Activism, Breastfeeding

Boobs VS Big Business

19 February, 2013

I have talking boobs. And it is my own fault. It came about subtly, in an effort to playfully end a leisurely breastfeed my toddler was having. Tim had bought in our porridge, steaming and slathered in Golden Syrup and I was ready to get on with the day. Gentle cajoling hadn’t worked, so I put on a Northern male accent and spoke on behalf of my breasts.

“Er, excuse me, Ramona, we know you are enjoying your nurse right here, love, but we ain’t ‘alf  ready for our porridge!” *Left Boob joins in the fun* “Oooh, aye, we do want to gobble up that porridge!”

It has finished many an epic nursing session in ripples of giggles for both of us, and often Ramona would talk back, and ask them questions, normally about whether now was a good time to nurse and that kind of thing. But in the last day or so, she has asked them their wise opinions about other, more general, stuff. . .

Of course, not all women are lucky enough to have enlightened oracles for breasts. But all women’s breasts are magical, nonetheless. They all produce, when required, life giving milk; every possible nutrient tiny bodies need in a few completely free sucks.

My sleepy nursling

My sleepy nursling

But all goodies have a baddy out to get them. Every Superman a Lex Luther. Every packet of Custard Creams a tin with an ill fitting lid that makes them all soft.

Boobs have quite a few enemies, amongst them misinformed health professionals who advise new mamas to not spoil the baby by nursing on demand, an oversexualised culture that give breasts a limiting role of titillators, and also I bet boobs hate bras in general too (Hold on, I’ll just ask them. Yep, they do, they bloody hate bras.) But their absolute arch enemy must be formula companies. Not formula or formula feeding parents – formula has been life-giving too and parents who use formula are often breastfeeders as well, and if not, still just doing the best they know for their baby. But formula companies, sheesh. When it comes to baddies, they take the biscuit.

I can remember reading about Nestle and their formula pushing tactics in poor communities when I was around 17. I wasn’t a mother, saw breasts primarily as a pain in my teenage bum rather than potential baby nurturers, and wasn’t the least “activisty.” I suspect I only came across the information because I was googling tips for how I might go about making a giant Kit Kat, Pimp My Snack styles.

But I remember feeling so angry. The injustice of it was clear to me. That huge corporations would generate myths around breastfeeding and use sly tactics like giving out freebies at the hospital to undermine the ancient, healthy and free practice of breastfeeding. I became mad at Nestle that day and haven’t touched one of their products since. Even though I dream of giant Kit Kats pretty much every night.

Imagine how angry I felt when I read Zoe Williams’ article on Saturday about similar strategies still being employed today, decades after the original evils were bought to light.  Formula companies still giving gifts to health workers in return for promotion, propaganda still being placed in antenatal wards. Super rich, global companies are doing everything they can to create a market for a product in a place where that product can not be used safely. Lack of clean water and clean bottles mean the formula will always be germ ridden, compared to breastmilk that comes ready sterilised.

Save the Children, who launched a report and campaign on it all yesterday, estimates that more than 800,000 deaths could be prevented each year if infants were simply given breast milk in the first hour of life. It is a silver bullet for child health in poor countries yet Big Business is doing all it can to undermine it.


I can’t be sure as I have a terrible memory (honestly, I don’t know who half my Facebook friends are) but I think the original Nestle boycott put my feet on the fight-for-a-better-world path. Despite setbacks like these current revelations, where rules that were made as a result of a first round of campaigning are broken, the world is an infinitely better place because of that initial fight against the formula villains. There are a lot more breastfeeding mums in developing countries than if the Nestle campaign never occurred. But there is still LOADS more to be done.

I’m going to have to muzzle the Northern male voice in my boobs soon, I know. I just don’t have the bravado to survive Ramona asking them a question about what we should all have for dinner loudly in the supermarket – public boob-questioning is the inevitable next step.

But, as I get ready to silence my own breasts, I have spoken out on behalf of breasts* in developing countries through the Save the Children campaign to hold some of the villains, Nestle and Danone, to account. Do consider doing it too.

* Of course, really you don’t have to give two hoots about boobs to care about this. It isn’t even really about breasts as much as injustice. You just need to care about babies surviving and hope for a future where people matter more than profit. This little dash of activism will go some way to making that happen.breastfeeding quote

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  • Michael Seese 19 February, 2013 at 11:30 am

    My wife breastfed all three of ours. And when her boobs were busy, I fed them with milk she had pumped.

    • Lucy 19 February, 2013 at 5:01 pm

      Ah, ace, I love breastfeeding 🙂

  • Patch 19 February, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Pleased to see that I am not the only one to play slightly crazy games with her kids 😀

    • Lucy 19 February, 2013 at 5:01 pm

      Every thing is play to them so the best thing we can do is match their silliness hehe

  • lally young 19 February, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    I do hate how the big companies push formula. I remeber when my son was first born, I was quite ill and I did want to breast feed him. But what did he get? a bottle of cow and gate rammed into his mouth. I argue this with the midwife and I did ask her if she was sponsered by cow and gate! She wasnt best pleased. Then they claimed they went through my medical records and decided I would be best on bottle, I didnt have a say in this. The same has been with the others, you had an illness in your teens and you can risk it.
    I read the other day that baby formula is bad for babies[ I wonder if it has horse milk in it?]. Something to do with not enough vitamins, I can believe that. And I believe that it can slow down devlopment. As my middle one has had lots of health problems, including hormonal problems. Ohh and dont buy baby milk from china!

    • Lucy 19 February, 2013 at 5:03 pm

      As you point out theses myths and bad behaviour isn’t solely limited to developing countries. How sad for you that she did this.

  • Kathryn 19 February, 2013 at 2:45 pm

    What a great blog (Admittiedly as one the authors of Save the Children’s report I may be a little biased)! Thanks for helping raise the issue and for having a sense of humour about it, which is much needed.

    • Lucy 19 February, 2013 at 5:07 pm

      Ah, how great to get this comment! Well done on the report, really amazing and will make a huge difference to peoples lives.
      *thinks of all the things in report I didn’t mention*

  • Fritha 19 February, 2013 at 7:15 pm

    great post about such an important issue..but I also LOVE that you have talking boobs 🙂 xx

    • Lucy 20 February, 2013 at 9:37 am

      Hehe thanks 🙂 They come in handy that is for sure!

  • Stacy Woodward 19 February, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Did you ever have issues with biting? My 8 month old has started taking a chomp towards the end of most feeds. Puts me in edge and she only has two teeth-I dread the day when the top two come in. She has already drawn blood once! I always draw back slightly (as a reaction more than anything) and gently say no biting—she always breaks out into the most miserable sad cry, but no change so far. Any advice?

    • Lucy 20 February, 2013 at 9:41 am

      Hi Stacy
      Funnily enough this is the second biting comment about an 8 month old I have had this week!
      It must be quite common, but that doesnt really help, eh? So, so painful 🙁 I only had a couple of experiences of it but it was enough to make my eyes water.
      It is a phase and it will pass but there are resources that will help- this is one that I think is best


  • Sarah @ The View From the Table 20 February, 2013 at 11:56 am

    Brilliant post, and the first (but not the last) that I’ve read from your blog.
    I’m in the middle of penning something myself too as it’s too important to ignore. I found it hard to believe that Nestle and Danone were still getting away with pushing formula in developing country. Makes me seethe with anger! Profit over life – how did we come to this?
    Thanks again for a great read. x

  • becky 24 February, 2013 at 10:55 pm

    I fed both my babies the first till he wast 14 months then I switched to cows milk because I was made to feel i was abnormal! More confident with my seconf I fed till she was two and stopped being bothered. |I loved breastfeeding, fabulous as it is for ophysical helath emotionally it is HUGELY beneficial too. A real pleasure.

    • Lucy 25 February, 2013 at 1:10 pm

      Great innings Becky!