov-09 21:03:03
popsycal Tue 17-Nov-09 21:04:15

Beveridge Tue 17-Nov-09 21:51:30

What a fabulous book - I can only dream of ever writing something as well-informed, passionate and important as TPOB. Very excited about Friday!

Message withdrawn

nigglewiggle Tue 17-Nov-09 22:33:30

As a determined breastfeeder who was diagnosed with a DVT just after delivery of my second child and was then advised to stop Bfeeding, I know that medical professionals "err on the side of caution" with regard to advice regarding medication and BFing. Two GP's on here were brave enough to admit that they have no training in BFing and the general view is - if in doubt, tell them to stop.

My question is, why do medical professionals take such a glib view of breast feeding when all the medical evidence clearly demonstrates how important it is for mother and baby and secondly, what can be done to change this?

hunkermunker Tue 17-Nov-09 22:38:33

I am, as you might imagine, delighted that Gabrielle is coming on for a webchat grin

I am trying to think of just ONE question though...!

Jacksmama Tue 17-Nov-09 22:49:35

Ditto - will have trouble limiting myself to just one question!

TheCrackFox Tue 17-Nov-09 22:54:08

Gabrielle, have you seen the Scottish adverts promoting breastfeeding? They are excellent.

LeninGrotto Tue 17-Nov-09 23:01:09

Are they online CrackFox?

BoobBuffet Wed 18-Nov-09 00:00:32

[starstruck emoticon]
Thought the book was inspiring - should definately be set text in schools! With that in mind....
I firmly believe that current antenatal bf promotion is too late, by that time, I feel that women's opinions regarding infant feeding are ingrained and almost impossible to change.

What do you think are the chances of bf being part of health and social education in schools, do policy-makers have a real understanding of the importance of bf for the health of the nation?

LoveBeingAMummy Wed 18-Nov-09 07:36:11


Mine is a simple question without a simple answer, How do we change the mindset of people (not just women) to understand/remember that breast milk is the most suitable as it is specically designed by nature to be so? There are so many people that just don't get that a processed milk from another animal will never be as good for a baby as the one its mother makes.

RibenaBerry Wed 18-Nov-09 09:33:14

Hi Gabrielle,

Wow, I'm quite star struck! It was reading your book and Mumsnet that educated me that you didn't necessarily just stop breastfeeding at six months.

I'd like to ask a question about language. I understand your argument that use of the word 'formula' gives a scientific weight to commercial infant milks that seems inappropriate. However, use of the phrase 'artificial milk' is likely to be seen as inflammatory in everyday life, since our culture would associate artifical as bad and (understandably) no-one who ff likes to be told that they are feeding their baby 'bad milk'. How do you reconcile this use of language when in an every (rather than professional) setting, and how do you personally refer to ff when in a social setting?

I'd like to discuss stuff without cluttering up this thread - anyone interested? Thread here

pistachio Wed 18-Nov-09 13:30:45

crackfox- i can't find an official link but here's one of the Scottish posters- they're all alomg the same lines, what various family members can do with the baby to help the mum get a break. I like them a lot, seems like a positive message to me.

BF advert

pistachio Wed 18-Nov-09 13:32:11

sorry that was for leningrotto not crackfox...

LeninGrotto Wed 18-Nov-09 14:19:01

Thanks pistachio.

ArizonaBarker Wed 18-Nov-09 16:29:46

Hi GP,

This is a bit of a simplistic question but how can we ensure support is in place across the board for all women who want to bf?

I wasn't able to bf, but feel very lucky to have had masses of support from family and local health professionals. This made a huge difference emotionally as I didn't feel I had 'failed'.


AbricotsSecs Wed 18-Nov-09 16:35:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

dawntigga Wed 18-Nov-09 20:03:08

Hi GP,

I too am star struck - in a way Henry Winkler has only ever achieved on here I of course am so not worthy but here goes:

Having read your book and got political - don't mentiont the letter writing I've done after ds has gone to sleep. How do you think we can educate the future mothers of this world to understand the value of breastfeeding and therefore increase the uptake?


popsycal Wed 18-Nov-09 20:57:25

I have already posted a question....but wanted to comebackto the early education at school about breast feeding being important to boys as well as girls. I feel in some way more important to normalise with boys. I am so glad that ds1 and ds2 areoldenough to retain memories of me feeding ds3

hanaflower Wed 18-Nov-09 22:23:27

I am soo excited about this. Have a few questions so will think and narrow it down. Then I will rush back from the breastfeeding cafe to take part!

AbricotsSecs Wed 18-Nov-09 22:34:45

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

In your opinion, is boycotting Nestle an effective method to register one's disgust at their advertising tactics in the developing world?

What can individuals/groups do?

Also, what is the single thing that could be done to 'normalize' breastfeeding? Am thinking every breastfeeding woman to post a photo of themselves breastfeeding on Facebook at the same time (as they have a policy...)

Hi Gabrielle,

I was wondering if you had any family members who have/had small children, whether they found it difficult to breastfeed and what practical support you were able to offer them particularly over the first few weeks of the baby's life. Does a theoretical understanding of the benefits of bf translate to being able to identify good practice in person?

GabriellePalmer Thu 19-Nov-09 18:58:45


foxytocin Thu 19-Nov-09 19:02:46

see, I knew she'd prepare unlike some other webchatter we have recently had. alledgedly, of course.

fawns waves ^^ at Gabrielle.

Message withdrawn

dawntigga Thu 19-Nov-09 21:11:40

Starlight what a fab idea - I'd vote for her


vezzie Thu 19-Nov-09 21:35:13

Firstly, I love The Politics of Breastfeeding and have given it to many people.

My question is: given that one of the very inspiring qualities of the book is its analytical robustness and integrity, borne of its cognitive independence of capitalist assumptions and values, I am curious as to your political affiliations as a voter. I am at a loss as to what part I can play in the democratic process to support policies that are directed towards the good life for the subjects of this country and the citizens of the world, as opposed to blinkered, business-led profit chasing and misguided (ultimately surely catastrophic) attempts at infinite economic expansion. What is your take on this question?

hunkermunker Thu 19-Nov-09 21:47:35

OK, I've thought of my question.

Gabrielle, whilst the breastfeeding charities do a lot of wonderful work, do you think that it being left largely to "charity" makes breastfeeding something that's less valuable in our capitalist society (that, and the fact that breastmilk is free!)?

(There's so much more I could write on this, but i am trying to be brief!)

Message withdrawn

Tambajam Thu 19-Nov-09 21:55:08

Gabrielle - I was also at the ABM conference last Summer and appreciated hearing you speak. Your book is so important and valuable.

There were so many things in your book that had my jaw-dropping. I remember the reference to formula companies offering to pay for architectural consultants when new US hospitals were being designed and ensuring the hospital design made breastfeeding as difficult as possible to establish. Bleurgh.

I think sometimes it's easy for us in the UK to feel slightly smug about the fact that at least we've signed up to the code and feel sorry for all the American mums being inundated by formula samples etc.

I just wondered what you consider particularly insidious practice happening in this country. What commercial practices are particularly undermining breastfeeding in the UK right now?

Message withdrawn

hanaflower Thu 19-Nov-09 23:18:12

OK. My question, relating to UK policy.

Should we be concentrating more on supporting mothers who want to breastfeed to do so after 6 weeks / 6 months etc, rather than trying to promote initiation for all babies?

As a sub-point, so many of my (middle class, middle income, early thirties) friends breastfed until exactly 6 months and then switched to formula.

My thinking is that if these people could be encouraged to carry on, and to feed in public, that would go a long way towards normalising breastfeeding, and that would lead to more people initiating and seeking support when they needed it.

hunkermunker Thu 19-Nov-09 23:26:41

Starlight, I could FILL this thread, as you know grin

Gabrielle, won't you consider making a TV documentary along the theme of the book?

I feel that your readership must be primarily passionate breastfeeders, so a self-selecting bunch who almost certainly have a good understanding of the differences between formula and breastfeeding already. I may be wrong, but I suspect that parents who have formula fed or who are equivocal about infant feeding probably avoid books with titles such as yours! Since in the UK the large majority of parents formula feed, including policy-makers, healthcare professionals, media luvvies, journalists and representatives in all walks of life, the facts about formula and the dubious way it is manufactured, marketed and viewed are unlikely to ever hit their radar. And so the ignorance continues.

There seem to be several programmes around at the moment along the lines of "how our food is made and processed". Surely it's time for an exposé of the formula industry - positioned in that way, rather than a "politics of breastfeeding" angle which the majority public will avoid or dismiss as niche.

Shanster Fri 20-Nov-09 00:59:58

As the mother of a 10 month old baby who has never had formula, I was confused by your stance on working mothers; one the one hand, you think it should be ok for us to be in the boardroom feeding our babies, on the other you seem to suggest that our babies suffer if we are not at home with them as primary caregivers. I think you are missing the point; I cannot do my job if I am looking after my baby at the same time. My baby needs constant attention, as does my work (I'm a project manager leading a large team). To think I could lead a team meeting while feeding my baby is ridiculous.
I returned to work at 12 weeks (I do live in the US) and have expressed milk for my baby ever since. As it is not realistic for women to stay at home for years with infants (most of us don't have that economic luxury), what is your stance on working mothers and breastfeeding?

dawntigga Fri 20-Nov-09 07:36:06

verylittlecarrot Along the lines of this in the USA? I really want to see that film and GP doing a film like that here would be fabulous!


FimbleHobbs Fri 20-Nov-09 09:47:20

Gabrielle, welcome to Mumsnet and thankyou for doing this webchat.

I read your book a few years ago during expressing breaks at work. It was really interesting and one of the reasons I breastfed as long as I did.

My question: I boycott Nestle (as do my 3 & 4 year olds, they can spot 'Mr Nestles logo' at 100 paces now!) because I think it is the morally correct thing to do but do you think it makes any difference to the company?

foxytocin Fri 20-Nov-09 10:20:15

Shanster Well done for expressing for so long. I know where you are in some ways. I expressed from 20 wks to 18 months for my daughter who did not start solids till she was 13 months old. All I can say is that it is a vocation. A work colleague (male church deacon) opened my eyes to viewing it that way and it really helped me put what I was doing into perspective.

I won't try to answer on GPs behalf but I was wondering if you have seen this article in the New Yorker. I think it will through some lateral light on some of the questions you have.

ButterflyEmma Fri 20-Nov-09 10:22:58


I attended your talk at the NCT conference this year and since then have your book here ready to read.

I've realized though that I am putting off reading it (not normal for me and books) and I think its because I'm worried that I'll just feel helpless in the face of all the corporate & political stuff. sad

So my question is "What can we as individuals actually DO that would be effective in brining about change?"

At the moment I am concentrating my energy and passion for breastfeeding towards helping individual mothers smile and I am concerned that if I try battling against the system angry I'll use up this energy and be less effective.

(I already boycott Nestle but don't feel this really changes anything hmm - I would just rather not give them my money)

Message withdrawn

Message withdrawn

Message withdrawn

theyoungvisiter Fri 20-Nov-09 11:28:35

I have no questions but just wanted to say hello - can't WAIT to read this discussion smile

Confusedfirsttimemum Fri 20-Nov-09 11:46:11

Hi Gabrielle,

I would like to ask for your views on handling social situations where a mum tells you that they could not breastfeed for X, Y, Z reason - normally something like the baby not latching properly.

I am very, very sympathetic to those women who want to breastfeed but struggle and don't want to make them feel bad about their experience. However, at the same time I feel that simply nodding and agreeing often gives the message that these problems cannot be resolved with proper support (I obviously realise that some women would have seroius difficulties even with this support, but it would be a lot, lot lower). I feel that the 'smile and nod' approach is perhaps unhelpful to breastfeeding rates and perception in society as a whole.

Any view/tips?

OmicronPersei8 Fri 20-Nov-09 11:48:31

Hello Gabrielle, so great to have you on MN. I haven't (yet) read your book but have had much of it related to me via MN!

Yesterday David Cameron, in answer to Tambajam's question, stated that
'breast feeding can make a real difference to childrens' long term health but too many mums do not get the support they need in the early days. We will introduce universal support from Sure Start health visitors to help give mums the encouragement and practical support they need, which is particularly critical when new parents don't have other members of their family close by for help.'

My question: What do you think about the idea that health visitors should be responsible for encouraging and promoting breastfeeding? Is it viable?

AbricotsSecs Fri 20-Nov-09 12:27:35

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 20-Nov-09 12:36:24

Hello, we're very pleased to have Gabrielle here at the Towers.

She's done some very detailed replies to some of your advance questions, so we'll post these up now, to give everyone time to read them, and then we'll start at 1pm (just grabbing a sandwich and a cuppa).

AbricotsSecs Fri 20-Nov-09 12:41:10

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 20-Nov-09 12:42:21

Here are Gabrielle's answers:

Hi Shanster Good to hear from US mum. I have lived in US and thought it was a difficult place to be a mother, especially if you’re poor. There are no right answers. All mothers have to care for their babies in the best way they can in a wide variety of circumstances. Of course I am not against expressing or working if that is what is essential to survive . All mothers have worked since the dawn of time. It is a mark of our times that we only call money-earning activities working. If you knew how little money I earn you would call me unemployed, but I never stop doing what I do.
All I know is that many mothers in the world find economic survival, social expectations and happy mothering, conflicting. The baby needs to be cared for by one or two sensitive people who love him/her and with whom he/she can form a long term relationship. All psychologists agree on that. The big question is not the style of babycare but the quality. Will the mother substitute be in touch with that baby forever? Does he or she love the baby as much as you do? These questions drive mothers crazy with pain and they are really important. In Scandinavia (and some othre countries) there has been a consensus that for general well-being (economic, social, emotional, health) that usually the mother is the best and most willing person to care for her baby so this is supported with generous maternity leave and benefits. . Despite the fact that fathers have always had the right to use this, most families feel the baby needs her mother more in the early months. Alll women have worked since the dawn of time, usually more than men. It is modern society that made breastfeeding and work incompatible. But it all depends on the individual baby’s needs. The majority of women in the world work in the informal sector and dare not claim their rights, their babies die if they are not breastfed. We have to tackle this.

With early factories where there were no facilities to eat, pee or wash,, eventually rules came in about hygiene and food breaks because the sickness and eath was counter-productive. But it took protest and organization to achieve this. So too with breastfeeding, it is a public health issue. We have to decide as a society whether support for mothers is less important for long term health and well being than to make more money ……for whom? . I believe society would get economically wealthier if mothers were supported to breastfeed. By the way I have learned a lot from life in societies where women breastfeed and work without it being a hugely complex conflict. Women work far harder (I mean grueling days in the fields, hours of grain pounding, trading and carrying huge loads on their heads) than those of us in richer countries and they breastfeed. I am not romanticizing their lives, but we could learn a lot from the way women have worked things out over the millennia. The big question is who is looking after the baby and are her needs being met? First year of life is most crucial for all development.
But hey there is no one right way in our messy world, parenting is a series of compromises. We all do our best.

Gabrielle, whilst the breastfeeding charities do a lot of wonderful work, do you think that it being left largely to "charity" makes breastfeeding something that's less valuable in our capitalist society (that, and the fact that breastmilk is free!)?

Dear Hunkermunker, yes, yes, yes, you have hot the nail on the head (or located the nipple on the breast). That is exactly what I have been struggling to say in the new edition of POB, especially in the last two chapters. The cliché is that the best things in life are free. The reality is we destroy the best things, which is why the world is in such a pickle.

Should we be concentrating more on supporting mothers who want to breastfeed to do so after 6 weeks / 6 months etc, rather than trying to promote initiation for all babies?

As a sub-point, so many of my (middle class, middle income, early thirties) friends breastfed until exactly 6 months and then switched to formula.

My thinking is that if these people could be encouraged to carry on, and to feed in public, that would go a long way towards normalising breastfeeding, and that would lead to more people initiating and seeking support when they needed it.

Hi hannaflower, if you don’t initiate bf you don’t have much choice about how long you breastfeed for . And do you know why they stop at exactly six months? Because the advertising tells them to. How would the companies make their profits if they did not promote the ridiculous and unnecessary FOFs? Which of course indirectly promote all FF which is why they were invented.. The Gov can look good at World Health Assemblies if UK initiation figures are higher and they can please the companies at the same time if artifiical milk sales rise as well. We are all so generous, we support the milk manufcaturers through tax subsidies so they can afford to promote and sell the milk….and then we give them more money by stopping breastfeeding as soon a possible. In that way our babies become the wet-nappied philanthropists and the companies share values can continue to rise. Ijust heard the other day (from UNICEF person) that infant formulas and FOFs have an 80% profit margin. Aren’t we mums kind witholding our breastmilk so that Nestle and Danone can get richer. It’s our oxytocin which makes us so generous and trusting

I was wondering if you had any family members who have/had small children, whether they found it difficult to breastfeed and what practical support you were able to offer them particularly over the first few weeks of the baby's life. Does a theoretical understanding of the benefits of bf translate to being able to identify good practice in person?

Hallo Rorysracingma, Yes of course, I’m related to human beings. First few weeks difficult when mum and baby do not live in a breastfeeding culture. Most important is someone to give lots of love and encouragement with a lot of …’you can do it’. Families, partners, health professionals can make or break confidence. If you have that you can work a lot of …’how to do it’ . Theoretical understanding is useless without this and probably in our society a bit of help from someone who knows how. Basic practicalities are simply knowing that a baby is well-attached, no time restriction (throw away that watch, don’t count feeds….I know some health professionals will be having nervous breakdowns just reading that) and DON’T PUT UP WITH PAIN. If it hurts get help. It is supposed to be fun. Look at the way cats purr when their kittens suckle. I am no longer a breastfeeding counsellor so really I have no right to say these things. There are lots of wonderful counsellors and support groups around so ask for help. Every mum and baby is different and you can work out what is right for you. But the main thing is confidence. It’s a bit like sex, the first few times might not be so glorious for some but they soon improve techniques if they feel comfortable with one another, for others it’s fantastic from the start. BUT if it hurts and neither of you are happy get help QUICK.

In the UK people expects problems and by god don’t they get them. How do you think all those hunter gatherers did it before books and pamphlets and cushions? No surprise because still lots of medical and social practices make it go wrong. And they still don’t train the poor old health professionals properly too much theory and not enough observation and experience in the medical, nursing and midwifery schools. It’s getting better but still long way to go. I heard that most HVs get no bf training. Most important thing is not to do harm. And as for the mother and baby mags….aaah! There is nothing like seeing 20 pictures of bottles and milks and dummies to make you give up. Take way all the constraints and breastfeeding would be the norm for all in a generation. Serious problems (not caused by misinformation and bad hospital practices) are rare and even then they can still be helped if mums can access help quickly. The best way to destroy happy breastfeeding is to destroy women’s self confidence. People and marketing do that all the time.

In your opinion, is boycotting Nestle an effective method to register one's disgust at their advertising tactics in the developing world?

What can individuals/groups do?
Also, what is the single thing that could be done to 'normalize' breastfeeding? Am thinking every breastfeeding woman to post a photo of themselves breastfeeding on Facebook at the same time (as they have a policy...)

Hi ilovemydog Without the original 1970s Nestle Boycott none of us would be doing what we’re doing now. I read The Baby Killer in 1974 and never looked back. I didn’t even know that breast was healthier then, though I had breastfed two children. The NB was what made the world sit up and see the illness and death that advertising caused. It provoked the US Government to hold an Inquiry (led by the late Edward Kennedy) which resulted in the idea of the WHO/UNICEF International Code of Marketing. This led to the regulations (even if they are still too weak) that we have today. Without the NB thousands more babies would have died. Indeed the boycott played a significant role in the return of breastfeeding in the rich countries. All the research and interest might never have happened.

Nestle is still the biggest baby food company in the world (Danone is next). It is also the biggest dairy company. What is more we subsidise it through our taxes.. EU subsidies have gone to Nestle even though the parent company is Swiss and not in the EU.

Boycotting is a very polite and civilized way of communicating your disgust and as the late Senator Edward Kennedy said: “a recognized tool in a free economic, democratic society”

I don’t think I should tell individual groups what to do. It is your creativity and fresh ideas which will change the world. Just avoid petty quarrels (people who care a lot tend to bicker) and remember personal energy and creativity is more important than funds. One more thing no martyrs, don’t stay up all night writing and snap at your loved ones the next day. There speaks the remorseful voice of experience.

As to normalizing breastfeeding, you are already achieving this. JUST DO IT. You have already done so much When I had my children in the early 1970s, no one breastfed in public and some friends were horrified when I breastfed in my own living room! Women were arrested and asked to leave restaurants, meeting rooms and even paediatric wards (truly!). Things are getting better.
If you don’t feel shy or subject to harassment do breastfeed in public, it educates the young as to how it is done. When I was a child in the 1950s eating in the street was taboo, no one objects now if someone strolls down the road or sits on the bus eating . We are used to it. Same with breasts and babies, they’ll get used to it. It’s happening now. Too slow but right direction.
Facebook idea intrigues me because maybe posting a photo of breastfeeding makes it look special and not ordinary. Do people post photos of themselves eating a sandwich? Probably. You can tell what an old fogey I am that I don’t know!
I would want the photos to be very much set in everyday life, ie Mum breastfeeding while she’s on the phone, shopping, walking along, not the usual ones of sitting in her nightie with a cushion on her lap in a hospital bed. There are loads of lovely pics of breastfeeding as an everyday event on the net and in various great calendars. I am not advertising one because I think all the groups promoting breastfeeding are great.

By the way The European Blueprint for Action (it’s on the net which is supposed to be our government’s policy says that ‘ALL MEDIA’ should present six months exclusive breastfeeding and continued breastfeeding with other foods to two years and beyond, as the norm. Huh!


Don't want to hijack here but thisisyesterday this systematic review by Akobeng (2007) of a large population in England and Wales estimated that approx 33,100 cases of asthma, 2655 cases of celiac disease and 13,639 cases of obesity could be prevented in one year if the risk factor “no breastfeeding” was eliminated.

...Can you tell I went away after that thread and read up at tiny bit?!

Ah HoochieMomma thank you, this is why I can retire because of bright young brains like yours. Be careful or you’ll end up like me and it will take over your life! I now have a short time to do all the other things I meant to do when I was 20! One other point though, I have noticed that most people never let the facts get in the way of believing what they want to believe, or do. Governments will utter pious statements about breastfeeding forever but it will take a bigger revolution to stop putting milk company profits first. They love rich men more than milky women. And who does most harm to the environment?

have already posted a question....but wanted to comebackto the early education at school about breast feeding being important to boys as well as girls. I feel in some way more important to normalise with boys. I am so glad that ds1 and ds2 areoldenough to retain memories of me feeding ds3

Hallo popsycal Brilliant , you are thinking my thoughts. Lots of places in the world where men make all the important decisions. Agencies go blue in the face telling women what to do with their kids but back home Dad’s (or Uncle’s or Grandad’s word is law.
Also why shouldn’t boys learn about this fascinating phenomonon. But just a minute don’t tell me that when they do teach it schools (biology lessons?) they exclude the lads? Surely that is against sex discrimination law?
I hope your lovely little ones are spreading the word. They are lucky to have you as their mum. My dad (died in 1990) could recall breastfeeding and he was very ‘pro’.
I was recently travelling with my daughter and grandsons, Tom aged just 4 years and Harry 6 months. We stopped at a petrol station and my daughter breastfed Harry. Tom somehow persuaded me to buy him a lurid orange drink (shame) and my daughter wanted a diet coke (horror of horrors). I bought a newspaper and had a sip of water. My grandson said gleefully “I had an unhealthy drink and mummy had an unhealthy drink, Granny had the Guardian and Harry had the healthiest drink.” One little boy knows it all already.
[Names changed to protect the innocent.]

Hi Dawntigga you’re doing it already, rejoice. But it is no good if we let those industry xxxxxxx (expletive of your choice) carry on with their billion dollar oh so clever marketing campaigns. If we don’t stop them doing this, all our good work is undone. Just stop the misinformation.

Hi Arizona Barker I love it that you’re telling us your tale. Thank you. I know several women who did not breastfeed and are activists and don’t writhe forever about the fact they didn’t breastfeed. I’m so cheered to hear you got such good support. You can do so much good for this whole issue just by being you.

Yes it is a bit simplistic, why aren’t we all nice to each other. You cannot just rely on ‘a system’. Maybe the human impulse to compete and undermine is stronger than the good feelings. Also women are still second class citizens in this respect. Cannot answer as a whole but I do think health professionals don’t get enough ‘debriefing’ about their own miseries and not enough emotional support in their daily work. Many don’t have the emotional energy or skills to give what you experienced. If it all went wrong for them they often have a lot of suppressed ‘stuff’.
By the way my sister didn’t breastfeed her first child (it all went wrong for all the usual reasons) and swore she would never to feed ever again. She was angry. Then with the next one she got the right help at the right time (not from me) and it all went well ….and she went on to have another and she really knew what to do. She really knows how to help other women now.

I'd like to ask a question about language. I understand your argument that use of the word 'formula' gives a scientific weight to commercial infant milks that seems inappropriate. However, use of the phrase 'artificial milk' is likely to be seen as inflammatory in everyday life, since our culture would associate artifical as bad and (understandably) no-one who ff likes to be told that they are feeding their baby 'bad milk'. How do you reconcile this use of language when in an every (rather than professional) setting, and how do you personally refer to ff when in a social setting?

Hi RibenaBerry and Pistachio I think this responds to your question too. Interesting question because language affects how we feel (as the advertisers know). ‘Artificial Feeding’ was the term used in all the medical and baby books throughout much of the 20th century. I think its good to use the accurate, correct term if it is true. Artificial feeding is good if there is nothing else. After all if I had my leg cut off I would want an artificial leg. I wouldn’t mind if a deaf aid were called an artificial ear. People have artificial hips and knees and rejoice in them. I suppose we could call it ‘prosthetic feeding’ or ‘synthetic feeding’. To me it is just calling a spade a spade (or an artificial digging tool). If the term upsets then why not call it breastfeeding…how does that make you feel…bad I expect because it is not true. The plain truth is easier. What would you like to call it?
By the way I have artificially fed babies (orphans in an orphanage with no wet nurses).

By the way I met a young single mother in Canada who told me ‘I so wish they had called it artificial feeding when I had my baby. If they had called it that I would certainly have breastfed.’ She lived in Newfoundland with a ‘bottle feeding culture’ and her baby had lots of chest infections. No one had told her that breastfeeding could prevent these.
I think tone is important. You know the lovely way non-judgmental health workers are with drug users. Actually most of the women I know who have not breastfed or those who decide not to do not feel guilty. I think it is the health professionals and companies that whip up the concept. When we talk about overweight or safe drinking less or smoking we cope with all the guilt and bad feelings. If somebody tells me I’m drinking more than my safe unit maximum I don’t say, ‘Oh don’t tell me that you’re making me feel guilty,’ I think, ‘they are right, I can make my own decision about this.’
I think we don’t give good information about the actual contents of the milks and foods nor how to make feeds less risky. People need facts. A mother is entitled to artificially feed if she wants to and she is also entitled to the truth about what is in the products and their risks. Tell your pregnant friends the truth in a nice, calm tone. I do know it is very hard not to get passionate about breastfeeding. I think my larynx problems come from controlling my feelings! But a laid back, calm approach works wonders. Try not to preach (huh says me), just let people make up their own monds when you have given them the facts.
They’ll do whatever they want to in the end anyway.

Dear Boob Buffet ( love the name) Bit worried about set book in schools suggestion. Don’t they mostly hate the set books and never pick them up again. I like voluntary not compulsary reading. .Oh goodness my publishers (the truly wonderful Pinter & Martin) will be cross with me because set books sell in huge amounts. So maybe.
Some policy makers understand really well and others don’t. The trouble is in our society that policy makers are influenced, constrained, controlled, blackmailed, badgered by pressures from big powerful companies.

What I am clear about is that it is YOU and your dps and dhs who will influence policy makers. They need educating so educate them, they need your vote so tell them what they have to do to get it.

As to children in schools, I am ignorant about education (kids too old, grandkids too young) and am amazed that they don’t learn this . Don’t they learn about digestion and handwashing and not mugging old ladies? Why not breastfeeding? I know the woman who wrote to authorities and got the national curriculum changed to include breastfeeding, so why aren’t they teaching it?

I am a bit baffled about what they do learn at school. I have always had a feeling that we learn despite going to school, but I don’t want to insult you hardworking teachers. I know you have a terrible job because of all sorts of ridiculous rituals and rites laid down by civil servants.

Dear TheCrackFox, yes the Scottish ads are brilliant. Love them.

Dear nigglewiggle this is the million dollar question. I wish I knew the answer. Am so baffled. If we had private medicine, I could understand because doctors could get richer from treating all the extra illnesses. Are doctors jealous of breasts ‘cause they do their work for them? Let’s just say that rationality is not what guides many human decisions. But honestly the poor doctors learn less than many of us and many textbooks are just astonishingly ignorant about bf, even now.
So sorry you had the DVT and the shockingly bad advice, I’ve never heard of such a thing. But please let your negative experience inspire you to prevent this happening to others. Well who am I to say that, that’s exactly what you are doing.

Hi StarlightMcKenzie Not low level at all I am having to think quite hard, the simple questions can be quite tricky when you look into them.
Very suspect about this message. Expressing is not the same as breastfeeding, even the milk may be different and what about the smells and the skins contact? Useful for emergencies or if mum has no alternative but why make it routine? Whole point of breastfeeding is the closeness. Babies need mum close and naked and lots of mums need their babies close too. Dad can bond without milk and bottles. I hate to reveal personal stuff but my dh never bottlefed our two and he was the cuddliest dad in the world and is a doting grandpa. Never gave them a drop of anything and is bonded like glue. Come on dads, those babies hang about the house for 20 years or more. Let mum only do the breastfeeding and you do everything else you’ll bond away and she’ll have loads of breaks. Also expressed milk is different and you might be giving them the wake-up milk when you want them to doze off. Goodness, it was designed so well and we fiddle about and make it all complicated.

You know the contraceptive effect of breastfeeding doesn’t work with expression which shows the hormones are working differently when it is not actual suckling. Vry intriguing. So thumbs down from me for this poster (have not seen it). Am baffled again. Somebody tell me what its purpose is. Please see my cartoon on page 87 of my book. Has the Dairy Council made weaning guide posters? Oh swear words of your choice are pouring forth from my mouth. I was just feeling less depressed because of all your lovely messages. I mean how close a vested interest could you pick? Talk about the fox designing the hen coop.. Groan groan.

Dear wonderful Mumsnet messageposters I am feeling overwhelmed with joy at all your great messages and questions and ideas. Thrilled about your cumulative years of breastfeeding (and believe me you will be rewarded with superkids who will make your hearts sing). Also felled with misery at all the news about new ads and stupid posters. I have been in this business for almost 40 years and the fact that this nonsense continues gets me down.

Dear Popsycle I avoid TV and supermarlet baby food shelves and magazines because I get too depressed. They are all against the Code of Marketing which our government (whatever political colour) has always pretended to applaud at the World Health Assemblies. Honestly we pay these people to go and tell lies. They all agree (every two years) that we must enact the Code and halt all the marketing and then just let the companies ride roughshod over the rules (sorry bit of a mixed metaphor there).

Dear LeninGrotto 7 years; read Kathy Dettwyler. Also Ann Sinnott is publishing a book early next year called Breastfeeding Older Children . It will contain loads of info.
The ‘ lewd act ‘ stories are scary but they are rare and usually US based. They have a real problem with nipples over there. In 2005 Jan Pienkowski, the marvellous illustrator of Fairy Tales had the nipples sliced off his black and white drawing of the Sleeping Beauty in the US edition. And she had just given birth! Apparently little US kids might be damaged if they see a nipple. European kids are more resilient against the shock. My New York friend has just told me that they have a special bra to stop nipples showing through T-shirts. Are these the same people who object to yashmaks? Noses must be naked but nipples must be hidden. Also they never seem to object to male nipples or even manboobs.
To be serious the people who wrest breastfeeding toddlers from their mums are just plain ignorant and oppressed by a US cultural pathology. They will sort it out, there are a lot of sane people over there too.

There are many women breastfeeding for years without fuss or comment all over the world. In the 1990s I was giving a lecture in Thailand to some scarily elite doctors in posh suits and various high level people. The session was chaired by the then government head of mother and child health. They asked me what was the ‘natural’ duraiton of bf and I mentioned the evidence for 7 years. At the end the chair and he was delighted to know that 7 years was the norm because that was how long he had breastfed for. He recalled coming home from school in his school uniform and having a little breastfeed before going out to play. His mother conveniently wore a sarong. There are many people around the world like him, but they don’t tell their stories because they are shy and as their societies get westernised and reduce bf time they don’t mention it. I think they should boast and feel superior. Maybe some do.

Hi Pooter very good comment for me. Anger wanes as you get older. I just get sad nowadays. But really anger can be a good energiser. Channel it cleverly into action, use your brain. Remind yourself that those advertising copywriters know not what they do, they are just termites in the colony. Being angry at individuals does not change the world for the better, using it as a fuel to organise and find creative strategies does.
Look at Nelson Mandela, he was angry with apartheid but he used his non-aggressive style to persuade and shift. He wasn’t filled with rage and used his brains, emotional intelligence and humanity to change things in a different way.

Dear Foxytocin yes I remember you. I loved Fast Food Nation too. I am so cheered up when I know there are people like you who are keeping ahead of the knowledge and have a vision. I am gradually slowing down so now I can rely on you to speed things up.

Hi fruitshootsandheaves All depends whether you stand on your head to breastfeed.

Hello Gabrielle and thank you for comming too MN smile

I am a old hand at breastfeeding now, with dc no. 3 now aged 1 - I have been bf'ing for over 5 years (minus 3 months just prior to birth of no.3). Aside from 5 bouts of mastitis - I have had no physical barriers and my children are all top of weight/ height scales, which has made it difficult for me to understand the reasons to formula feed, outside a desire to conform.

Have you really found a way to get your message across to the people that need to hear - as isn't the pro-breastfeeding 'lobby' (for want of a better word)- always in danger of preaching to the converted? Without the massive marketing budgets of formula companies?

'Coming' - bah!

Btw I do sympahise with people who have had to/ or felt they had to formula feed for whatever reason - it is just been hard to empathise iyswim.

GabriellePalmer Fri 20-Nov-09 12:58:09

Hi Bigmouth I
Yes it is preaching to the converted but the converted are the best message spreaders.
My book is there for you to use as you think fit.

Just doing what you have done will do more good than me writing. People watch more than they read.

AbricotsSecs Fri 20-Nov-09 13:00:52

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

hunkermunker Fri 20-Nov-09 13:02:35

Oh, THIS is how you do a webchat - Gabrielle, you are an inspiration and it is a privilege to be on the same page as you.

About your (wonderful) book - which I have and do encourage everyone to read - how did you keep your spirits up when you wrote it? I found it difficult enough to read, because of the subject matter!

I have found the health service/PCT one of the biggest obstacles when it comes to promoting breastfeeding - and the tie-ins they have with Bounty. What do you think of Bounty packs?

(Sorry, that's two more questions! Thank you for the answer to the first one) smile

GabriellePalmer Fri 20-Nov-09 13:03:20

Hi Omicron wonder where they will find all the money to retrain all the HVs. The HVs equipped to help have either worked with Baby Friendly or have their own special interest.
There will have to be a big reform of pre-service training and that will take lots of time and money.
Good idea but I would not like to be responsible for the reform process. Wonder how a new gov will convince the treasury to prioritise money for this.

WilfSell Fri 20-Nov-09 13:06:10

I can't remember if I've posted a question already (sorry) but here's one (apologies if someone has already asked...)

There is a problem, often found here on MN, of people feeling aggrieved and hurt when others discuss BF and/or criticise formula promotion etc. It seems to come from the general cultural rejection of BF in the UK, but also some deep personal hurt and difficult feelings, perhaps people's own inability to BF projected.

Given that these psychological and emotional issues get in the way of open discussions of what helps and hinders BF, how do we begin to deal with this?

Message withdrawn

GabriellePalmer Fri 20-Nov-09 13:07:53

Hi Hoochie
lots of good things, all of you, increased awareness of importance of bf, lots more mums wanting to, baby friendly practices spreading...i like what has happened since I had my kids nearly 40 years ago

BUt bit but marketing is getting worse and worse and more clever. And few governments really care about all the women in the informal working sector. If you're a casual worker and poor (as most women in the world are) then you're invisible. Over a million Filippina mums are separated from their kids cause they ahve to work overseas.

chibi Fri 20-Nov-09 13:08:45

>> I do sympahise with people who have had to/ or felt they had to formula feed for whatever reason - it is just been hard to empathise iyswim

I empathise as that was nearly me. Despite bf successfully with my prem son, I have always had the feeling that I ought to be topping him up with formula as he is small.

Some of that feeling is coming from me, but some of it from my hvs who were not happy with him being on the 2nd centile.

It took enormous determination and conviction and encouragement from a lactation consultant and a paediatrician to carry on because there was still that nagging voice saying 'he could be bigger'.

I guess what I am asking is how do we get hvs to accept that it is ok for some babies to be small, and that this doesn't mean a mother needs to stop bf, and that it is still worthwhile for her to bf, and that it doesn't mean that bf isn't working.

I think lots of women stop in cases like mine, there is always the feeling of 'formula is good enough, so why make such a big deal of it?'


Thank you for your response, and am probably violating MN etiquette by asking another question, but:

To what extent, in your opinion, are growth charts helpful/hinderance? I mention this as my daughter was small, and had a lot of problems with HVs suggesting formula as she was at the bottom of the chart. Obviously there are other factors, but it seems to me that a lot of women give up breastfeeding based on a hypothetical standard.

Message withdrawn

AbricotsSecs Fri 20-Nov-09 13:16:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

GabriellePalmer Fri 20-Nov-09 13:17:08

Hi Wilfsell great question. I think we have to deal with each other's pain. Every mum wants to do her best and lots of loving caring mothers have not breastfed. I know a brilliant woman (on the board of Baby Milk Action) who ff all her children (was told her nipples were too flat) and she lets everyone know and is an ardent supporter. She is utterly cool and cheerful about this. She loves it that her grandkids are breastfeeding. Cliche but let's work through grief and pain.
You know I did some terrible things as a mum and it was just good luck (and the right midwife at the right time) that I breastfed. I know far more dedicated mums than I was who didn't. I feel remorse but no guilt, I did my best at the time and I was young and ignorant when I had kids.
Let's stop beating ourselves up.

You know I never used safety belts (I am that old!) and my kids bounced about in the back. Shocking. I also once crashed the car. I'm so thankful we're all alive and I rejoice in the safety belt laws. If we suffer about all our mistakes we can never get on with life.

Thank you Gabrielle - I do think your book is a great inspiration - I just feel frustrated by the busybody/ 'hippy wierdo' that can be projected onto anyone actively promoting breastfeeding.

Thats a very good question Wilf - I have felt the need to play down how important I feel breastfeeding is, in order to be sensitive to the bruised emotions of mothers who have struggled to bf and turned to formula (my mother is one such).

GabriellePalmer Fri 20-Nov-09 13:18:00

And with apples and with wine. I love food.

foxytocin Fri 20-Nov-09 13:18:11

Gabrielle: On pg 3 of your book you said 'there is still fundamental racism in attitudes to public breastfeeding. Intrusive cameras turn the lens on hungry women who, during disasters, keep their babies alive with this precious fluid and closeness. As long as the woman is black and devastated, programme makers include the scene, but if a well-dressed, white woman breastfeeds her baby, the camera shot is often edited.'

Can I say what a relief it was to read that statement. It says something I have been trying to articulate for a long time.

Do you say that Western women suffer from a form of reverse-racism when it comes to breastfeeding, leading to their 'failure' to feed mainly because in the social context in which it exists, how can you learn to do something confidently if you can't see it?

imaginewittynamehere Fri 20-Nov-09 13:19:16

Gabrielle, I loved your book & can honestly say it changed my prespective on infant feeding forever. I really struggle now when speaking to others to respect their decisions in respect to feeding their own children as I truly believe thay haven't made the decision based on the full facts. All to often though it is too late for even gentle educations from me the early weaning, cessation of BF etc etc has already happened.

I think that a horizon type expose on the artificial milk industry would be a great think.

But to my question why does it seem to be so difficult to get HCP's on board with great breastfeeding advice? It seems that the feelings of those who can't/won't feed are put above those of the people who might given frank informatin. At least 2/3rds of those I've ever met seem to set no great store on how the baby is fed & great store as chibli says on what percentile your child is on (I had the opposite problem, my daughter was resolutely above the 99% line). Promting the response that I must be topping her up? no, feeding too much then!!

hanaflower Fri 20-Nov-09 13:20:01

Agree with everyone else who says the book makes depressing reading. Interesting comparison with alcohol units - no one says 'you are making me feel guilty' if the doctor suggests that 30 units a week is not healthy.

I have previously been shot down in flames on here for saying that, like smoking and obesity, breastfeeding is a public health issue.

hunkermunker Fri 20-Nov-09 13:20:09

Isn't part of the issue that women in power realistically have to be "men" - and any defence of or support for breastfeeding is seen as "weak", "unbusinesslike" and "self/over-indulgent"?

Message withdrawn

GabriellePalmer Fri 20-Nov-09 13:21:57

Just thought you might like to know that my daughter is a GP and she has never weighed her baby since he was born 6 months ago, not a principle just never had the time.
he's gigantic but totally bf

the new charts are good, an excellent brainy woman called magda sachs knows much more than me about these.
think it is all progressive. useful tools

chocolatejunkie Fri 20-Nov-09 13:22:07

Hi Gabrielle

I'm another one who just wanted to pop on and say how amazing I found TPOB. It really opened my eyes to so much. And thank you for those pre-prepared answers, I'm trying to speed read through them!

I did have a question of my own but it's pretty much the same as WilfSell's one so I'd be really interested in what you have to say on that, thanks.

Dotsie Fri 20-Nov-09 13:22:07

Hi Gabrielle,

as a student at university, studying foundation course before a degree in midwifery, I would be interested to know what views you have on the value of Kangaroo Mother Care in establishing the breastfeeding of very small and pre-term babies? From the research I have done so far it seems so logical, and the results seem to speak for themselves. Is this aspect of breastfeeding something you have come across or had experience with?


Message withdrawn

MrsSantosisbored Fri 20-Nov-09 13:26:22

Hi Gabrielle, do not have a question as already expressed much more eloquently by other posters. I "worked up" to reading your book (because I thought it would make me feel angry and disempowered to read about exploitation which I can't change. Anyway, I did read the previous edition in the spring and it has spurred me on to take my breastfeeding support work further with one of the charities. I think it is a great, if very depressing read - so enlightening. I am heartened to hear that you think there is progress. Sometimes it feels like banging your head against a brick wall (not the mums who I support who are great) but the HCPs with outdated views, the dysfunctional view of women's breasts in our culture and the covert but all-pervasive FF marketing.
<<am not going to sink into pit of despair>>

Message withdrawn

TanteRose Fri 20-Nov-09 13:28:51

With the debate on co-sleeping/SIDS, and all the scaremongering, how can we convince mothers that bf is so much easier if you keep your baby close to you through the night...
I am in Japan where co-sleeping really is what everyone does (and breastfeeding rates are higher) but sleeping arrangements are so different from the West (futons, mum and baby often in separate room from husband for a while etc.)

GabriellePalmer Fri 20-Nov-09 13:29:11

Hi Starlight
delivering painful news is a big skill which I certainly am still trying to learn. just think what doctors and policemen have to do.
the worst thing is to patronise women by thinking they are too fragile to face up to truth.

All this 'we don't want to make her feel bad' is treating women like children, the companies do it all the time by their 'poor little you, it is so hard to breastfeed we will help you' messages.

But it is much better to listen than explain, women can work through their own experience if you just listen and accept.
Who hasn't made mistakes?

TanteRose Fri 20-Nov-09 13:29:50

oops, x-post Starlight!

TheCrackFox Fri 20-Nov-09 13:32:37

Dear Gabrielle

Thank you for answering my question and I am a huge fan of yours. I read your book 6 months ago and it brought me closure for the disasterous experience feeding my first born - he never once latched on and I gave up a week later after a MW basically forced me to. 8 yrs later I still felt a lot of guilt and sadness regarding it all. But your book helped me to realise that it wasn't my fault but the "system". I successfully BF my second son for over a year, which was a lovely experience for me and him.

AbricotsSecs Fri 20-Nov-09 13:33:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AbricotsSecs Fri 20-Nov-09 13:33:59

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

hunkermunker Fri 20-Nov-09 13:34:35
GabriellePalmer Fri 20-Nov-09 13:35:03

hi policy wonk
Implement WHO/UNICEF Code of Marketing and all World Health Assembly Resolutions in full. Sounds bureaucratic but if you removed all this misinformation (especially to health professionals they get most marketing) and subliminal promotion women could make up their own minds more easily.

Yes DH is doing its best, good workers trying to achieve miracles under the yoke of politics. don't knock them they are far better than they were a decade ago. at least breastfeeding is seen as a good thing

megapixels Fri 20-Nov-09 13:36:31

Hi Gabrielle, I haven't read your book but it's in my shopping basket on Amazon right now and I've heard so much about it.

Just wanted to ask you, why do you think some women are so anti-breastfeeding? I have had people say that there is no evidence that breast is better, and that they have no intention of breastfeeding their babies. They seem angry with breastfeeding in general and say that it's because it's "pushed down their throats". I have never seen this "pushing down the throat" message so this confuses me. Breastfeeding is more convenient than formula, cheap (well free) and has great benefits to both mum and baby, and I can't believe that these women don't know that. Yet they still claim that they believe that formula is as good.

So do you think bf promotion may actually be counter-productive in some cases?

GabriellePalmer Fri 20-Nov-09 13:39:10

Hallo Marslady have not heard this about Brasil. as far as I know the law has not changed, it is probably just lax monitoring that has caused a backslide. contact IBFAN and report what you know.Same with Guatemala.

he everyone out there report what you find. Tell IBFAN what you see or better still set up your own group if there is not one in your region (I am talking internationally).

Also no one needs to read my whole book. Just dip in an out if you are not a book reader.

AbricotsSecs Fri 20-Nov-09 13:40:41

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

tallyhopinkerton Fri 20-Nov-09 13:41:00

Hi Gabrielle,

I am really enjoying this webchat and your thoughtful, considered answers to everyone's questions - thank you for being here today.

My question concerns "extended breastfeeding". When I started breastfeeding, I wanted to do it for six months, no more, no less. Now baby is five months old and I've decided that I will feed him as long as he likes. However, my husband is adament that it should stop "before he can ask for it". Even my mother is uncomfortable about the idea of a baby feeding past one year. Why is it that people are so squeamish about feeding when the child is walking and talking?

(I should point out that both my husband and mum are very pro-breastfeeding - which makes their viewpoints harder for me to understand.)

LeninGrad Fri 20-Nov-09 13:41:49

TanteRose, what age do they bfeed to commonly in Japan?

traceybath Fri 20-Nov-09 13:44:14

I loved your book which I read recently before dc3 was born.

How do you think we can best normalise breastfeeding today? I know that with dc2 I became increasingly reticient to feed in public once he was past 6 months as felt I got more looks - and this is in the heartland of middle class nct country.

I also slightly resent how I feel the need (perhaps self imposed) to downplay how proud I am of having breastfed 3 children. Its been hard as one was in NICU for a week but I'm always wary that it'll be seen as boasting.

Was delighted this week to see ds2 (22 months) pick up a doll and try to breastfeed it - predictably my mother in law was slightly horrified by this.

GabriellePalmer Fri 20-Nov-09 13:44:45

Depends on father. Have to be cautious about drinks and drugs and ciggies. Don't let him in if he uses any of these. Incidentally mums and dads co-sleeping is not always ideal either. And you know what, you can have sex in other places!

I think Helen Ball at Durham Uni has shown that mothers behave differently from fathers.
Look on her website she is amazing on all this stuff.

AbricotsSecs Fri 20-Nov-09 13:45:52

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LeninGrad Fri 20-Nov-09 13:46:01

Thank you for your reply GP, I tell you I feel like a freak as DS, 3.6 is still going strong, I never tell anyone but even still everyone is starting to comment. It's the last taboo, apart from nipples in some parts of the US of course!

I saw an article on bfing in Mongolia - they reckon the strongest wrestlers wsere to luck to have bfed until age 6. It's shocking we're made to feel so bad about this over here.

hunkermunker Fri 20-Nov-09 13:47:27
hunkermunker Fri 20-Nov-09 13:49:16

I'm still bfing DS2 - he's four in January. Well, I actually forget about it until he asks for it - which he does some nights, not others. True self-weaning - a really lovely thing to be part of - I highly recommend it!

hunkermunker Fri 20-Nov-09 13:50:01

(Sorry, I realise I'm not adhering to the live chat etiquette guidelines blush )

GabriellePalmer Fri 20-Nov-09 13:50:08

Hi Tallyhop

Well they are just not used to it, that's all. When I was a teenager old men went apoplectic when we wore a mini skirt (I was actually sacked from harrods cause my skirts were too short).
People love being shocked about things, just look at the Daily Mail. Nothing like a feeling of outrage over your breakfast.

Just keep on doing it and they'll stop noticing.
When women in the 1920s shortened their skirts men got accustomed to ankles and stopped fainting with delight.
So it goes for all human behaviour.

WilfSell Fri 20-Nov-09 13:50:13

We. Must. Have. Helen. Ball. On for webchat.

WilfSell Fri 20-Nov-09 13:50:40

And the guy from Bristol.

LeninGrad Fri 20-Nov-09 13:51:11

I co-slept initially without DP in the bed, seems sensible to me, not least because DP had a shot at a good night's kip somewhere else. I just don't seem to suffer with the broken nights in the same way, couldn't tell you for sure the times I wake and feed DS2, for how long or how often, it just happens and then it's morning.

GabriellePalmer Fri 20-Nov-09 13:52:45


you are right, but I am a writer not a programme maker. maybe you want to make a TV prog. please use my book as a resource.
good luck

LeninGrad Fri 20-Nov-09 13:52:49

hunker I'm sorry to say sometimes I pray for the day DS1 self-weans, no chance now DS2 has made an appearance. smile

GabriellePalmer Fri 20-Nov-09 13:55:22

Hi Leningrad
Look I'm not a breastfeeding counsellor anymore and they'll be other good advisors among you. But sounds to me as though you are doing absolutely the right thing for you. I wish more mums trusted their instincts like you do. lucky baby

LeninGrad Fri 20-Nov-09 13:55:54

I agree - natural term bfeeding will become more common/acceptable, we just have to keep on keeping on and tell people 7 is the top end of the range we could expect them to stop if all other factors, especially societal disapproval, were removed. I try and think of the antibodies and easy absorption of minerals and vitamins when I feel a bit down about it.

Sorry, no question but reading your book whilst pregnant was the main factor in being determined to bf my son when it was hellish at the beginning and I wanted to say thank you. Perhaps more emphasis needs to be made in highlighting just how wonderful bf is when you crack it as well as focusing on the health benefits.

LeninGrad Fri 20-Nov-09 13:57:28

Yep, I had to put my foot down and say I'm doing it no matter what - because DS1 gets so much out of it, lord knows I'd jack it in in an instant!

GabriellePalmer Fri 20-Nov-09 13:58:31

Hi all you fantastic mums. I will now confess that this is my first webchat ever ! how's that for fogeyness. I have loved it and you have all helped me through. just a bit of support and I am now skilled

just like breastfeeding
I think mumsnet existence is doing a world of good. Challenge your politicians more and educate them. you all know so much and you're changing the world more quickly than they can.

very delighted to have taken part

LeninGrad Fri 20-Nov-09 13:59:18

A proper (not sensational) TV prog/doc would be great, especially if it showed examples from around the world, but who would commission and pay for it?

LeninGrad Fri 20-Nov-09 13:59:43

Thank you!

hunkermunker Fri 20-Nov-09 14:01:31

Thank you very much indeed, Gabrielle - happy to have helped you through your first "latching on" - do come back so you can establish your supply, won't you? grin

hanaflower Fri 20-Nov-09 14:01:57

Thanks Gabrielle! Not at all obvious it was your first webchat. smile

I've been following although not posting as I didn't have anything to add to all the brilliant questions already asked. I just wanted to say that you are a truly inspirational woman and thankyou so much for coming on and sharing your wisdom with us smile

MavisG Fri 20-Nov-09 14:04:12

Thank you

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 20-Nov-09 14:05:44

Thank you from HQ too. (just had a lovely post-webchat chat ).

LeninGrad Fri 20-Nov-09 14:06:11

Good article on wet nursing here, another great taboo. Good info from GP in it too.

Hoochie should change her name to: Bright Young Thing wink

mulberrybush Fri 20-Nov-09 14:08:57

I see tallyhopinkerton's husband is uncomfortable with the idea of the child being able to ask for it!

my daughter did use to do exactly that - "I want a mummy drink" and I remember having conversations with her about it -She insisted "there is a little bit in this one that needs using up".

Parents did have views, my mother was strongly against prolongd breastfeeding, and my mother in law -was much more subtle and came out with "technically she is a toddler".

I suppose clothing comes into it. as my daughter got older she certainly left me pretty exposed unless I was wearing the right sort of clothes.

It helps to be pretty bloody minded I think, and the inconvenience of having relatives who don't really understand is put in perspective when you consider how much easier life is when you can comfort a toddler and calm yourself with the ease that breastfeeding gives.

Message withdrawn

foxytocin Fri 20-Nov-09 14:10:39

you did so much better than the bloke who was on here recently and that was his 3rd visit!

Beveridge Fri 20-Nov-09 14:12:03

I have also been following the chat(with a full of beans 5 month DD who has only now had a feed and conked out!), great questions and great answers.

Thank you so much for giving us your time and wisdom! smile

Message withdrawn

AbricotsSecs Fri 20-Nov-09 14:30:45

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

LeninGrad Fri 20-Nov-09 14:35:28

I don't resent it as such, although it is a bit irritating sometimes in the same way reading a story 10 times is irritating. Sometimes I just tell him I've had enough off you pop and he does.

What I resent is being made to feel that I am wrong to do this. And it is audible disapproval, to DP more than me, don't think people would tell me to my face. I've said she needs to let them know it's not up for discussion. It does makes us feel bad which is a shame, I feel sorry for DS1 more than anyone that anyone should think there is a problem with him feeding and getting comfort like this.

Absolutely do not ever expect a sympathetic listening ear if you go against the grain wrt parenting. It's advice and judgemental attitudes all the way unless you're chatting to similarly-minded folk. I'm prob guilty of this in reverse too. smile

elkiedee Fri 20-Nov-09 14:37:07

Please could you pass on my thanks to GP as well for the book and for the webchat, and thanks to all who thought up good discussion questions too.

As for formula feeding guilt, it is an issue for me, as DS1 ended up being ff. Reading the book in May/June when DS2 was 3/4 months old actually helped me get my head round why bf went terribly wrong for me the first time and why I struggled the second time (fortunately with much more success).

dawntigga Fri 20-Nov-09 14:41:10

A bleated thanks to GP - sorry I couldn't have been on live but dp came home for lunchangry


TheCrackFox Fri 20-Nov-09 14:44:32

Thank you for a great webchat. smile

MrsMotMot Fri 20-Nov-09 14:50:12

Similarly I have been following but not posting as everyone else's questions were so good!

Thank you so much for coming on and for writing the book- you have completely inspired me as a bf mother and as a midwife. I will be giving my doctor sister a copy for Christmas!

OmicronPersei8 Fri 20-Nov-09 14:57:20

I managed to miss the webchat due to both DC waking early from their sick-bed naps, but it's been great to catch up. Very interesting.

llareggub Fri 20-Nov-09 15:02:10

I'd like to express my thanks to Gabrielle for a fantastic webchat. I'd also like to give a collective pat on the back to all those who give support on the breastfeeding folder of mumsnet. When I started out here when pregnant with DS1 in 2006 I had vague plans to breastfeed for 6 months and then stop. I had no idea that you could feed for longer. Mumsnet's members changed all that and I fed DS1 until he was 2 years and 9 months when he decided breastfeeding was something he'd rather leave to his baby brother. So thanks everyone.

Am off to Amazon now to buy the book.

thank you

JaMmRocks Fri 20-Nov-09 15:34:33

I'm sad I missed this, but have found it inspirational to read through and am going to buy and read this book. Thank you Mumsnet! (again)

wuglet Fri 20-Nov-09 16:34:28

Fantastic webchat even though she never answered my question.

Even more amazing as it was a first effort

me too wuglet

Boober Fri 20-Nov-09 22:48:19

Just had to say that this was FANTASTIC. I love GP and love her book.


The Scottish campaign is I was at the launch and on the scottish news talking about BF my boys <preens>.

Sympathise with you - my oldest DS is 3.4 and more of a milk monster than his brother 12 months! I was seriously considering TANDEM FEEDING on TV but decided in the end that it might have been a bridge too far grin

BoobBuffet Sat 21-Nov-09 01:33:01

Brilliant! GP likes my name <puffs out chest>

I'm thinking we could have the start of the first MN-produced documentary? grin

moondog Sat 21-Nov-09 01:59:43

What an absolute honour and privilege to have GP grace us with her presence and wisdom.
MN, you have excelled yourselves.
Thank you so much.

TanteRose Sat 21-Nov-09 02:41:26

LeninGrad sorry missed you up to what age do they bf in Japan..

well, actually, most people do stop at around 1 year sad because that's what they doctors tell them.

However, there is no real social taboo about bf a toddler.

My DH was bf until he was nearly 4, and I bf DS until he was 3.

pistachio Sat 21-Nov-09 14:23:38

i really enjoyed reading this, my question was answered and has given me lots to think about. Thanks.

ArizonaBarker Sat 21-Nov-09 14:31:29

"You can do so much good for this issue just by being you"

>purrs like cat with bucket of organic cream<

I vote this as the blueprint for all webchats.

HappySeven Sat 21-Nov-09 19:54:45

I missed this yesterday and reading it makes me sad. I tried REALLY hard to breastfeed my son (now 3). At 8 weeks he was still only 7lb and very unhappy. He never came off on his own and was on the breast for 1.5 hours at a time every 3 hours. When his teeth came through he was missing the enamel on them because he was malnourished in the 1st 6 weeks and I was so ashamed. I know breastfeeding mothers get a hard time but so do bottle-feeding mothers when I really think we should just support eachother. I'm expecting again and I'm scared as to whether to try again as I didn't bond with my son until I stopped breastfeeding - the lack of sleep because he cried from hunger followed by my belief that I had failed as a mother because breastfeeding hadn't worked for me meant I was diagnosed with postnatal depression. Sometimes we bottle-feeders DO understand the benefits of breastfeeding and are just jealous of those it works for. BTW I did see a breastfeeding counsellor and ask for lots of help.

ArthurPewty Sat 21-Nov-09 20:32:26

IIRC, HappySeven, his milk teeth will have formed in utero, now in the first 6 weeks. I say this because i have BF both of mine, and both have hypoplastic enamel on their milk teeth - which means we have to be extra diligent about brushing, something i didnt know with DD1, who had decay on her top 4 teeth and never had a bottle in her life. She fed for 3.5 years. DD2 is faring better with her dodgy teeth, but i have overly fastidious this time about brushing. She is still feeding, 14 months so far (will let her wean just like i did DD1).

I have supportive relatives, though some of my yankee family are prudish and backward about it, despite knowing full well i am doing the best for my children. My mom agrees it is best but freaks all the hell out if a man, ANY man, is present while i feed a child in her presence. She thinks others should be equally uncomfortable with me feeding, and helpfully hmm suggests i feed in private. Which isnt exactly always convenient, or indeed possible!! But, i was bottlefed as was my brother. Me for no suck reflex, my brother for 'her milk drying up at 6 weeks.'

I havent the heart to tell her it was the famous 6w growth spurt and if she'd stuck with it, my little brother couldn've possibly avoided the walking/double pneumonia he had 6 times in his life, the obesity he deals with today, and more. And i darent blame her for the health problems i suffer from being fed soya [eyeroll]...

Gabrielle, you are amazing, and your work even moreso. Thank you, thank you for this thread and all your lovely responses. I hope i continue (as long as DD2 wants to) carrying the flag for extended/natural term BFing in public for a long time to come - i enjoy it more than anything else i've ever done in my life.

(i bf'ed DD2 today in the middle of the memorial service for great-grandmother, in a C of E church today, with nary an acknowledgement, and no tutting from anyone, old or young. yay us!)

Gelamum Sat 21-Nov-09 20:51:41

This chat and all BF info on Mumsnet is great, but unfortunately I didn't know about MN when mine were young, sad so I didn't get enough support.

I knew NOW that I had thrush of the breast and in babies mouth which made feeding v. painful. But this was never diagnosed angry.

I think we do need to remember that some mums, like me, are DESPERATE to carry on BF. And try so hard. I knew it wasn't supposed to hurt. I wanted help. I wanted to feed for ages ! But every feed was agonizing.

I asked EVERY single person I could think of for help. I was in Queen Charlotte's, supposedly a great hospital, and has a pro-BF poilcy. BUT I got no help of any use.

Thrush of babies mouth and nipple is very common but may not be picked up.

I trid GP and even a BF counsellor !!, but our thrush was not picked up, only advice was yes my latch was fine, and it should stop hurting. BUT no-one picked up the thrush in bubs mouth....

So I fed, even VERY PAINFUL STILL ( feeding with thrush is v painful) up to 3 months exclusively then could stand no more. sad

OOPs sorry to moan on
I feel very strongly about this !!
I feel sad I never had a pleasant feeding experience with DD1.
I did feed my twins for 5 months three years later, despite having thrush exactly the same as before, but THIS TIME it WAS diagnosed.

Gelamum Sat 21-Nov-09 20:58:43

Oops sorry at going off on tangent,
but trying to say how we should encourage breastfeeding.... is by really training people properly. Those who are supposed to support mums to pick up common problems should know what they are doing!

If, me in a middle class area, with NCT classes and an excellent hopsital, did not get the right help, then I bet loads of the mums who say 'it didn't work for them' could have undiagnosed thrush as well.

LeninGrad Sat 21-Nov-09 21:09:56

Thanks TanteRose, it's a shame they are bringing weaning forward too.

Boober, the worry about looking like/being a freak is terrible isn't it? Good on you for being on the telly.

I hear of other people's kids announcing they've had enough and self-weaning and I can't see DS1 ever doing that. I know rationally he will but I can't see it happening any time soon. Will put up a big announcement when he does!

Thanks to everyone who ever mentions extended/natural term feeding and how long their DCs fed for, it makes me feel much better about it.

Message withdrawn

AbricotsSecs Sun 22-Nov-09 21:22:44

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

fruitypuds Thu 26-Nov-09 10:39:07

Gelamum, thrush is REALLY common. We all have candida but it doesn't cause issues unless it begins to overgrow - common during pregnancy and when we're run down and not eating so well. Unfortunately many GPs still say it doesn't exist in the breast, yet I (as a BC) see it all the time. Poor positioning can lead to it - the breast doesn't get drained properly whch leads to blockages and potential infection, nipples can get cracked and let it in, and problems escalate quickly. Then you get women putting lanolin on to ease the pain and the thrush is sealed in. It beats me how women can go to 3 different HCPs and be told the latch is fine, get antibiotics for the infection and the thrush goes wild.

Last week I saw a mum who has been diagnosed with mastitis *via a mammogram* because they were treating persistent blocked ducts as suspect cancer, yet even she knew baby wasn't latching on properly. The doc told her not to feed her milk to baby as it was infected (worst advice ever). Another was told baby (who was gaining well) was lactose intolerant (wrong - just bf mismanagement again).

There is so much poor advice from the people whose job it is to help women breastfeed. I'm just a volunteer yet I am doing the job of a HCP (or putting right their errors). Unfortunately many women have given up before they find out about other support. Phone the LLL helpline and find your local group, whatever stage you're at.

As for people who are embarrassed about you BFing in front of them - think about whose feelings matter most - baby who is born to drink your milk or adults who can learn to live with it! You can pretty much guarantee they weren't breastfed for long, if at all.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now