What do you think of when you see an image of an infant drinking from a bottle? Some just coo over how adorable baby is; some just wonder why the mom isn't breastfeeding -- in a judgemental way. Whether we like it or not, this is a fact. A sad fact that judgements are passed and people think they know exactly what is going on with how baby is fed through one image. They don't know how hard mom might have tried to nurse and didn't have success, they don't know if it's breastmilk in the bottle.
A famous rugby player with the team All Blacks in New Zealand named Piri Weepu bottlefed his baby in an anti-smoking ad. Sadly, La Leche League over there went nuts and were so upset with the Heath Department for featuring bottle feeding that they got them to cut the scene. This stirs up not just a bottle-feeding versus breastfeeding debate, but it feels terribly anti-father.
I cannot help but feel really disappointed in La Leche League. I know their mission includes having breastfeeding seen as normal and natural and encourage women to nurse their babies, and I support them. But this isn't an ad for breastfeeding -- it's an anti-smoking ad. Though I do get that all areas of the Health Department should work together for all their overall messages (La Leche League receives $18,000 a year from New Zealand's Health Ministry), I don't feel anything about a man bottle-feeding his baby is anti-breastfeeding. He can't breastfeed even if he wanted to. And for all any of us know, there was breastmilk in that bottle.
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But LLL chose to protest the ad, essentially making the Health Department edit out the scene where Weepu bottle-fed his adorable 6-month-old daughter Taylor. Now there is a "Bring Back the Scenes of Piri Weepu bottle-feeding his baby" page on Facebook. And there should be. Editing it out makes it seem like bottle-feeding is the wrong thing to do. Editing it out isn't making a pro-breastfeeding statement. It's making an anti-father statement.
The part of the ad featuring Piri with his kids is fantastic -- he seems like a very loving and involved dad. Plus, him just agreeing to do the ad is him contributing time to get people to stop or never start smoking. To be healthier. A message I can surmise he wants to pass along to his children.
Pat Tuohy, the Health Ministry's chief adviser, said: "Piri by all accounts is a great dad and a terrific guy. Probably of all of the people who've been damaged he's probably had the hardest time in all this because he's just been doing what any dad would do in his situation and good on him."
I don't blame Weepu for feeling strange about the removal of that scene. I wouldn't blame any father for feeling that it was simply the wrong thing to do. It makes lactivists seem overly militant, overly aggressive, too ready to shoot other people down with no tolerance or understanding or compassion. It's a slap in the face for dads. All I see in this ad is an involved dad, a father who cares about his children's future, who cares about people enough to help them stop smoking. That message instead is now clouded because La Leche League in New Zealand decided to make it a breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding issue, which shouldn't be an issue in this case at all for the simple reason that (I'll say it again because it seems LLL over there needs a reminder) a father cannot breastfeed.
I can't help but wonder if the Health Department wishes they left the ad as it was.
What do you think of the editing of Piri bottle-feeding his child? Do you feel it's bad PR for La Leche League and breastfeeding in general? Do you feel it's anti-father?