Parenting is more than a feeding choice

DONNELLE BELANGER-TAYLOR
Last updated 09:20 07/02/2012

You've no doubt heard the big kerfuffle about Piri Weepu's anti-smoking ad; it's pretty hard to miss since it's been all over the internet, newspaper, talkback radio and television. The thing is, there was no kerfuffle until this article ran in the Herald on Sunday.  

The government-funded Health Sponsorship Council, the group making the anti-smoking ad, captured footage of Piri with his daughter, including a scene of him bottle-feeding his daughter.  

Eventually realising that the bottle-feeding footage might compromise the message of the government-funded breastfeeding campaign, HSC made La Leche League and other organisations aware of the ad, and LLL provided feedback. The league's response was that the bottle-feeding footage was unnecessary, given the other father-daughter interactions and that it would detract from other health promotion campaigns.  

I don't know about you, but I'd certainly prefer that my tax dollars went towards promoting consistent messages.

Another organisation initiated an email campaign. A line which has provoked much outrage ("The damage that this shot of a celebrity All Black will do to breastfeeding in New Zealand Aotearoa will be significant") was from those emails, not from La Leche League correspondence.

HSC made the decision to edit the two seconds of bottle-feeding footage out. No big deal.

No big deal, until the spin in the Herald on Sunday article and the follow-up editorial pointed fingers firmly at La Leche League, presumably with the intent of inciting exactly this sort of reaction. A torrent of abuse resulted, on the NZ Herald site, the LLLNZ Facebook page, and elsewhere. It even extended to volunteers receiving abusive phone calls at their homes. 

What I've found most revealing about the fervently unleashed abuse is that people have the completely wrong idea about who La Leche League members are. You see a story about "how horrible La Leche League is" and it turns out to be something a midwife has said, or "LLL is so judgmental", and it turns out to be an old lady on the street who scowled at them.  

I don't understand why people find it so hard to comprehend that hospital midwives are not La Leche League, lactation consultants are not La Leche League, Plunket nurses are not La Leche League, and random grumpy old ladies aren't La Leche League either.  

La Leche League is made up of volunteers who give their own time to work with women who call them or come along to meetings. Women come to them to get support and information to help them succeed in breastfeeding. I am not an LLL member, but I know my local group has formula-feeding parents. They wouldn't be there if they felt judged and belittled.

I think it is great to have a young, Maori role-model showing the importance both of not smoking and of positive parenting. I think we'd all agree that bottle-feeding doesn't make you a bad parent, any more than breastfeeding makes you a good one. So in modelling good parenting, how his daughter is fed is irrelevant, right?  

Which is what La Leche said. Without those few seconds, the ad still conveys a positive parenting message, and the anti-smoking message, while not compromising the government-funded breastfeeding campaign. It's a shame that Piri's core message has been overwhelmed by finger-pointing and name-calling, and that a volunteer organisation that helps parents who come to it has been so vilified and attacked.

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118 comments
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Jenn   #1   09:30 am Feb 07 2012

Fantastic piece, thanks for painting the fuller picture :)

Merewyn   #2   09:32 am Feb 07 2012

Great stuff Donnelle, lovely to read some sense on all this mess. NZ is very lucky to have LLL, a group of hardworking women who make time in their lives to help out other families, without pay, and it seems without thanks or recognition either.

I wish I has a Herald subscriber so that I could cancel my subscription, I guess I will donate to the LLL instead.

Tom   #3   09:34 am Feb 07 2012

It's a shame that news organizations have discovered that trolling == clicks.

That's all it was, a clever troll. Making up a story about a sensitive issue to create drama. It's an embarrassment.

judi   #4   09:35 am Feb 07 2012

ditto what Jenn #1 said

Peter   #5   09:37 am Feb 07 2012

Regardless of La Leche League, the problem is the vilification of bottle-feeding parents. If you bottle-feed you are treated as second-class citizens. The hospital will not provide you with assistance and, when my son was born, made my ill wife walk to make up formula because they would not support anything other than breast. Due to medications that would have meant a dead baby but a breast fed dead baby is better than a bottle fed live one is the distinct impression given. This continues into the community and the constant message that breast is best is foisted onto people at all times - not what's best for the baby and mother is best which should be the message. I understand that literature supporting bottle-fed parents isn't allowed into hospitals at all and even magazines which run ads with formula are banned.

brybry   #6   09:37 am Feb 07 2012

Interestingly The Herald is now saying that the shots of Weepu bottle-feeding his daughter have been 'banned'. The shots were edited out so that the core anti-smoking message was what people would remember, and so that tax payer funded ads provided consistent messages. No one is 'banning' anything.

What a beat-up! Another attempt by The Herald to remain relevant at a time when more and more people get their news instantly via the internet. The Herald should stick to what it does best - providing a wrapping for fish and chips.

Hun   #7   09:38 am Feb 07 2012

Well said! I hope this helps more people see through the media hype to the very simple and not particularly emotional issue that was at hand in making the decision to cut a tiny piece of footage from this ad.

Siananigan   #8   09:39 am Feb 07 2012

It's about time that someone spoke out for truth and reason.

What Piri feeds his kids is irrelevant, what MOH funded agencies promote in advertorials is. Lets not forget that this was a non smoking advert.

Of course the media always benefit when parents start attacking each other, lets acknowledge that everyone makes the right decision for their family and stop lynching the La Leche League - a voluntary organisation run by mums and dads like you and I.

gbsmama   #9   09:40 am Feb 07 2012

Believe it or not, I had not seen or heard anything about this until now! As usual with the media these days, completely blown out of proportion! How the baby gets fed is irrelevant, as long as it is fed - in my book anyway. And for all we know (not that it matters in any way), the bottle may have been 'mothers milk', not formula - can a father not enjoy bonding while feeding too! This has totally distracted from the anti-smoking issue, which I think is far more important - people die from smoking, I doubt babies die from being bottle fed.

Emma   #10   09:43 am Feb 07 2012

Was waiting for you to write a piece on this after seeing all your excellent comments on Facebook. Well said! The media have done an excellent job of pitting people against each other once again for no good reason.

I saw one comment on the Campbell Live page saying 'boycott LLL' - right, so you're going to boycott an organisation that you have to go to in the first place as you said, and that's only there to help people. OK then...You're right that it seems people have a very skewed idea of who LLL actually are.


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