New Zealand was in the throes of breast feeding controversy this week, thanks to a rugby player shown doting on his daughter.
On Sunday, the New Zealand Herald revealed that a few seconds of footage showing the All Black star Piri Weepu bottle-feeding his six-month-old daughter were cut out of an antismoking television commercial after complaints from organizations that encourage breast-feeding. As part of a government campaign promoting smoke-free homes, a camera crew followed Weepu around for an hour and captured “a nice little poignant moment,” as Iain Potter, the head of the agency promoting the commercial, put it. But when it saw the footage, La Leche League expressed concern that the images were inconsistent with the government’s “breast is best” campaign and asked that it be removed.
So what about all this breast feeding controversy?
Condemnation of the condemnation was fast and furious. An editorial in the New Zealand Herald bemoaned the influence of “special-interest groups”: “no one who does not spend all day worrying about breast-feeding would have seen” the images as detrimental. Wasn’t it a “little odd” that the ad makers “bowed to the pressure,” Warwick Rasmussen wrote in the Manawatu Standard. “It was almost saying that what Weepu was doing was wrong.” Anyway, asked the Bay of Plenty Times, how do we know there wasn’t breast milk in that bottle?
In short order, according to Richard Boock of Auckland Now, the uproar over breast feeding controversy had managed to cast breast-feeding advocates as people “blinded by ideology” and who “don’t seem to care that, in their rush to smear anything but breast-feeding as unfit, they continue to alienate a substantial proportion of the community.” By the end of the week, the New Zealand Herald was almost patting itself on the back for giving a “voice” to those who, for health or other reasons, have had to bottle-feed their children.
Did the paper intentionally manufacture a controversy? In a parenting blog, Donnelle Belanger-Taylor points out that these issues were no big deal “until the spin” that singled out La Leche League for criticism, “presumably with the intent of inciting exactly this sort of reaction.” Writing in the New Zealand Herald — them again — Dita De Boni seemed puzzled : “I must live in a parallel universe” because “I have never chanced upon these so-called ‘breast-feeding Nazis’ that currently have everyone up in arms.”
Looks like a storm in a tea cup, then, and one that seems to ignore the country’s cultural and social diversity. As Danyl Mclacuchlan points out in his blog, the virtues of a mother’s milk might be well known — or at least well debated — among “white, middle-class New Zealand.” But “many Maori and Pacific Island mums simply refuse to even attempt breast-feeding.”
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Munch Mum Anna