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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Militant News 

(The prologue which connects this post to other posts in the blog. Begin. He walked into a burning ring of fire. "Nice boobs," the male college student said to the second one there. "I hope you're having fun," said the woman, "but these things are meant for one purpose only.")

So I made the following comment at Inland Empress:

Heaven forbid if the La Leche League discovers that you denied milk to your child, even if it was for a brief moment and due to an emergency.

Inland Empress replied:

OE, I've already ticked off the La Leche Leaguers ... the baby's starting to eat solid food. Though I tried giving her avocado yesterday and all I had to show for my efforts was bright green spit-up.

The Empress then devoted an entire post to solid food.

Perhaps you haven't heard about La Leche League. Their sole purpose in life is to promote breastfeeding. All good parents breastfeed their children, and it's not their fault if you're a bad parent. Or an evil multinational.

From Perspectives in Health Magazine, the magazine of the Pan American Health Organization:

Starting in the middle of the last century...breastfeeding began to decline in both developed and developing countries, the result of a number of factors: the marketing practices of infant formula makers, the social perception that it was somehow more "modern" to give babies formula, and a lack of knowledge about the tremendous benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby.

La Leche League was founded in 1956 by seven U.S. women to counter these trends and "rescue" the art of breastfeeding. In the years since, this international nongovernmental organization has worked in a growing number of countries both to encourage breastfeeding and to give support to new mothers.

From the Church of the Brethren:

The controversial Nestlé boycott began as a result of the discovery that in many developing nations infants were malnourished or dying because their mothers could not properly use commercial infant formulas. Often this was because clean water was not available for mixing the formula, or the mothers did not have kitchen facilities for sterilizing and preparing bottles, or because they could not afford the price of formula, and diluted the formula excessively. In any event, once the mother had given up breastfeeding for even a short time she could not return to it because her body naturally stopped lactation. Thus, mothers who began feeding infant formula were "hooked," forced by circumstances to continue. But despite reports of problems such as these, infant formula manufacturers (Nestlé being the largest) continued to promote infant formula in ways which increased the risks to infants. These practices included general advertising in the public media promoting bottle feeding as the "modern" way to assure healthy babies, the employment of "milk nurses" who were uniformed sales agents who encouraged mothers to use the company's products, distribution of samples to new mothers, and various promotional schemes aimed at winning the favor of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals.

To some extent the problems were the product of the collision of a highly-educated, mechanized, free-enterprise western culture with cultures which were poorer, less literate, and less attuned to Madison-Avenue style advertising techniques. When infant formula companies were first informed of the risks created by their products, however, they denied they were responsible and refused to change their practices. As the party with greater awareness of the problem they had a responsibility to avoid creating harm for those who were less able to fend for themselves. After numerous unsuccessful efforts to persuade Nestlé and other companies to change their policies, several religious groups called for a boycott of Nestlé products, in the hope that the loss of revenues would persuade the company that it should change its promotional policies. The General Board endorsed the boycott of Nestlé in February 1979.

And for those of us who thought the Nestle boycott ended long ago, guess what? Nestle is still being boycotted:

Nestlé is the target of a boycott in 20 countries because it aggressively markets baby foods, breaking World Health Assembly marketing requirements and contributing to the death and suffering of infants around the world....

See the history of the campaign to information on how efforts to introduce independently monitored and enforced legislation are paying off and how the boycott was once called off because Nestlé promised to change its policies and practices, but broke its word so the boycott was re-launched.

Who supports the boycott?

Groups which support Baby Milk Action at a local or national level include Women's Institutes, Save the Children, Methodist Church, United Reformed Church, CAFOD, National Childbirth Trust, People and Planet, One World, Green Party, World Development Movement, La Leche League, United Nations Association, Wholefood Shops, Liberal Democrat Party, Women's Environmental Network, Trade Unions, Friends of the Earth, and many similar groups.

So let's go back to La Leche League. Zen Sarcasm notes:

I never thought I'd see the day where sitting around with about 10 other breastfeeding mothers, a couple of squirming toddlers and a whole bunch of militant literature about taking back your breasts and whatnot would be my idea of "fun." Live and learn, my pretties.... live and learn.

Militant? Sorry, La Leche League isn't the militant group. For that, turn to the Militant Breastfeeding Cult:

Are you a Proud Member of the Militant Breastfeeding Cult?

I'll bet you didn't even know there was such a thing. According to Peggy Robin in her book Bottlefeeding Without Guilt (now renamed When Breastfeeding is Not an Option) there is! If you're not sure about the status of your membership, consider these questions from Rebecca Prewett's review of Robin's book:

Do you nurse your babies past one year of age?
Do you share your bed with your nursing baby?
Do you believe that mothers and fathers have different roles to play in raising children?
Do you believe that God provided women with breasts in order to feed their babies?
Do you associate with other women who breastfeed their children or even---gasp!---attend La Leche League meetings?
Do you sign your email messages with "Billy's mommy" or cutesy nicknames? This is an obvious sign that you are assuming a childlike, unquestioning, unintellectual role within the cult.
Do you follow the AAP guidelines of breastfeeding a baby exclusively for six months before introducing supplements or solids? (Presumably the AAP is part of the cult.)
Do you believe that there are not only physical differences between men and women, but psychological and emotional differences as well?
Do you believe that motherhood is a noble calling and that mothers and babies belong together? Do you---gasp!---think that babies are better off if their mothers are home with them rather than pursuing careers?
Do you make your baby's food from wholesome, nourishing ingredients and avoid processed foods or additives?
Do you avoid pacifiers and artificial nipples?
Rebecca Prewett writes, "If you answered in the affirmative to any of these, let me warn you that Peggy Robin views these as characteristics of the cult lifestyle!"

So, is this you? If so, you should be proud. (Being part of the cult does not require full agreement with all the questions, rather, it's if you consider yourself a "militant, cultish, breastfeeder.")

And the vegetarians have weighed in:

If you plan to raise your child as a vegan, a soy-based formula is preferable to one that is dairy-based. (Note that soymilk is not an nutritionally acceptable substitute for soy formula.) If your baby develops a lactose intolerance, soy formula may again be best, although it is possible to buy lactose-free milk formula. According to Peggy Robin, author of Bottlefeeding Without Guilt: A Reassuring Guide for Loving Parents (Prima Publishing, 1996), many parents fund that soy formula helps expedite their infants' recovery from diarrhea.

And Prewett has noted that Robin is "obviously" not Christian.

This book has generated quite a bit of controversy, as well as amusement. I will deal with its most controversial aspect below; only a small part of it has stemmed for the Ezzos' enthusiastic endorsement of a book that is not only pro-choice on the abortion issue but derisive towards evangelical Christianity....

I was sitting in a church "mother's room", nursing my baby so discretely that a man who walked in thought the baby was sleeping. He asked to see the baby and I replied that the baby was nursing. The man recoiled and exclaimed, "I can't believe you're doing that here!" His voice emphasized the word "that" with great disgust. Given the fact that I was in a room set aside for nursing mothers (and bottlefeeding mothers as well) and that I was nursing discretely, I hardly saw anything to raise his ire---especially since he didn't belong in the room in the first place....

If you believe [Robin], there is a militant breastfeeding cult on the loose in our nation. Since Peggy Robin is clearly not a Christian, she did not turn to one of the respected cult watch groups such as the Christian Research Institute for her list of cult characteristics; instead she turned to a private investigator who has written a book on cults. Thus, the definition of what constitutes a cult is not at all the sort of definition that evangelical Christians would use---in fact, one of her characteristics of a cult is that cults base their teachings on Faith or God!

So let's follow the two sides: La Leche League and Christians vs. Peggy Robin and Vegans. I'm sure the vegetarian Christians are not amused...

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

You got that right! As a Christian vegan, the whole thing is preposterous. I had the goal of breast-feeding my daughter without any supplements until age 1. At 9 months she bit me, and that was end of that. But I do know some militant breastfeeders, and they freak me out.
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