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Monday, September 17, 2012

Pro-breastfeeding or Breastfeeding Advocate?

The words pro-breastfeeding or breastfeeding advocate are being thrown about interchangeably.  However, I think that there is a difference between them.  Let me explain.
What is an advocate?
A quick Google search led me to this definition:


The way I understand it, by publicly supporting or recommending a particular cause or policy, you will not take on any other cause or support a program that is contrary to this cause/policy.  Further, you promote it, talk about it and make a stand for your cause.

Meanwhile, if you are "pro" for a cause, you support the cause, may recommend or promote it but not necessarily champion, plead or protect the cause that you support.

Let me explain by concrete examples - doctors.   There are many pediatricians who claim to be pro-breastfeeding but there are very few doctors who are really advocates.  E's pediatrician is pro-breastfeeding but I do not think she is an advocate.  She supports breastfeeding - recommends it to her patients but I don't think she is able to give the proper support and information.  When I was about to go back to work at 2 months post partum, she suggested that I give E, 4-5 ounces of milk given his weight!  If I was not firm in my convictions or did not do my research, I probably would've instructed yaya to over-feed E or even mix-feed.  We started by giving him 2 ounces and chose to give him small frequent feedings over big, spaced ones.

A breastfeeding doctor-advocate who comes to my mind is Dr. Anthony Calibo.  Not only does he support breastfeeding but he advocates it and helps moms manage breastfeeding issues.  He also is very active in speaking for it during committee hearings and other interagency meetings.

Being a breastfeeding advocate does not mean you are anti-formula either.  For me, if a mom truly cannot breastfeed despite obtaining support, correct advice, or ends up not a happy mom because of breastfeeding issues, I would not say no to formula milk. What breastfeeding advocates fight against would be the unethical marketing strategies for formula milk companies.  

And the marketing strategies of milk companies are wide-reaching, creative and very very enticing. If you call yourself a breastfeeding advocate, don't you think it is contradictory to accept sponsorship, endorsements, etc. from milk companies? Especially if that milk company is very active in IPNAP (the major mover for the monster bill) and the PHAP (the major mover against the passage of the RIRR of the Milk Code back in 2007).  Yes, it may not be contrary to the Milk Code, but again, as with the marketing strategies of the milk companies, what may be legal is not always ethical.  

My stand is:  if you call yourself a breastfeeding advocate, don't promote the agenda of the milk companies.  Sure, buy their products and use them at home, but don't help them market or promote their products, their brand or companies.  Call yourself pro-breastfeeding instead if you choose market and tie up with these milk companies.  As a breastfeeding advocate, you are often called to talk about breastfeeding issues or promote and protect breastfeeding rights.  But how can you effectively do so when you also promote the cause of the milk companies?

What do YOU think? Is it all semantics?

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