Sunday, 25 July 2010

Breast: Why Settle For Less?

This is my idea of a breastfeeding support and protection poster.  I was wondering what yours was?  I thought of "Breast: Why Settle For Less?" as I was doing the housework this afternoon.  Ooops, better get back to it.  But I'd really like to see some positive, phrased appropriately, and home made poster ideas, from you all.  Really good ones, I'll publish on the blog.  Leave your feedback on whether or not you think (above) and the others, work for you, or you think they might work for others.

Slogan ideas, you can simply post in comments below.  Actual mock ups, comment with your eddress (email address) below, and I'll send you mine, for sending on the file.  No worries - your eddress won't be seen, or published.  :-)

Let's See What You've Got!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Have Fun Tomorrow!!!!

This is Elaine Scully, and her son, Robin.  Due to my son coming down with a high fever and being Quite Poorly, Elaine will be the main presence at Westminster tomorrow.  Which is only fitting, as she is in London, and is heavily involved in supporting mothers.  :-)

Just look out for her bright red hair, If All Else Fails.  

All the directions and instructions you need for the Westminster event, are here.  We meet in the large semi-circle of grass, with the small tree (for shade) in it, behind the Rodin Statue.  Last year there was a toddler group there as well, with toddler trucks and push along and toys.  That's not us!  

Elaine is very nervous about dealing with the MPs who are coming along.  Help her out ladies!  It's just nerves.  :-)

The regional picnics are here, although there are informal ones in Durham and Leeds as well.  I'll update all that link info, as I go along today.

Next Year's Picnic is all set - for the weekend of June 18th and 19th, 2011.  Explanation on why the changes, here.

If you want to organise a local picnic for next year, join this yahoo group.  You will be sent a pending message, and full instructions.

If you want to attend a picnic, either keep an eye on this blog, or join this Facebook Group.

Have fun everyone!  It's the UK, don't forget sun screen, woolly jumper and an umbrella!  ;-)

Friday, 16 July 2010

Write And Praise BBC Birmingham

... for this fabulous radio interview.  Shane O'Connor does what all journalists and presenters should do... have a perfectly normal conversation, about something, without setting it into all the myths and misinformation, or acting like it's not normal.

In terms of affecting our culture, writing and praising for positive approaches, does more than writing and complaining.  If you've ever written a complaint about shoddy journalism, sensationalism and bias in reporting breastfeeding issues, PLEASE write and praise this interviewer, and this production team.  They were even accurate on the law in England & Wales!  (Which won't please some!)

And do note, pressure to breastfeed etc, was covered without any problem, as it CAN BE.  You don't need a divisive agenda when discussing this issue.  Mothers are mothers, babies are babies: hungry babies get fed.

Articulate, intelligent and open handed interviewing on this subject, is possible.  PLEASE reward this team!

Write to BBC Birmingham itself:  click the 'contact us' button.  Or email here.

Also copy your comments to BBC Head Office:  scroll the comments box to 'appreciation'.

And weren't Kat and Claire, just wonderful?  *rounds of applause*

(Interview is the first 45 minutes of the show.)

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Breastfeeding Picnics 2010

First of all, an apology for the lateness of these updates.  More about that on the longer spiel at the bottom.

Second of all, this list will be updated further, between now and Sunday: part and parcel of why everything got so late this year!  See below.

Third of all, several of the picnics, may be linked live by ITV news, this year, and I will, again, update that, here, as the week goes on.  I think so far we are looking at Westminster, Birmingham, and Nottingham.


Westminster Breastfeeding Picnic
next to Parliament
Monday July 19th
noon - 3pm
Facebook Group

Birmingham Breastfeeding Picnic
Colmore Row
Monday July 19th
noon - 3pm
Facebook Group

Nottingham Breastfeeding Picnic
Waverly Street 
Monday July 19th
noon- 3pm
Warrington Breastfeeding Picnic
next to Town Hall
Monday July 19th
noon - 2pm
Facebook Group

Dorset Breastfeeding Picnic
Bournemouth Gardens
opposite big balloon
Monday July 19th
noon - 3pm
Facebook Group

Wrecsam Breastfeeding Picnic
behind the Guidlhall, Queen's Square
Monday July 19th
noon - 3pm
Facebook Group

Stroud Breastfeeding Picnic
Stratford Park
near the bandstand
11am - 2pm
Monday July 19th


Changes To The Breastfeeding Picnic 2011

I said above, that the picnics got squeezed out on organisation this year.  The primary reason for this, was the General Election.  Recess dates for Westminster aren't published that far ahead, and the delay on the forming of the new Government, which took, if you recall, weeks rather than a day or two, really put pressure on us organising Westminster.  In fact, we finally announced the date, before the Westminster recess dates were published, and crossed our fingers.

Realistically, we also had to wait until the Coalition Government, had set its own agenda for the Parliament ahead.  Not only could they have announced a Breastfeeding Bill, there was also the matter of waiting to see the tone and mood of their agenda: to speak effectively to them, in their own terms.

All this pushed the planning waaay down the line.  Combined with my moving house several hundred miles, and Emily Pulling, the picnic's founder, juggling family employment issues, meant there just hasn't been space to slowly build up, as we usually do.  After all, we are Just Mums With Attitude.  :-)

The huge upheaval of the political situation, has also meant there has been discussion of two of the thorny issues about organising the picnics.  Many picnic organisers, know they would get more turn out, at the weekend.  The entire point, however, was to highlight the issue to Westminster, which does not sit on the Weekend.  Our picnic organisers in Scotland, have also pointed out that when it's held in late July, Holyrood, the Scottish Parliament, is already in recess.  And as Scotland has this law, then allowing for MSP attendance, makes good political sense.

Emily and I had resisted changing the set-up,. as we felt a central MP presence at Westminster, was more important: we need at law for outside Scotland!  However, it's been pointed out, that feedback from MPs has often said, they would attend a weekend event in their constituency, but they are too busy at Westminster, at the end of the session, to attend the central one.

Therefore, from 2011, we are changing the structure of the National Breastfeeding Picnic.  It will take place over a weekend, late in June or early in July.

EDIT:  June18/19th, 2011

Local organisers will be free to hold their picnic on either the Saturday, or the Sunday, of that weekend.  This enables family and religious observations commitments, to be accommodated for the main organiser.  There will always be a Westminster Picnic, but it will be equal to the other picnics, not the central event.  So organisers can invite their MP first and foremost to their own constituency, and if they are in Westminster that weekend, they can attend the Westminster one.

Whilst I will be hosting the final "central" Westminster Picnic on Monday, from 2011 I will be hosting the "No Borders" Breastfeeding Picnic on the A1 at the Scottish/England Border!  Just to show the inanity, and inequality.  (Okay, a photoshoot will be done at the Border, but the actual Picnic will be in beautiful Berwick-Upon-Tweed.)

Over the four years since Emily's original Breastfeeding Picnic at Parliament Square, we've learned a lot about how to go about this, as a mother-to-mother thing, done on the cheap and with minimum work.  So we've also developed a clearer pathway on how to take part.  

If you want to organise a Breastfeeding Picnic, then join the National Breastfeeding Picnic group on yahoo groups.  It's moderated entry, to stop spam, just say in your message where you want to organise one.  Then you'll have access to the "How too.." sheets.  (Very simple, very clearly laid out.)

If you want to attend a Breastfeeding Picnic, join the Facebook group, and then each event is listed as an event.  Or read this blog.


See you on Monday!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Dear Friends..... WABA

Date: 2 July 2010 08:32:56 GMT+01:00

Subject: Breastfeeding Advocate thrown off the BBC World Service

Dear friends,

We have just received news via LACTNET (Lactation Information and Discussion) that Morgan Gallagher, Chairperson of Nursing Matters, a non-profit making, voluntary organisation that advocates for breastfeeding babies was thrown off a BBC World Service programme for saying that unsafe formula feeding kills babies in Africa.

Portions of her posting on LACTNET - reproduced with permission from Morgan.

" Just a quick note to let you know, I've just been thrown off a BBC World Service programme, for saying that unsafe formula feeding kills babies in Africa.The programme went out live at 6pm, BST time, here, and I was booked, at  the last minutes, to do an hour of the whole world programme, and then the 30 minutes afterwards, on Africa only.

When I asked the discussion about breastfeeding be 'creepy' be about women  being put in impossible position, and maybe we should look at why an intelligent, articulate, well educated woman in the UK would be so creeped out by a baby touching her breast... the mic was closed.  When I said we needed to address the pressure to formula feed, not the pressure to breastfeed... the mic was closed.  When I stated that 4000 babies die everyday from unsafe formula feeding... the mic was closed.

When I was then taken off air, and roundly shouted at by the producer.  I challenged her, and stated that we could not have global context discussion on breastfeeding, without discussing formula feeding, and how on earth could she ask a women in Nairobi if she'd support a woman to formula feed if she wanted to?  That ignoring the situation in Africa with formula, and acting  if we were all in the UK, was precisely the bias they were showing.  She said the World Service was for everyone, and I asked how a women in the slums in Kenya, tonight, would feel, listening to us prattling on about  formula feeding as a supported choice.  Did she have any idea who many babies would die tonight, in Kenya, from formula feeding? She blew up, said I'd said formula feeding kills babies, and that was making her very angry, and I was out of the programme.  A taxi would be called to take me away right away, and good bye."

Morgan has blogged about her experience in detail and you can view it here:

To listen to the entire podcast (about 50 minutes long) please click on the link below.

WHYS 30 June 2010: Is breastfeeding 'creepy'? Wed, 30 Jun 10

Kathryn Blundell is the deputy editor of a leading parenting magazine here in the UK and she's got women all over the the world talking. She didn't breastfeed her children - she says that her breasts are for sex not for feeding.

If you've had children, did you feel a pressure to breast-feed?

We hope that you will share this news with your network especially for those who have experience in living or working in resource poor settings to write to the BBC that as a worldwide broadcast - they must carry a world view perspective and understand they have a responsibility to ensure that it is made clear that while the "choice" to formula feed in the UK or Western Europe might be one that can be made with limited negative impact on child and mother that this is simply not the case in much of the world- that that formula feeding commonly results in death in much of the world.


Julianna Lim Abdullah, IBCLC
Senior Coordinator
Information, Communications and Networking

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Dear BBC World Service.... KG

From: Karleen Gribble
Sent: Friday, 2 July 2010 12:10 AM
To: ''
Subject: formula feeding in resource poor settings


I listening to your program on whether breastfeeding is “creepy.”  I thought that it was a very interesting program and that the exploration of the issues surrounding why women in a country like the UK might choose not to breastfeed was valuable. However, I thought that because the BBC World Service is broadcast worldwide that there was a responsibility to ensure that it is made clear that while the “choice” to formula feed in the UK or Western Europe might be one that can be made with limited negative impact on child and mother that this is simply not the case in much of the world- that (as Morgan Gallagher tried to communicate) that formula feeding commonly results in death in much of the world. This is a message that MUST be broadcast.

In two months I will be conducting training at a meeting convened by UNICEF in the Philippines on infant feeding in emergencies. One of the things I will be talking about is how whenever there is a natural emergency, media reporting drives the literal flooding of emergency areas with donations of infant formula- usually sent by well meaning individuals and organisations that are simply unaware of the risks associated with formula feeding in resource poor contexts. Programs like yours, that presented formula feeding as a simple, legitimate and costless choice add to this problem.  They cause harm. Increased infant morbidity and mortality results directly from media reports that present infant formula as something that will help infants, ignoring the risks. Health ministers and aid orgs like UNICEF and Save the children working in countries affected by emergencies tear their hair out trying to stop the container and truck loads of formula arriving in emergency aid arriving and being distributed. 

Please, could you consider actually having a world view in your programs and understand that what might be OK in the UK may not be OK in India or in Botswana or Peru. Could you please consider having interviewees  who know what they are talking about- are experts on infant feeding, on the marketing of infant formula, on the support needed by women to breastfeed, on the relative importance of infant feeding decisions in developed vs underdeveloped contexts?? The cultural blinkers of living in a privileged environment with good sanitation and health care were evident in your interviewer.

If you did consider doing something on this I could certainly put you in touch with a variety of such experts and would be happy to be interviewed myself.

Karleen Gribble

Dr Karleen D Gribble BRurSc PhD
Adjunct Research Fellow
School of Nursing and Midwifery
University of Western Sydney

Friday, 2 July 2010

An Unpalatable Truth

Sorry for not getting this post done until now.  I started it in my head last night, after some criticisms emerged on some pro-breast sites.  But a broken fridge door, has actually taken most of my time today!  (It's now fixed.)

Comments have been made that I wasn't speaking appropriately, for a discussion programme, and others have asked what I was told before I went on.  I thought I'd just make a few points.

I was asked to take part in a programme discussing an anti-breastfeeding article.  An article that denigrated breastfeeding, and upheld formula feeding, explicitly.  As part of that, in my interview by the journalist who booked me to appear, I was asked how I would respond to several questions, if they came up.  I was probed on how I would respond to the points raised in the the article, about both breastfeeding, and formula feeding.

Again, this is memory.  I didn't record the conversation!  (Although guess what I will be doing from now on...?)

What was my reaction to Ms Blundell saying it was 'creepy' to breastfeed?  

I answered that I wouldn't comment on Ms Blundell, as I didn't know her, but that in general, my reaction would be that someone expressing those thoughts, had a problem with their own body image and self-esteem, perhaps their sexuality.  Which was hardly surprising, given how confused and contradictory our society is about women and their bodies.  That some women did feel this, and it wasn't surprising, but really, working on it, for themselves, is the best thing.

What about a woman who had five children and needed to work, and she HAD to formula feed, what would I say to her, would I not have sympathy with that?

I replied that I'd tell the woman with the five children how lucky she was to be able to afford to formula feed her five kids.  That millions of women live with five kids, on under a dollar a day.  And if they don't breastfeed their kids, the kids might die.  How lucky of the Mum to live in a world where she can afford to buy formula, and have clean water to make it up.  And, if she really did want to breastfeed, she could.  She could get help and support.  That was the point, if she really wanted to, she could get support to make it happen.  Working was not a barrier, and she should get the help she needed, and others would help her do so.  But again, how lucky she was to live in a nice clean world where she COULD choose to formula feed, was what I'd say to her.

I expanded this point to say that's there is nothing wrong with formula feeding, as long as it was informed choice.  If a baby was hungry, it needed fed, and the WHO recognised that if nothing else was there, then formula was the fourth choice to feed a baby.  But it was fourth in line.  The issue was informed choice, and not enough women knew that formula feeding carries risks.

I then expanded that point, by stating that when my husband has his heart attack, and I sent my up till then exclusively breast fed three month old baby, out to my family to be formula fed, I had had no idea I was putting my baby at risk.  That when I needed help and information most, I was unaware that I was putting my beloved baby at risk, by sending him to a loving, caring family, who all had formula fed, but that they didn't know about formula safety.  That my own family made up batches of formula in the morning, put them in the fridge, and put them in the microwave to heat them up all through the day.  And I'd sent my baby out to that, not knowing that it was dangerous.

That that was the issue.  Women knowing all the information, and making informed choices.

Edit: knew I forgot a bit.

There was a moment in the discussion, when we talked about risk, when I stated that the risk was not limited to poorer countries.  That modern countries also had a problem.  In the USA, for instance, twice as many formula fed babies dies as breastfed ones, in the first six weeks.  It's a tiny tiny number, 2 per thousand, rather than 1 per thousand, but if you are the mother of that one baby in a thousand, it's a terrible thing.  So I said that CLEARLY to the very nice and very coherent person interviewing me.  Who was, in fact, as I've said, was lovely: very professional and extremely coherent and intelligent.  Just to clarify on those figures 'tho, I did say it wrong, on the phone.  It's 2 more babies per thousand, that die for formula feeding, in the first few weeks of life, than ones breastfed.  It's 2 per thousand for breastfed, and 4 per thousand for formula fed.  Reference  end edit 

She also asked if I could not understand the problem of women being confused about breasts for sex, or for babies.

I replied yes, I could, that was very valid, and support needed to be done there.  When women are told their breasts are sexual playthings, it can be difficult.  It is difficult being female in our society, and women needed support.

She then asked my husband if my breastfeeding had caused problems in our sex life.  He burst out laughing.  :-)

I was then told how well I'd answered, and how good it was that I could speak well, and pepper facts in, without it all becoming to 'fact' heavy.  That I had a good way of talking about things, and putting facts in as I went. Would I please come and do an hour and a half?  We did, as I have recorded prior, discuss thoroughly that it was a free discussion programme between the women, and the male presenter would introduce, then back away and let us communicate with each other, like we would at a dinner party, chatting.

I was then asked how I would like to be introduced.  After a few minutes discussion, - mother, breastfeeding supporter, lactavist etc I said I'd like to be introduced as a 'feminist' as this made the most sense to me.  

I was, of course, introduced as Chair of Nursing Matters. (Which I had given permission for, so that was okay, but my point is I was introduced for that formal role.)

So, this is the discussion that led to me being invited to speak.  Then not being allowed to speak.  :-)

PS  If you don't think I was speaking as I would at a dinner party, best not come round to dinner!

Thursday, 1 July 2010

A Tale of Two Worlds...

or... How I Was Thrown Off The BBC World Service, For Saying That Unsafe Formula Feeding Kills Babies In Africa...

Disclaimer: exact sequence may be out of synch.  This is memory, not documentary.  Lots of conversations, in a very short time.  Some of them may have been one phonecall, and not the other, etc.  But it's the essence of the event.  Sequences of the actual radio discussions, are in my memory as the bits I was reacting too - I may report them in a different sequence.  Also, forgive the epic storytelling.  I've learned this sort of detail is IMPORTANT in being heard.  You can skip down to half way through, if you want to, for the actual throwing off air bit.

So, it's a perfectly normal Wednesday afternoon.  I've decided that I'll go swimming with my 5 year old, for a session with us both, before his swimming lesson at 3.30pm.  I've not sorted out dinner, and I'm in the middle of sifting through how to layer the rest of the day, and get some work done, go swimming, and get some sort of dinner on the table.  I need to get some yeast going, to get tomorrow's bread going.  I've been making our own spelt bread now for 4 days, and need to keep the momentum going, or it's back to bought.  I sit down with 5 year old, and talk through that we will both be going swimming soon, he's excited!

I just check my email.  A new one is in my inbox.  It's from the BBC World Service: they've been phoning my old phone number, can I contact them?  It was sent at 13.52. Would I be interested in taking part in a global conservation about breastfeeding, in light of That Article, this evening?   At 14.08, I send them my new phone number. I then entice 5 year old out of the living room, so I can talk without interruption.  I phone the BBC World Service and have a lovely chat with the lovely journalist.  She does the usual, and both flatters and pushes, to see how I perform under pressure.  We cover a wide ranging series of reactions to the fuss.  She is delighted.  Of course, her FIRST question was "Are you still breastfeeding your 5 year old?"

So I knew where we were.

But it was a really good conversation.  Can I come on and be a main guest on the discussion at 6pm?  The male presenter, Ros, will introduce the various women from around the world who have been booked to speak, and then back out.  It's a conversation like we would be sitting around chatting after dinner.  Not too many facts and figures, short points, casual conversation, if that okay?  Totally, I say.  She emphasises the shortness of answers required.  "You want soundbites?" I say.  No, she says, not sound bites, your own words, just in brief.  When the other women are talking, if you want to respond, just say your name and then jump in.  Let everyone speak.  "Fine", I say.  I have to bring my five year old.  "No problem" she says.

How does my husband feel about my breastfeeding, has it affected how he sees me sexually?  "Ask him yourself." I say, and hand over the phone to David.  She chats with him for several moments, and then asks him to take part in the programme.  He can't come up, as he's in a wheelchair, but they'll phone him on the landline.  "Fine" says David.

How to get me to a studio?  She had no idea where I was, so I suggest Edinburgh, about an hour's drive away.  She goes and sorts out a radio studio booking in Edinburgh, phones me back, and confirms the booking.  The programme will be going out world wide, between 18.00 and 19.00.  However, there is a run on programme, for Africa only.  It's usually 19.00 to 20.00, but because of the World Cup it's only running to 19.30.  Can I stay and do the Africa only programme?  Of course, that's fine, I say.  But start to worry about Hugh.  Mummy in the glass box for an hour and a half is going to be hard on him.  But no choice, with this late a run in.

She books the taxis, and we decide times.  Hugh has his swimming lesson between 15.30 and 16.00.  It's now 14.40.  I suggest taxi gets here at 16.15, as you never know with rush hour traffic in Edinburgh.  She sends me an email confirming my booking from 18.00 to 19.30, and that taxis have been booked.  I reply to her, stating I will need help at the other end, to help me carry in the Child Car Seat, and it will need to be kept safe whilst I'm on air.

I've been here before, I know BBC reception staff do nothing to help anyone: "They're not allowed to."

My afternoon dissolves into epic rush.  My swimming session with Hugh is cancelled.  I literally pull my coolest dress off the washing line, and put it on wet.  Swimming for Hugh is rushed around packing enough things to keep him occupied, i go shopping for drinks and good quality snacks for him whilst he's in the pool, and literally rushing him back into the car in his wet swimming costume, and driving back home.  Taxi turns up at 16.20, and we load myself, Hugh, car seat and bags and supplies, into it, and drive off.

Driver is from Berwick-Upon Tweed.  He has no idea where the BBC studios are.  He's just been given a postcode and we know how good that is, in a city, right?.  BBC phones me to check I'm on my way.  I confirm we are, and ask if there will be someone at other end to help with child and car seat?  She phones back.  No, reception can't leave, but the taxi can park "right up outside".

I have a pretty clear idea what is happening at this point, and resign myself to doing all the work.

I phone David, and he looks on the map.  Taxi driver and me and David, work out roughly where we are going.  We get there, and stop a lady leaving the hairdressers, with expensive shopping bags.  Does she know where the BBC studios are around here?  Yes, she gives us direction.  Hugh falls asleep in car seat, 3 minutes before we get there.  *sigh*

We find the hole in the wall studio.  It's a good 100 feet, downhill, from where we can get the taxi to.  I leave asleep Hugh in car with taxi driver, cautioning him not to run off with my child :-), and carry the three bags of gear down to the BBC Alba, two room studio, under a shopping centre.  I look wistfully at the Pizza Express next door.

Reception man lets me in, and I dump the bags and explain I have to return for child, and car seat.  A total of 3 other people are in the very small studios.  I ask who is going to look after Hugh when I am on air?  They say I'm booked to take the child, and the car seat, into the studio with me.  Female journo working on shared computers, says she's leaving in 5 minutes.  Of course, this is what I really feared.  I'd just been drop kicked into any free studio they could find, and that was that.  I've worked in radio, it wasn't a surprise!

I return to the taxi, and we find a way to get within 30 feet in the front door, without being in the main traffic, and I wake up Hugh and carry him on my hip with one hand, and the car seat in the other.  Hugh wakes up grumpy.

We sit in reception.  No one offers tea, or a drink.  it's about 17.40.  Eventually, I ask if I can just go into the studio, which is about 8 feet by ten feet, and set up amusement for Hugh.  I go in, and set up a dvd on my laptop, settle him on his very comfy car seat on the floor, with the laptop perched on a chair seat, settle him down, and put some apple juice by him.  He's perfectly happy.  I point out the red light, and that he can't speak to me when it's lit.  He knows how radio works, and the lights, since the researcher who took care of him when I was on R4's "Today" took him through it.

I get out a pad, and a pen, a drink for me, opening it to make sure it doesn't fizz on the microphone, and put the silent head phones (cans) on, and twiddle my thumbs.

At least it's cool.  Air conditioning for small radio booths is essential!

At about 2 mins to 18.00, someone called Chloe, introduces herself on the cans and says "Hi" from the London end.  Takes me through the process again, quickly, and says we'll be joined with women from Argentina, Somewhere I've Forgotten And Didn't Write Down (USA?  Boston?), and Nairobi.  Reinforces the informal chat between women point.  Says there is a recorded interview with Kathryn Blundell, as she couldn't be on live, so could I listen carefully to it, and then respond with my reactions.  I ask her the name of the women I'll be chatting too.  She sounds nonplussed, then recovers.  It's Lee, Adriana and Bilac.  I write down the names of my fellow women.

The interview rolls out with Ms Blundell.  I hear how subdued she is, and how this has shaken her.  I also hear her say outrageous things, like the "wonderous" miracle science of formula.  When she's asked why she feels so creeped out by the thought of a baby feeding on her, she replies she had "not thought about it too much".  I write this quote down, as I think it speaks volumes, and is the point I'd like to react to, as requested by Chloe.

Ros takes the air, and slowly and methodically plods through the list of the four women, around the world, being kept in order by the power buttons in Bush House.  I am frustrated.  This is not the free chat between us that I was told would occur.  I'm also dismayed at Ros's clear attempt to get each and every one of us, to slag Ms Blundell off.  I am delighted when Lee in Argentina makes it clear that Ms Blundell's views of her own body, and are hers and hers alone.  I feel I have so much in common with these women, and I'm truly excited by the thought of being able to chat to them.  Ros gets to me, and the same ponderous "give us your reaction to that" occurs, and I give my reaction.  Ros them continues on with controlling the mike, and all the discussion, and lobbing in comments from emails.  At no point is the micophone open to the four or us.  We cannot talk to each other at all.

Ros tells me he's never noticed any pressure to formula feed.  I ask if he's ever watched television, and after talking about the glowing babies 'supported' by follow-on milk, move on to the point that isn't it interesting that follow on milk only appears in countries where formula ads are banned?  Ros has talked over me, and I persevere, sure that as it's bad radio, to overtalk, he'll back down.  I'm confused, but continue to maintain my subject.  He's overtalking me, and moving onto to another caller, even as I'm describing how much money is made by pressure selling formula to mothers around the world.

Yes, I was being a dunce.  I can only blame the adrenaline.  And that my experience is 'live in the same studio', where they can't do what they were doing so easily.

Lee in Argentina commends me for carrying on breastfeeding Hugh, as she couldn't get past two years.  I make sympathetic noises, and hope to feed back that I understand that feeling and to discuss how hard it is sometimes, and one of the problems is you are never allowed to say sometimes that it is work, and you do struggle.  I hope to reassure her that I think two years is marvellous, and she should look to what she achieved.  I try and speak up, but no one seemed to respond to me, no matter how hard I tried to be heard.  No, I still hadn't twigged.  

I was getting very frustrated.

The woman from Jamaica comes on, and pulls the "I did it for X time, and if you past when I did it, you are weird." card.  When she states that after one year, milk has no nutritional value, I interrupt her, and say "That's not factually accurate."  She carries on.  I repeat this 3, maybe 4 times, and am getting very annoyed that she criticised me, and when I respond that she is refusing to let me speak, and what she is saying is not factually accurate... I finally twig.

Yes, I am a dunce.

No one had been hearing what I was saying to her.  I was being controlled, and censored, by the buttons and sliders at Bush House.  There was no discussion space between the women on air.  I had no idea what of mine had been heard.  As I had clearly been carrying on after I was silenced, I didn't have any idea what had actually been said by me.

Realising this, I say into the the microphone "Morgan here, I wish to respond to that comment."  I'm livid.

Not at the women in Jamaica, I'm livid that I had been taking part in a two way conversation and escalating the urgency of my own voice, in order to get the space to finish speaking, and I'd been speaking into empty air.`

Ros returns me to a live mic, tightly controlling the intro, and I repeat to the woman what I'd been saying non-stop for a few moments.  It still really hadn't sunk in that although I was annoyingly repeating the 'facts' things, and the WHO stuff, that probably, it was the first time it was being heard, not the third or fourth!

And, of course, she gets to criticise me personally, whilst I have to bend over backwards not to criticise, or comment, on anyone else.  

Because I'm the weirdo woman.

And Ros goes off on one about there not actually being a lot of 'facts' about breastfeeding, and sidelines the entire discussion back to emails.  With me on the other end saying "There are lots of facts about breastfeeding, the science is undeniable..."  But you didn't hear that, did you?

So I sit, in the cool empty space of the studio in Edinburgh, with my 5 year old behaving impeccably on the floor, watching a dvd, and I listen to every opportunity for a proper exchange of views, being slammed down and controlled by the presenter.  Again and again, points that could be picked up and expanded upon, discarded and closed down, in favour of just spouting on the same point again and again.  The actual meat of the debate, the pressure on women to do what society wants, and how we polarise the issues, and ignore how much women need support... trying to be heard, and being strangled at birth. 

The sliding button of censorship.  The knot that binds.

This is the programme that did something so unthinkable, so mind bogglingly obscene, I cannot contain it.  They ask a breastfeeding support in Nairobi, if a mother came to her and asked for support to formula feed, would she support her?  What would she say?  A women who lives next to the Kibera slum.

Bilac answered the question with grace (as did all the women being goaded to criticise other women).  But I could not get my head around what was being said.  I just could not deal with the level of Western centric arrogance that was being displayed.  That was constantly, and consistently, positioning this debate within the cosy secure world of the London chattering classes.  How on earth could you ask a mother in Kenya, that question, without any reference to the dangers of formula feeding there?

I sat and fumed on this, as I was completely removed from the programme.  Half way through a sentence, Ros told me he was having to move the discussion on, as I was arguing or something, and I was completely closed down.

I really wanted to get up and leave.  I knew how I was being painted, and just as I didn't want my windows put through after "Today"... I just didn't want the aggro.  But I knew some of you would be listening, and cheering that things that should be heard, were being said.

So I sat, in silence, listening to the inane presenter carry on with their own reduced agenda.  Chloe came on the cans, to explain that I was acting inappropriately, and I clearly didn't understand the type of show I was on.  That they had wanted personal stories and opinion, not 'set speeches'.  I replied that everything I'd said was personal, and she cut me off and said she understood I was against formula, and pro-breastfeeding, but formula wasn't the issue.  I was biased, and they couldn't have that bias on air.  I said they had the bias, not me, and this was the World Service, and they had a duty to act globally, and not act as if the whole discussion was taking place in West London.  How could they ask a women in KENYA if she would support formula feeding?  She replied that they were a global service, and that was why my views were not suitable, I was biased.  I said how would a woman sitting in the slums in Nairobi tonight, sitting in a tin shack with a sick child, feel about us wittering on about breastfeeding without discussing the risk of formula feeding?  Did she know how many babies would die tonight in those slums, from being formula fed?  


Chloe went BALLISTIC.  She told me up front I'd made her REALLY ANGRY and that was it, I was off the programme and a taxi would be called to take me away RIGHT AWAY.  The one that was booked would be cancelled and I could go NOW.

"You just said that formula kills babies!"  It was a mantra, a safety talisman: I could be dispensed with, since I'd uttered those words, which she kept quoting back to me, as evidence of my bias and agenda.

So I was out, gone, away, no more.  I would not be on the Africa segment of the programme.

I tried to reason with her, and referred her back to what I'd said on air, about how 4000 babies die every day from UNSAFE formula feeding, and she needed to apply that to Africa, and how does she think the African woman had felt, being asked if she'd support formula feeding?  They had to be responsible for the global context, and think it through.

It was just making her angrier, and she retorted I had no right to speak for African women.  She just could not get past her own anger, and engage.  She finally snapped that she was running an on-air live programme, and she could come back and argue with me later, but she had a programme to run!  And she pulled the plug.

So I sat there, with Hugh, feeling that if I'd been in Bush House, not in Edinburgh on my own, my bags would be being picked up and I would be being escorted to the door, via security.  I had been thrown off air, and as soon as they could get a taxi to me, I would be out of the building.

Which, by the way, cost them a lot of money.  They actually phoned a black cab, to get me out of there as fast as possible.  A handsome cab for a 60 mile trip!

I simply picked up my mobile phone, and started phoning people.  Whilst I was still in the studio, waiting my Taxi of Doom, I phoned people and let them know what had happened.  Why I was being turfed out.  I phoned Patti Rundall, at Baby Milk Action, who happened to be in Brussels, and told her I'd been thrown off the BBC World Service, for saying that unsafe formula feeding killed babies in Africa.

I told everyone, very clearly, that I has been told precisely, by Chloe, that the reason I was no longer on the Africa programme, was that I'd said "formula kills babies."  I do think the phrase "4000 babies die of UNSAFE formula feeding" did get out on air.

But I ain't listening to it, I can tell you.  I'm not that much of a sadist.

I calmly packed up my things, Hugh played with the revolving chair, listening to how they thanked me ever so much for taking part, and making it sound like I was still on the programme!  My mobile rang, and it was the cab driver, outside on the main, busy, road.  I asked Hugh to stay in the studio on his own with his chair, explained to the reception man, who was quite bemused by everything, and took the car seat out, rather excited to see the black cab.

I walked past the pizza again, rather more wistfully.

I fixed in the car seat, and then went back for Hugh and the bags. Hugh was still waiting patiently, on his own, in the tiny glass booth.  Hugh said he needed to pee.  Reception man said the toilets were up on the second floor.  The taxi was in the street, and I had three heavy bags.  I took Hugh outside, and allowed my five year old, to pee up against the wall.

It was total coincidence he was peeing on the walls of the BBC.   But the image pleased me.  :-)

We then climbed into the taxi and took the long road home.

I didn't want to write this blog.  Not really a choice, .... it is a far, far better thing I do, than I have ever done before...  I may expand on it after I post.  

*inserts head*