It was the kind of morning where I was feeling sluggish from less a than-adequate –night’s-sleep and a busy week so far. I was on my third cup of tea.
And then I saw this article in the Irish Independent: a children’s charity has come under fire for accepting sponsorship from a milk formula company for its annual ‘Big Toddle’ fundraiser.
Suddenly I was wide awake.
Nothing like a surge of the “ire” that storms through a “breastmilk lobbyist” to shake out the cobwebs.
Except I am not actually a “breastmilk lobbyist” – nor do I believe I know any. Certainly not in the way people interested in the whole politics of breastfeeding – yes, breastfeeding has politics, like everything else – are usually represented. Like how the concerns of “breastmilk lobbyists” were responded to by the Irish charity in the Irish Independent article: that their decision to work with the sponsorship of Danone’s Cow & Gate brand was “not an attempt to influence any parent’s decision making about their infant”.
I am not affiliated with any organisation, but I count myself as one of the people who are dismayed at this issue. Not because I am interested in any other parent’s decision making about their infants.
I am interested in my decision-making about my infants.
Big, blockbuster businesses like Danone know lots about formula. The only people qualified to speak about breastmilk with any authority, are those who have breastfed. I know lots about breastmilk and breastfeeding.
It is what businesses like Danone to do to represent their product, through their marketing channels – by overtly idealising it in relation to breast-milk like MINE, in conflagration of all I have studied and experienced with breastfeeding – that gets my “ire” to storming.
There is a consistent confusion in Ireland, particularly obvious in the media, that protecting breastmilk or breastfeeding equates to promoting breastfeeding – i.e. attempting to “influence parent’s decision-making about their infant”. And while organisations like the HSE do have an agenda to work to raise breastfeeding rates in this country, for health reasons, the truth is that most so-called “breastmilk lobbyists” are not necessarily interested in promotion – they just want to see breastmilk and breastfeeding represented fairly in this country. So do I.
To date, breastfeeding and breastmilk is still not treated fairly in Ireland. The marketing practices of businesses like Danone have an enormously significant part to play in this – I wrote about this before on a post on this blog: Ireland: the Land that Forgot Breastfeeding. The UK-based not-for-profit organisation Babymilk Action also raised their concerns about this specific sponsorship issue on their website here. There is also a Facebook page working to highlight this issue called “Ethical Sponsorship Ireland” which can be found here.
I don’t grudge an Irish charity its desperate efforts to raise cash, especially a children’s charity. I support the work of this charity when I can, but I will personally not be supporting events linked with businesses like Danone.