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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.

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

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

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ilovemydogandmrobama Thu 19-Nov-09 10:17:53

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...)

RorysRacingMa Thu 19-Nov-09 10:33:27

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.

StarlightMcKenzie Thu 19-Nov-09 20:35:08

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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!)

StarlightMcKenzie Thu 19-Nov-09 21:52:27

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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?

StarlightMcKenzie Thu 19-Nov-09 21:56:46

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

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

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

verylittlecarrot Fri 20-Nov-09 00:13:03

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)

StarlightMcKenzie Fri 20-Nov-09 11:02:11

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StarlightMcKenzie Fri 20-Nov-09 11:11:02

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StarlightMcKenzie Fri 20-Nov-09 11:12:06

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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

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