This week, UK based charity Save the Children launched a new campaign, and it’s one which has already gathered support and raised a few eyebrows.
The “Power of the first hour” campaign is a simple one. Save the Children claim that if every mother breastfed her child in the first hour after birth, 830,000 babies every year (the equivalent of 95 an hour) could be saved from death by malnutrition or infection. Breastfeeding is effectively a child’s first vaccination and the choice to breastfeed or not can mean the difference between life and death.
Save the Children have reported that the number of mothers who breastfeed in poor and developing countries has seen a sharp downturn in recent years. Their research shows that in 2012, 29% of all mothers in Asia and East Pacific were breastfeeding, compared to 45% in 2006; a huge drop in a short time.
Save the Children blames this decrease on a number of factors. They believe there is a lack of information and support for new mothers. And they also believe that the multi-national conglomerates that produce formula milk have a part to play in the decline.
Nestlé and Danone are two of the giants whose inappropriate marketing campaigns in emerging markets and misleading labels may have led mothers to believe that breastfeeding is unsuitable, bad and even dangerous for their babies and so have turned to bottled formula instead. Save the Children estimate that Asia, for example, is a lucrative new market for the formula giants, worth an estimated £16billion, and growing. Mothers with little education and no access to health care can become confused about what is best for their baby and in some cases the wrong choice can put babies lives at risk.
Save the Children is calling on Nestlé and Danone to act responsibly, and to make mothers aware of the benefits of breast milk. In a bid to bring in clear and factual labels, Save the Children want a third of formula milk packaging to be used to warn of the potential risks and dangers of not breastfeeding.
This campaign is about raising awareness of the decline of breastfeeding in poorer countries and the effects this has on the health of newborn babies. This campaign is about putting pressure on Nestlé and Danone to stop promoting formula milk in emerging markets, to act ethically and make labelling clear in an effort to curb the decrease in breastfeeding.
It’s disappointing to see small sections of the press and internet chatter claiming the campaign is unfair and makes non breastfeeding mothers in the UK feel unnecessarily guilty. In the developed world we can make informed choices, we have access to clean safe water and good health care. In my experience mothers in the UK offer each other great support and friendship whether they breastfeed or not. Trying to twist a great campaign into a breast vs bottle, mother’s guilt story is pretty sad.
Find out more about the campaign on the Save the Children website and click here to sign Save the Children’s petition against Nestlé and Danone. The food giant Nestlé have been sighted for unethical marketing practices in the developing world for many years with a campaign all of its own to boycott the firm, you can view the boycott Nestlé site here
What do you think? We asked a friend of ours to give her opinion.
Save The Children’s brilliant new campaign with their slogan The Power of the First Hour, along with their brilliantly-named report Superfood for Babies, tells us in no uncertain terms that, “If every new-born baby was breastfed and got the support they needed in the first hour of life, 830,000 tiny lives could be saved every year”.
Incredibly, this remains a contentious issue. It isn’t until you delve into the politics and the cultural ins and outs of feeding babies that you realise just how bonkers the whole situation is.
From where I stand:
Breast milk= the best, healthiest, cheapest and most reliable food for a baby
Formula milk= a sufficient alternative for those who cannot successfully breastfeed
Job done, isn’t science brilliant?
But for the sake of profit, women have been told for generations that formula milk has this benefit and that, and we got hooked…
Now breastfeeding is undergoing a much-needed resurgence in our affluent West. And mummies all over the UK are taking pride in their ability to nourish their child – heck, it’s even fashionable. Where breast-feeding was seen as ‘quirky’ or odd, and the bottle feeding majority felt comfortable dissaproving, now we see the bottle-feeding mothers feeling slightly embasassed by their ‘choice’.
The boot is on the other foot. And the potential force of nature that is Mother remains divided. This makes it so much easier for the formula giants to thrive – we’re too busy bickering amongst ourselves to unite and fight for the rights of our sisters worldwide and their babies. Call me a conspiracy theorist… but isn’t this just what Nestle (etc) want?
So, women, let’s keep our judgment and our anger aimed at the Formula giants, not at each other. It’s time for Governments, NGOs and people everywhere to stand up and say NO to unfair practices and YES to empowering mothers to nourish their babies without being exploited for profit, at the expense of their health and their children’s.
I will finish by mentioning that we bottle-fed our son. And I’ve just crossed out the paragraph where I defend my actions because, actually, I don’t have to.