Monday 18 February 2013

The First Hour Campaign Isn't About You

I don’t know if there’s something leaking into the water supply, causing a general feeling of disgruntledness among the population. Or if years of reading vile hatred spew from the Daily Mail has actually turned people into twisted individuals unable to fight the overwhelming compulsion to moan.

I’m not saying there isn’t a place for moaning, of course there is. Quite frankly, if you serve me a flat cola in a pub, expect some displeasure on my part. But moaning about the little things is ok. I don’t mind people moaning about the bus being late, or the cold weather, or a cat shit problem they may have in their garden. All of those grumbles are fine.

Today, however, I have heard (in the Web 2.0, 2013 social media sense of the word) people carping about a new Save The Children campaign.

The First Hour campaign is based on the new Save the Children report Superfood for Babies, which found:

  • 830,000 deaths could be avoided each year if every baby were breastfed within the first hour of life
  • A baby breastfed within the first hour of life, is three times more likely to survive
  • One in eight child deaths could be prevented through breastfeeding
  • The global formula milk industry is worth £16 billion

Photo credit: Save the Children
In the UK, 81 per cent of babies are breastfed within the first hour. In the developing world, it is around half of that.

The first hour campaign is calling for more education about the benefits of breastfeeding, universal access to health care, legislation to protect and encourage breastfeeding, and, an end to the unethical marketing deployed by formula milk companies.

To me, this sounds like a much-needed and very worthwhile campaign. Misinformation and bad marketing practice is effectively tricking women into using formula milk instead of breastfeeding. And, in turn, this is putting children at risk. Colostrum can mean the difference between life and death to babies born in countries where dysentery and pneumonia are common killers.

This campaign is trying to ensure that mothers everywhere are able to make informed decisions to protect their children. This campaign isn’t about you and your choices. It’s about saving babies.

As is always the way here in the UK, as soon as feeding babies was mentioned, people ran screaming into their stables, jumped atop their very high horses, and began guffing about how they were being attacked. Well, Janet from Barnsley, I’m sorry but this campaign isn’t aimed at you.

I mean, Jesus Christ, take yourself out of the picture for a minute. This is about the children dying of dysentery who may have survived had they been breastfed. And, Janet, before you start spluttering about how not everyone can breastfeed, these mothers didn’t try breastfeeding because a sales rep dressed as a nurse gave them free formula samples while telling them it would be much better for their babies than dirty breastmilk.

You, with your top of the range steriliser, never ending supply of formula milk and access to an unlimited supply of clean water, choosing to formula feed your baby is not what this campaign is about.

Sure, Save the Children could have shelved this campaign lest they offended you, Janet. They could have filed away this research, in case their campaign highlighting the immune system boosting properties of breastmilk made you feel victimised for choosing to formula feed. But, in order for them to protect your precious feelings, 95 babies would continue to die every hour in the developing world.

Are your feelings really worth that much, Janet?

95 is an awful lot of babies.

Footnote: Janet is not a real person. She exists merely to represent the hundreds of complaints I saw posted to Save the Children today via Facebook and Twitter.

You can find out more about the campaign here. You can donate to support this much-needed campaign here.

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