UPDATE: The ABA counsellor at the centre of the “formula is a little bit like AIDS” controversy has refused to back down insisting that babies on formula are at serious risk of death.
When we ran this story yesterday, a number of readers accused Sunday Mail journalist David Murray and Mamamia of deliberately misquoting the Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor who had been accused of telling classes that “baby formula is a little bit like AIDS”.
We can now reveal investigative journalist David Murray spoke to the counsellor (who has allegedly now been stood down). You’ll see for yourselves that the woman in question is far from apologetic for her remarks and insteadrefused to back down.
In a story entitled “Counsellor won’t budge on formula”, The Courier Mail reported:
Doctors blasted the counsellor for “wrong” and inappropriate comments in a breastfeeding education class at the association’s Brisbane office. But the defiant counsellor maintains mothers must be told they are putting babies at risk if they use formula.
“To me babies are important and one death is too many if it can be prevented,” she told The Courier-Mail.
“When we promote breastfeeding you are saving babies’ lives. Every negative word you say about breastfeeding you are condemning babies to death.”
Association president Rachel Fuller said on Friday the statements in the breastfeeding class “in no way represent” the body’s views and she was “following this matter up internally today”.
But when The Courier-Mail spoke to the counsellor late on Saturday, she had received only a brief call warning there “might be a bit of publicity”.
She said she probably would not refer to AIDS again but would instead tell mums that premature babies were dying because the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital lacked a milkbank.
“There is no point in me telling them there is not a death rate, that it’s not a serious thing to formula feed,” said the counsellor, who took 900 calls to the association’s breastfeeding helpline in 2010.
During the class earlier this month she told couples: “AIDS destroys your immune system and then you just die of anything and that’s what happens with formula. It provides no antibodies.
“Every 30 seconds a baby dies from infections due to a lack of breastfeeding.”
Are there significant benefits in breastfeeding. Yes. One hundred times yes. There is no question. But it is vital that ABA counsellors are educated in evidence-based only facts and statistics, rather than being permitted to engage in propaganda and scaremongering.
The ABA website talks of breastfeeding increasing a baby’s resistence to infection and disease and we have no doubt that is true. But we think it’s time these sweeping statements were qualified. By how much? Does breastfeeding mean your baby is 50% less likely to get an infection? 70% less likely? 5% less likely?
The claims about allergies and higher IQs also need to be qualified. It is time parents were given the full picture so they can truly weigh up the pros and cons of breastfeeding and make the best decision possible for their child.
As Murray points out, this issue raises a red flag to the ongoing supervision, training and knowledge of the volunteers permitted to educate the general public. And if that is too much to expect of a volunteer organisation – that its volunteers are able to convey the benefits of breastfeeding without resorting to myths and exaggerations – then perhaps more questions need to be asked. — Mamamia
If you didn’t read yesterday’s papers, get ready to have your jaw hit the floor.
Yesterday the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) were accused of using ‘scaremongering’ tactics following revelations one of their most popular counsellors told a class that, “Baby formula is a little bit like AIDS’ and that a baby dies ‘every 30 seconds” from formula feeding.