Tuesday, March 27, 2007

More letter-writing

There has been much discussion at LinkingParents.com in regards to the shock, discouragement, and even anger we are feeling at the lack of breastfeeding support in Edmonton's hospitals. A fellow LP'er and (dare I say) lactivist, describes it best in a letter to Dr. Jack Newman, one of Canada's leading breastfeeding gurus, voicing her concerns.

Dear Dr. Newman,
Since I had my baby 8 months ago, I have had the opportunity to hear stories from many mothers about their experiences in the hospital after they have had their babies and about the breast feeding help they received from hospital staff. I am quite saddened by many of the experiences as they illustrate the lack of knowledge that exists in maternity wards regarding breast feeding. For example, one mother had a 10 lbs 2 oz baby and was told that she could not breast feed because her baby was too big. I've heard stories of baby's being given bottles without permission from the parents. Just last week this happened to a friend as she had left her baby in the hospital nursery and had a quick shower only to come back and find that a nurse had given her baby a bottle even though the bassinet said "breast fed only". Some mothers are told that there isn't any staff to help them with breast feeding. Mothers are told that their babies must have formula or they'll get jaundiced. And nurses hand out nipple shields like they are the miracle solution to all breast feeding problems. Many of the mothers I've talked to have had a nurse suggest one to them, myself included. The lack of knowledge and education that continues to persist in maternity wards regarding breast feeding is huge and many mothers who set out to breast feed go home bottle feeding because of this.
I want to do something to change this but do not know where to begin. I know that I can continue to offer support to new moms who are trying to breast feed but I would like to do more than just this. I would like to see changes happening, starting with the hospitals and what goes on there. I've thought of compiling a huge list of the stories I have heard that illustrate the anti-breast feeding practices that go on in hospitals because I do wonder if the hospitals realize just what is happening on a regular basis. I've thought of contacting the media as well because I wonder if that'd be interested in a story regarding this, but don't know if that would get me anywhere. I've thought of writing to my MLA but also wonder how far that would get me.
I write to you because you have made such an impact and made such progress with spreading awareness of breast feeding and helping mothers succeed at it. I would like to know if you are able to point me in the right direction or tell me how I can make a difference. I feel that I cannot sit and listen to all these depressing stories but that I must do something to make a change. How can I make a difference? Where is a good place to start?
I know you are busy and I thank you for taking the time to read my e-mail and respond.
Sincerely,R S

And his reply:

Dear Ms. S,
I would encourage the mothers to write to the hospitals as a start. Help them with the letters if they are too busy to write. Send copies to the CEO, the chief of pediatrics and to the vice president in charge of nursing and the head nurse in postpartum. In most provinces, the college of nurses considers the giving of supplements without informed consent as professional misconduct. If the mothers are upset, they should complain to the college, formally, in writing (but they won't).
Yes, write your MLA (what province are you in?). And the minister of health. And the opposition health critic(s). Contact the media, you never know when you will get a sympathetic journalist.
See below my name what I'm trying to get mothers in Ontario to do, but there is not much hope in Ontario. The minister of health just stonewalls.
We now have an instructional DVD for breastfeeding. For a preview and more information, see
http://www.drjacknewman.com/. This website also contains other information about breastfeeding as well as video clips showing breastfeeding techniques such as how to latch a baby on, how to know a baby is drinking from the breast, how to use compression, amongst others.
See also my book, Dr. Jack Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding (HarperCollins, 2nd revision 2005) as it's called in Canada, or The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers as it's called in the US (new edition just published in November 2006).
I now also have a new book out, published by Hale Publishing, called The Latch and other keys to Successful Breastfeeding. Ordering information is available at
Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC
We no longer receive government funding for our clinic and are in real danger of having to close. If you value this service, please consider a donation to the Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation (registered charity) and earmark the donation for the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic and Institute. You can donate through their website
If you live in Ontario, please write to the Minister of Health in Ontario, Mr George Smitherman when you get a chance. He says women are getting good breastfeeding help in Ontario. If you don't agree let him know:
gsmitherman.mpp.co@liberal.ola.org; CCU@moh.gov.on.ca; George.Smitherman@ontario.ca. Copy all three of these and past into the To: line.
For good measure, send the same letter separately to the deputy minister of health, Ron Sapsford,
Ron.sapsford@moh.gov.on.ca; Ron.Sapsford@ontario.ca and to the minister of health promotion Jim.watson@mhp.gov.on.ca
And sometimes, if you send it to opposition parties, more might get done. It is always better to send the same email separately to each person.
Leader of the conservative party of Ontario, John Tory,
john.tory@pc.ola.org the health critic Elizabeth Witmer elizabeth.witmer@pc.ola.org and Shelly Martel of the NDP (She is not the leader of the party, but she has been very helpful on this issue) smartel-qp@ndp.on.ca.
If you wish, I would appreciate if you send a copy to me as well

This is definately a worthwhile project. And I love the idea of gathering stories together to inform the hospitals on what really goes on. Keep an eye on the BLISS blog: I may put out the official call for stories soon.

And the cookie cutter response is.........

Hi Karen,

Thank you for your feedback - even if it is negative. I certainly respect your point-of-view. We both agree that breastfeeding is the best method of feeding babies.

ParentsCanada Group has a long history of promoting breastfeeding as the best method of feeding through our magazine editorial. We have great respect for Canadian mothers who only use breastfeeding for their children and for those, like yourself, who advocate the importance of breastfeeding to Canadian moms.

That said, we do allow formula advertising in ParentsCanada magazine. The ads from Nestle and Mead both acknowledge breastfeeding as the best form of feeding and make comparative claims of superiority only against other formulas.

I am very familiar with the WHO code directives with respect to the marketing of breast-milk substitutes and I am in agreement with its overall goal to promote breastfeeding. I believe some of the directives are a result of terrible tragedies that have occurred in the third world (for which the formula companies are responsible) but go too far in the context of North American society.

The reality is that formula serves a valid purpose for many women faced with difficult decisions in a complex and busy world. We would certainly welcome messaging from the formula companies that more clearly expressed the superiority of breast milk, but I do believe, in having dealt with many formula marketers for many years, that their goal is not to convince mothers to use formula instead of breast milk. They are, rather, competing in a valid commercial pursuit to increase their share of the market. They have never attempted to influence our pro-breast editorial, nor would we ever allow that to happen.

If you want to give me your address I would be happy to send you samples of the editorial we have produced over the years in support of the cause. Or you can search the ParentsCanada website for much of this valuable information. If you go to the Baby section, for example, the first listed article is "13 Reasons why Breastfeeding is Best" and there are several other articles all written by health professionals explaining the virtues of breast milk and helping mothers with breastfeeding.

I do wish you success in continuing to spread the word about the preferability of breastfeeding over formula. We consider ourselves partners in that message.

I thank you again for your comments. Please feel free to contact me directly if you wish.

David BakerVice President - MarketingParentsCanada Group65 The East MallToronto, ONM8Z 5W3P: 416-537-2604F: 416-538-1794

Letter to Parents Canada magazine

Your magazine included several pages of formula (synthetic infant nutrition) advertising, including one page picturing a baby drinking out of a bottle. This is in direct violation of The World Health Organization's International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, which can be viewed here: http://www.ibfan.org/english/resource/who/fullcode.html

Canada has signed and agreed to this code, which makes me wonder who is approving your advertisements. This is truly disappointing, especially after I recently wrote a letter to your magazine, applauding the published display of a breastfeeding mother and baby photograph.

I will, of course, be forwarding this issue to the appropriate breastfeeding organizations, including ProMom's 3-minute Activist, and the World Health Organization.

I hope to hear from you promptly in regards to this matter.

Karen S

Here is the website:


and the address to send feedback:


Please feel free to copy my letter, or send in your own.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Mom, Pop and Tot Fair 2007

What a success! Our sorting and stuffing playdates resulted in 500 free gift bags to hand out. In the bags were a BLISS postcard; Breast Is Best postcard; Breast Is Best magnets and stickers; LaLecheLeague brochure, magnet, and a list of meeting dates and locations; a Breastfeeding Common Myths handout, a BLISS brochure, a Dr. Suess for Nursing Moms poem, and some other sponser business cards and flyers. We had a draw for some wonderful prizes donated from friends, sold breastfeeding onesies made by Sarah, breastfeeding bracelets, as well as a nursing corner, with rocking chair and breastfeeding pillow. I will post some pictures soon.

About 400 of the breastfeeding bags were handed out, with enough left over for the Welcome Wagon baby shower next month. Moms stopped by to ask questions, admire the breastfeeding tshirts, and comment on the large "Edmonton's Beautiful Breastfed Babies" display.

The 2 days went quickly, and I met alot of new people, and chatted with lots of friends. All in all, it was a great weekend!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Breastfeeding TV Interview

On Tuesday, March 6, 2007, I was interviewed on the Edmonton morning news about breastfeeding and the Mom, Pop and Tot Fair. Here's the link: