Joint Statement on the Upcoming Pregnancy & Baby Fairs

We, Amanda Glynn IBCLC (www.lactation.ie), Carol Smyth IBCLC (www.carolsmyth.co.uk) and Nicola O’Byrne IBCLC (www.breastfeedingsupport.ie ) have come together to make the following statement re International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) attending non-WHO Code compliant baby fairs.

The adoption of and adherence to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes is a *minimum* requirement and only one of several important actions required in order to protect health practices of infant and young child feeding. (Resolution WHA 34.22) 

Why would a formula company invite a breastfeeding advocate and/or healthcare expert, such as an IBCLC, to attend its Pregnancy and Baby fair?

Having an expert such as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant associated with a Code violating company, lends credibility to its products and activities. It’s a clever marketing ploy that achieves endorsement by association, whether or not that was the IBCLC’s intended outcome. When an IBCLC has an association with a formula manufacturer, directly or indirectly, we believe that the IBCLC is not meeting his or her responsibilities under the spirit of the Code. It is our contention that lending support to such events not only serves to undermine the professional integrity of the IBCLC credential and profession but also threatens future breastfeeding advocacy efforts. 

Stand holders and presenters at baby fairs are there to increase sales through discounts and complimentary gifts, which in turn builds brand awareness and loyalty. Some of the stand holders and presenters have chosen to further promote this non-Code compliant Pregnancy and Baby fair by offering mothers “free” attendance tickets. It is worth noting that even when a company offers free tickets to an event, the cost of providing those free tickets is simply absorbed by the marketing department of the formula company and added to the price of the products that fall within the scope of the Code. We do realise that the two upcoming Pregnancy and Baby fairs are being run by an event company. However, we believe the main sponsors are funding the bulk of the costs.

Recognising the complexity and susceptibility of the Code as a minimum standards document which is open to interpretation, we further our commitment to upholding the spirit and intention of the Code by declaring that we will not accept, or offer to the public, any inducements (such as free tickets, samples, gifts, material items containing logos etc.) relating to products or entities which fall within the scope of the Code. To strengthen our adherence to the provisions and obligations of the Code and to avoid any conflict of interest, we further declare that we will not offer nor accept any invitation to speak at non-Code compliant events.

Amanda Glynn - www.lactation.ie

Carol Smyth - www.carolsmyth.co.uk

Nicola O’Byrne - www.breastfeedingsupport.ie 

For Further information on WHO Code and IBCLC Code of Professional Conduct please use these links

http://www.unicef.org.uk/.../A-guide-for-health-workers.../

http://iblce.org/.../08/code-of-professional-conduct.pdf

Breastfeeding Platitudes - Why No Parent Wants to Hear Them

A common occurrence, on social media forums in particular, unfolds when a mother posts that she is stuck. She writes that she and her baby are having breastfeeding difficulties. She pours her heart out in every line. The thread quickly lengthens with lots of posters wanting to help. Many offer great information. Some will provide links to supports that the mother can access and others will empathise and offer their own story; how they managed to get over a similar situation.  Admins will do their best to quickly jump to correct any misinformation that hasn’t already been queried. This is social media support at its best. When it works, it works really well.

This level of support and sharing does not happen on all online breastfeeding support forums, however.  Depending on the particular social media forum that a mother is connected to, sometimes she may only receive a few responses to her query. Maybe just one or two; a ‘sad’ face emoticon even. It’s then that the one-liner platitude responses, that appear frequently in all support forums, take on a whole different meaning to a mother who is in distress.

Platitudes such as...

~ Keep Strong

~ Hugs x

~ It’s totally normal

~ At least you did your best

Breastfeeding Platitudes.jgg

When offered in isolation, these overused sayings do very little to validate a mother who is feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Remember, sometimes these platitudes will be the only responses that a mother reads. Though offered with genuine sympathy, what we say and what we mean may not be what the mother ends up hearing. This is especially true when we're using a method of communication that makes it almost impossible to gauge tone. Imagine yourself as a new mother. Everything is new. Your body looks (and acts) new. Your baby is new. Your feelings are new. Your partner is also trying to get to grips with his or her new role.

The way a mother internalises sayings such as "it's totally normal" may result in her doubting her own self-efficacy and desire to keep going. These phrases are not empowering phrases.  They don’t add to her confidence. They take away from it. The mother sometimes ends up hearing...

~ I haven’t a clue how to help you

~ You’re on your own

~ Nobody likes a whinger

~ For goodness sake, get over it – I did!

~ If this is normal breastfeeding behaviour, I don’t want any part of it

Just because we say something is normal or natural does not automatically normalise the experience for THIS parent.

Of course it can be helpful for parents to know that what they’re experiencing right now, and the behaviours that their baby is displaying, are ‘normal’. However, just because we say something is normal or natural does not automatically normalise the experience for THIS parent.

Before we can even begin to offer support, it’s helpful to remember that when a parent reaches out to us - in pain, with worry or in grief – the first thing we need to do is to really hear them. They have just told us that this is NOT a normal experience for them. Not normal for this mother. For this father. For this baby.  

When we feel heard and understood, we find it easier to accept help and are more open to receiving information. When we say:

~ I believe you

~ I'm here

~ I’m so glad you’ve told me

~ Would you like to tell me more?

~ I really understand

we open the doors of communication. We can truly empathise and be in the moment with that parent. Only then will the recipient (the mother, father, partner) be accepting of further information and explanation. This kind of dialogue helps to NORMALISE the experiences that the mother is struggling with e.g. taking the time to explain common newborn behaviour or common parent emotions and validating her emotions. 

Listen, hear and then respond.