Tag Archives | IBFAN

Contaminants in Breastmilk? IBFAN Responds.

By Joy Heads, OAM, IBCLC, FILCA, 

7643953482_b74b48b183The reality of the presence of environmental chemicals has been on the world’s radar since the release of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring in 1962.

Today it is accepted that every human body contains many man-made chemicals that can cause harm. Human milk has a high proportion of fat and therefore fat soluble contaminants, including dioxins, can be very easily measured.

Expressed breastmilk used to be included in the Australian Basket Market Survey, now called Australian Total Diet Study (ATDS), because it was easy to collect from consenting women in postnatal wards.

Over the last few decades, scare tactics have emerged, warning women about the perceived danger of breastfeeding.  I clearly remember one front page headline in a Sydney Sunday paper in the mid 70’s screaming: DDT’s in breastmilk: mothers poisoning their babies.

The press coverage of Florence William’s 2012 book: “Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History”, which covers her investigations into the issue, did little to allay these fears.

It is therefore heartening that the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) has just released “IBFAN Statement on Infant and Young Child Feeding and Chemical Residues” (2013), which presents objective and independent information for parents, carers and health professionals.

The main author of the paper is well respected Dr Adriano Cattaneo, Consultant Epidemiologist and Co-ordinator of the Unit for Health Services Research and International Health, Institute of Child Health “IRCCS Burlo Garofolo”, Trieste, Italy, a WHO Collaborating Centre for Maternal and Child Health. Dr Cattaneo was an Expert Reviewer on the 2012 NHMRC Infant Feeding Guidelines.

This evidence-based, well referenced statement goes beyond the issue of possible residues in human milk to include that of contaminants in infant formula including in the unnecessary, but cleverly marketed, follow-on formulas, baby foods, feeding bottles and teats.

The paper also emphasises the potential harm of chemical exposure during pregnancy at a time when tissues and organs are growing rapidly. It reinforces the fact that there is now far greater understanding of the beneficial effects of breastfeeding and its role in developing immune protection and mitigating the harmful effects of chemical exposure in the womb.

Conversely, formula feeding does not afford any protection to babies at all. The ecological footprint and consequence of increasing rates of formula feeding is also addressed.

The document lists 10 Key Points and Key IBFAN Messages, which includes the statement that “pregnant and breastfeeding mothers have the right to receive full and unbiased information”.

IBFAN endorses international health regulations to protect, promote and support breastfeeding – because the benefits outweigh any possible harm -“except in the case of industrial disasters and of exceedingly high residues after industrial disasters”.

Contained within the paper is a Call for Action, urging decision-makers and industry across the globe to implement the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs).

The Appendix is an excellent reference and carries an analysis of 13 chemical residues or families of chemical residues. IBFAN have considered only substances “for which there is ample literature and that are a target for important policies and regulations worldwide.”

This paper provides strong evidence that the continuing fight for a healthy global environment, with minimum toxins, is a challenging one considering industry redistribution and weak environmental regulations.

This post was originally published on Crikey, a news service from Australia. We thank them for allowing us to republish it here. 

Joy HeadsJoy Heads, OAM, IBCLC, FILCA,  is a midwife and has been an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant since 1986. In 2009, she was awarded the designation of Fellow of the International Lactation Consultants Association (ILCA™). She is currently on the Board of Directors of ILCA, and co-wrote the chapter on “Breast Pathology” for the ILCA’s Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultants (Editors: Mannel B, Martens P J, Walker M. (3nd ed) Jones & Bartlett. MA. USA. 2013). In 2006 she was awarded the Order of Australian Medal for service to nursing and midwifery as a specialist lactation consultant and to health professional and parent education. Joy was the Clinical Nurse Consultant (Lactation) at the Royal Hospital for Women, Sydney for many years until she retired from paid work in late 2010.

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If YOU Don’t Advocate for Mothers & Babies, Who Will?

Written by Jennie Bever Babendure, PhD, IBCLC

As IBCLCs, part of our Code of Professional Conduct  (IBLCE November 1st, 2011)calls on us to adhere to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes and Subsequent Resolutions.  For those of us who hold this Code in high esteem, the news that WHO is accepting corporate funding and instant payday loans for its obesity initiative is enough to turn our stomachs many times over. According to the article, the Pan American Office of the WHO (based in Washington, D.C.) has begun to accept funding from fast food makers, among them the food giant and WHO Code violator Nestle.

As I struggled to reconcile the idea that an organization focused on world health would accept funding to fight obesity from the organizations that stand the most to gain from creating it, I began to feel crushing discouragement. How on earth can we, as a small band of mothers and breastfeeding professionals supporting the WHO Code, compete with multinational corporations with seemingly endless supplies of money? How can we succeed at supporting the WHO Code when the WHO is taking money from one of the worst offenders?

This is the point in the story when the hero has been soundly defeated. She goes back home with her eyes on the ground kicking stones in the path. She decides she will never win, so she might as well give up and just make noodles for the rest of her life (oh wait, I think that might be from one of my son’s favorite movies).

After a long night of frustration, writing, and a little alcohol, I chose to reframe the issue as a CALL TO ACTION. And if the WHO violating the WHO Code isn’t a call to action slapping me in the face, I don’t know what is!

But what can we do?

Most of us are doing our darndest to help mothers and babies start and continue breastfeeding in the face of tremendous marketing and cultural pressure to do otherwise. We stay awake nights worrying about how to best help a mother struggling with thrush or low supply, pour over research on tongue-tie and search the web for resources for new mothers. What more can we do?

The time has come for us to see our roles expand.  Our job as lactation professionals must not only be to provide individual breastfeeding support, but also to advocate for maternal and child health on a larger scale. If we don’t begin to protest the status quo and work to change the political and cultural barriers that mothers face in their attempts to reach their breastfeeding goals, we will be fighting the same battles for the next 100 years. The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) has long been at this fight. They shouldn’t have to fight alone.

In many places, we are beginning to see policies and legislation changing. We need to harness that momentum to move the tide even further. Now more than ever, mothers and babies need us to advocate for them and they need us to empower them to demand change themselves. Not just in the clinic or hospital, but in the grocery stores and restaurants, in the hallways and on the floor of congress. When mothers and babies protest a mother being asked to leave for nursing in public, we need to show up. When our congressmen and women debate policies that impact breastfeeding, we need to show up. When a news station wants to run a story on breastfeeding, we need to show up. When the WHO takes money from Nestle, we need to show up!

For some, showing up means planning and attending nurse-ins and rallies, for others it is talking, blogging and posting information on the cultural and political barriers to breastfeeding on websites, twitter and Facebook pages. Still others have the ability to influence corporations and other organizations they are a part of by changing the way they do business, who they work with, and how they support their employees. Even beginning to have conversations with the mothers you work with about choosing to support companies that uphold the WHO Code can have an impact!

We can also leverage our resources by joining forces with other organizations working to improve maternal and child health. In addition to IBFAN and the World Alliance for Breastfeeding ActionNatasha K. Sriraman has written about the organization 1000 Days for the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine.  With a goal of improving life by improving maternal and infant nutrition in the first 1000 days –pregnancy through the second birthday—1000 days seems like a natural ally of lactation consultants and maternal-child health advocates.  Working with like-minded organizations will increase our ability to impact policies and legislation that prevent corporations like Nestle from sabotaging breastfeeding in both developed and developing countries by marketing their products directly to mothers.

When I was younger, I was under the illusion that if something important were happening, someone else would take care of it. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that is rarely the case. When the WHO takes money from a formula company, something is terribly wrong. If we don’t do something about it, who will?

If you are interested, please consider joining the “Friends of the WHO Code” Facebook Group to discuss violations of the WHO Code, especially those on social media, and how we can empower lactation professionals, volunteers and mothers to stand up for its importance.

Jennie Bever Babendure, PhD, IBCLC: I am mother to 2 active boys and an Assistant Research Professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University. As breastfeeding researcher, I am constantly scanning the literature for articles that guide my research and inform my clinical practice. One of my goals is to increase the evidence base of our profession as lactation consultants. I feel it is important for lactation professionals to be aware of and contribute to breastfeeding research, especially when so much of it is fascinating! As an ongoing contributor to Lactation Matters, it is my hope that you will find the articles I highlight as interesting and informative as I do, and that you will use them to guide you in the important work of lactation professionals and breastfeeding advocates. For more research news and commentary, check out my blog at www.breastfeedingscience.com. I can be reached at jennie.bever@gmail.com.

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