Mothercare & Breastfeeding – A Petition
Earlier today I read a post over on the Lactivist blog about one woman’s recent trip to Mothercare and her dismay at the information leaflets she found there, which gave advice about bottlefeeding, but not breastfeeding. After some digging around online she found Mothercare’s breastfeeding advice leaflet, and I think she may wish she hadn’t, full of mistakes as it was.
Below is the letter she has written to Mothercare. If, after reading it, you would like to add your name, please follow the link to sign the letter.
I was shocked and dismayed, when taking my eldest son to the toilet in the Nottingham branch Mothercare, to notice six (I think) leaflet holders on the wall. I forget what five of them were, but I can tell you what they weren’t: Breastfeeding advice. There was nothing, absolutely nothing, on that wall about breastfeeding. However there WAS a wad of leaflets giving advice about how to bottle feed. It is absolutely unacceptable that there is bottle feeding advice and no breastfeeding advice on that wall. If providing feeding advice there should ALWAYS be a balance, it is shockingly irresponsible to have a situation in ANY of your stores in which mothers can only access information about bottle feeding in a passive suggestion that breastfeeding is not a feeding method worth considering.
I also have two objections to this leaflet’s content: firstly it states “Most babies feed from a bottle at some point, whether it’s with breast milk or formula.” While this is of course sadly the case in this country, this sentence does nothing to advise or support bottle feeding parents, and only serves to normalise bottle feeding even more which is very irresponsible at a time when health organisations all around the world are doing their best to promote breastfeeding due to its lifesaving health benefits. I strongly feel this sentence should be removed, especially considering the fact that it serves no positive purpose to bottle feeders and only appears to be a space-filler.
Secondly, it says “Breastfeeding is best for baby – if at all possible breastfeed for the first 6 months.” Just because breastfeeding is so rare past the 6 months mark in this country does not mean it should be, and of course we have the World Health Organisation recommendations to back that up. This sentence should read “If at all possible, breastfeed exclusively for 6 months and partially until at least 2 years” – as per the recommendations of the WHO. Mothercare is a shop, not a health organisation, so you should only be passing on the advice of the WHO, not fabricating your own.
The leaflet does then make reference to a breastfeeding leaflet, but as I say there was no sign of such a thing in the store. But knowing that one must surely exist I hunted on the Mothercare website until I found pdf files of the leaflets. This is the one I found in the store about bottle feeding:
and this is the absent leaflet about breastfeeding:
The points I would like to raise with the breastfeeding leaflet are:
“But breastfeeding is a skill and it can take a while for you and your baby to feel comfortable and confident with it.” While this isn’t gravely terrible, I feel that this negative portrayal of breastfeeding being a difficult skill to acquire is at risk of scaring people away from trying it, and this message can be worded in a much more accurate and positive manner, such as “Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world and by far the easiest way of feeding your baby, but here are some guidelines for anybody who needs help establishing that breastfeeding relationship.”
“He should have all of the nipple and most of the areola in his mouth” – women with saucer-like areolae will read this in dismay wondering how on earth they will be able to fit most of their large areolae in the baby’s mouth or assuming they must be doing it wrong when in fact they may well be doing it right. Another sentence that should be reworded to give the correct advice. Instead of me telling you what this advice should be, I suggest you consult a qualified lactation consultant and acquire an approved source of information, not a self-proclaimed “breastfeeding expert” without any specific breastfeeding/lactation qualifications to back it up, as I have a feeling you may have done.
“His nose and chin should be pressed against your breast” – Nose should not necessarily be pressed against the breast. This is false information.
“Your baby is feeding well and getting enough milk if he settles well after feeds; he generally lasts 3-4 hours before he is hungry, and he cries to be fed again.” – Absolute rubbish to suggest all breastfed babies should last between 3-4 hours between feeds, my five month old still doesn’t go this long and he is a great weight and thriving. Women will read this and assume there is a problem when there isn’t. Breastfed babies often feed a lot more frequently than this, especially in the early months, as breast milk is digested a lot faster than artificial milk, and this is in no way a sign that your baby is not feeding properly. Additionally, crying is a late response to hunger and there are many cues prior a parent should look out for before waiting for a baby’s cry. This is irresponsible and incorrect advice.
“Your baby is not feeding well if: he falls asleep at the breast but then wakes and cries when you try to settle him; his nappies are dry or his urine is concentrated or smelly; his weight gain is poor. If so, try expressing your milk with a pump – this lets you check your milk supply”. – This is shocking, detrimental advice. I dread to think how many poor mothers have given up breastfeeding as a result of the false information that if they don’t get much out with a pump they have a low supply. There are many women out there with brilliant (sometimes even overactive!) milk supplies who cannot get a drop out with any brand of breast pump. The amount of milk you can express with a pump is in NO WAY a reflection of the mother’s milk supply, and this is shocking, dangerous and absolutely false advice to be putting out there to vulnerable, trusting mothers, as such a mainstream and influential store. (That is IF there are actually any breastfeeding leaflets out there amongst all the bottle feeding information – as this was most certainly not the case in Nottingham, and no, there were no empty slots for the breastfeeding leaflets either!)
When Googling looking for these leaflets I stumbled across a parenting forum thread and one mother had posted that she had seen an old version of these leaflets with an extra bullet point advising parents to read a book of a self-proclaimed ‘breastfeeding expert’ who in fact has no experience or qualifications in breastfeeding or lactation besides a past as a general midwife. (As I am making this letter public I will avoid mentioning this author by name). This woman is renowned in the breastfeeding field for giving terrible, detrimental advice about breastfeeding under the guise of being an expert, and I am wondering if this nugget of information means you have been using this woman as a source for your poor information. In the interests of your reputation, if nothing else, I suggest you seriously research true experts in the field and take your advice from respectable sources.
It is with perhaps naïve hope that I am, for the record, assuming that all of the above has occurred as an innocent result of a lack of proper research and education on your part, rather than the alternative, an underhand method of sabotaging breastfeeding relationships in order to switch more women over to using breast pumps unnecessarily and/or formula feeding in order to generate greater profits for yourself. If the points I have made – backed up with the signatures of this petition of agreement – are ignored or rejected then the only reasonable conclusion that I can draw is that the latter explanation is the reality of what you are doing. If this is the case, Mothercare, I assure you this will not be the end of this and you are in serious danger of tarnishing your respected brand.
I will await your response with interest.
There is so much negative stuff out there about breastfeeding, but I think it is reasonable to expect a store such as Mothercare to at least provide accurate information. If you agree, please take the time to add your name to the letter and let’s see if we can make a difference.