Still Boycotting Nestlé

As my post on my decision to boycott Nestlé is doing the rounds on Facebook again (and I mentioned it on twitter this week) I thought I’d write an update on where I am with it.

Firstly, it’s important to note that I’m not just sitting on my computer moaning about unfair marketing. I support Baby Milk Action with paid membership, and by buying their anti-Nestlé / pro-breastfeeding products. BMA are responsible for keeping Nestlé on their toes by campaigning against their unfair labelling of artificial milks in developing countries, as well as leading the way on campaigning against companies targeting health workers with misleading advertising, etc.

Anyway… the actual boycott. I have completely cut Nestlé purchases out of my life, having not knowingly bought a Nestlé (or Rowntrees, L’Oreal, Body Shop, etc) branded product in over 2 years. I accidentally bought some Buitoni pasta not knowing it was a subsidiary of Nestlé but that, I think, is my only slip up. Considering that — prior to the boycott — I would purchase several Kit Kats a week, drank Nescafé coffees almost exclusively, regularly bought Nestlé cereals, ice cream, etc I am quite pleased with how easy to cut the company out of my shopping basket when I put my mind to it.

Of course, even if we assume that I spent £1000 a year on Nestlé products, that’s little more than a pebble in the ocean for this huge multinational monster. But… my post has been seen by over 30,000 different people in 2 years. Who knows how many of those people have removed even just one product from their lives, or talked about the boycott with someone else. I know of several people who now boycott Nestlé because of my post.

Every time someone thinks twice about buying a Kit Kat, I feel like I’ve achieved a small victory.

The Nestlé boycott is the longest running boycotts worldwide and Nestlé are one of the most boycotted brands in the UK. It continues to be necessary because they continue to use underhand techniques to market their artificial milks (not translating safety information on labels in foreign countries, trying to weaken baby milk legislation in a country where thousands of babies die because of inappropriate artificial milk feeding etc).

As well as the baby milk issues, they are also boycotted because of their testing on animals, use of child slave labour to harvest cocoa, rainforest destruction etc

Why aren’t you boycotting them yet?

Update: Wikipedia has a full Nestlé product list including country-specific brands.

ThinkGeek Advocate Letting Your Baby Cry

ThinkGeek — “stuff for smart masses” — are selling a baby ‘sleep trainer’ in their Newborn/Infant category. The promise is to get your baby “sleeping through the night in two weeks”. Now, personally, when I signed up (metaphorically) to being a parent, I knew I would be parenting at night as well through the day. I figured sleepless nights and all that malarkey were part of the deal. I certainly didn’t sign up for leaving my infant to cry themselves to sleep night after night.

I feel very strongly about ‘cry it out’ methods, and it’s counterpart ‘controlled crying’.

For starters, it encourages social pressure to have your baby sleeping through the night from a young age, and this is not normal behaviour. It’s not normal for an infant to sleep through, and those that do are an exception, not the rule. Many adults do not sleep through the night (waking to urinate, get a drink, whatever) so why do we expect the same of a baby fresh from the comfort of the womb?

Secondly, there is sound research into the harmful effects of prolonged crying in infants, due to increased cortisol levels. Cortisol is released by the body as a reaction to stress (e.g. when an infant is left alone in his/her cot with nobody there for comfort, not knowing when a caregiver will return); it suppresses the immune system, and destroys nerve connections in critical portions of an infant’s developing brain1.

Controlled crying/cry-it-out causes the baby to shut down. In fact, this is how it ‘works’: baby gives up, and sleeps deeper/for longer. A promising thought if you’re sleep-deprived, but deep sleep — much like when baby sleeps on his/her tummy — prevents the baby from waking as easily if there is a ‘problem’, e.g. if breathing is interrupted. This is so serious, that the Back to Sleep campaign was created2. If preventing deep sleep from sleeping on the tummy caused a big drop in SIDS deaths, surely other causes of deep sleep could be connected to infant death too? I’m not a scientist but it’s a logical connection to me.

Anyway, back to ThinkGeek. One of the most worrying things about this is the categorisation and subsequent description of the product. It’s in the Newborn/Infant category for starters (who in their right mind would leave a newborn to cry themselves to sleep?). Secondly, this line:

NOT sleeping through the night? You might be teaching your baby that behavior

A claim made with no obvious scientific backing to scare parents into buying this pointless product, and ultimately into leaving their baby to cry. Furthermore, a study on infant sleep behaviour from 1994 shows a wide range in normal infant sleeping behaviour, which is at odds with this claim3.

Lastly, under the product spec, we have:

For ages 4 months and older

This disturbs me on many levels. Dr Ferber, one of the biggest advocates of controlled crying, does not recommend using his methods on children under 18 months. He puts a lower limit at 6 months, but notes that the younger the infant is, the less successful the ‘training’ will be. Ferber acknowledges that his method doesn’t teach kids HOW to fall asleep on their own, infants are simply denied access to a caregiver, and left to work it out for themselves.4

In light of this, I contacted ThinkGeek. I explained that not only had I purchased quite a lot from them, but had referred customers who had spent hundreds of dollars. I then outlined my findings, expressing discomfort at their willingness to back this product. Their response?

Please let me know if you have any other questions. Have a great day!

…and that’s it. They blew me off. Not even so much as an acknowledgement that they had read my e-mail. I can only take from this that ThinkGeek advocate leaving babies to cry against the advice of multiple experts. Not a company I can support, and as such have removed all product links to ThinkGeek from my previous posts and pages. I will no longer be making purchases from ThinkGeek, and encourage any of you who feel similar that you make it known.

References

1Schore, A.N. (1996), “The Experience-Dependent Maturation of a Regulatory System in the Orbital Prefrontal Cortex and the Origen of Developmental Psychopathology,” Development and Psychopathology 8: 59 – 87.
2Helping Baby “Back to Sleep” [pdf]
3Armstrong KL, Quinn RA, Dadds MR. (1994), “The sleep patterns of normal children.”
4Dr Richard Ferber (2006), “Solve Your Child’s Sleep Problems”

For more information, please see my delicious bookmarks tagged ‘controlled crying’

Update @ 18:55

ThinkGeek have added the following comment to the product page:

This doctor-designed system is for healthy babies 4 months and older. Please consult your pediatrician to see whether this system is right for your geekling. ThinkGeek doesn’t advocate letting babies cry (especially when the world is full of hugs & bacon), but the system has helped lots of parents and babies sleep better. Moral of the story: Consult your doc before buying and keep on being the best geek parent you can be.

What a cop out.

jemjabella is a Nestle Free Zone

When I was in school, my drama teacher told the class a story about women in Africa who’d been given Nestle formula milk samples shortly after they’d had a baby. They used the samples, believing that formula was superior to their breast milk, which led to their milk drying up. They were then forced to buy formula they couldn’t really afford, preparing it ‘watered down’ to make it last longer. In worse case scenarios, babies died either of starvation or of improperly prepared bottles1.

Out of ignorance, I assumed that these women were stupid believing that their breast milk was inferior, and promptly went out and bought a KitKat.

10 years later, I’m nursing my own child, and I come across this image:

woman breastfeeding male twin, girl bottlefed
Pakistani woman breastfeeding her son, bottle-feeding girl; picture taken by UNICEF

Unless you’ve seen this image before, it may shock you to realise that these babies are twins. The woman was told that she would not be able to sustain both babies, and so breastfed the male twin and had her grandmother bottlefed the female.

The girl died the day after the picture was taken.

After seeing this image, I bought The Politics of Breastfeeding2 so that I could learn the true extent of the problems of artificial feeding in undeveloped countries. As it turns out, the women affected by the free formula samples weren’t stupid… they were misled.

Misled by Nestle, primarily; misled by their saleswomen dressed as nurses telling new mums that Nestle artificial milks were the superior infant food; misled by health care professionals who were given kickbacks for encouraging mums to bottlefeed; misled by labels on cans of formula claiming “protects”, “more calcium”, “brain building blocks”, “brain nutrients” etc etc.

Despite multiple bans on various aspects of Nestle’s marketing, they continue to directly approach new mums, continue to market their artificial milks unethically, and continue to make misleading ‘scientific’ claims about the ingredients in the milks. Babies continue to die3 because of these milks, fed because of companies like Nestle.

And so, I boycott Nestle. I no longer knowingly buy any Nestle products (and there’s a lot of them!) No KitKats for me.

I’ve received criticism for supporting this boycott. “It’s a woman’s right to choose to feed her child how she wishes.” I totally agree. I am, and always have been, pro-choice. However, I believe in an educated choice. I believe that women should know both the implications and consequences of choosing to either a) breastfeed or b) formula feed. If ‘educated’ women like Sarah Jones (quote: “Bottle feeding is just as natural as a mother being able to breastfeed. It has the same nutrients and everything.“) think that formula and breastmilk are on par, we cannot expect women in undeveloped countries who many not have access to the array of information that we have, to be able to make that choice properly. Why? Because of the marketing of companies like Nestle.

ETA: If this entry touches you, please consider supporting Baby Milk Action: protecting breastfeeding – protecting babies fed on formula.

1 To prepare bottles properly you need access to clean, hot water. Hands must be washed. Bottles, teats etc must be cleaned and sterilised. Hands must be washed again. Boil water to prepare the formula with, letting it cool to no lower than 70 degrees C (powdered milk is not sterile, it needs to be that hot to kill the bacteria). Add the water to the bottle, then add the exact amount of formula. Cool the milk to the desired temperature by running the sealed bottle under a cold tap or by placing it in a jug of cold water. The whole process can take up to 45 minutes.

2 The Amazon link is ‘clean’; it does not contain my affiliate tag. I didn’t think it appropriate somehow.

3 WHO estimates that 1.5 million infants die around the world every year because they are not breastfed.

You Are a Fucking Twat

Yes, you. Firstly, for this:

I think woman who breastfeed in public is nasty! Go home or use the bathroom or something!!

…and then for the “I Don’t Support Breast Feeding in Public” Facebook group.

But, let’s assume for one second that you’re simply an ill-educated fool who doesn’t have a clue about babies feeding, and break down every single word of your stupid Facebook group to give you a little education:

I am not a mother myself and I was breast fed as a child. In public though I was given a bottle. I had a bottle since day one. I simply switched back and forth between breast feeding and a bottle.

Well done. Your mother risked nipple confusion because she was a prude. Nipple confusion, caused by the totally different suckling method between bottles and the breast, that can cause a baby to totally reject the breast. And what happens if she rejects the breast? No more breast milk. Yay, score one to the formula companies!

I do not believe I should have to watch other woman breast feed.

I do not believe I should have to watch fat people jiggle their bellies out of the top of their tight-fitting clothes. I do not believe I should have to watch teenagers chewing gum like cows chew cud. I do not believe I should have to watch couples sticking their tongues down each other’s throats. But they do, and I live with it, because it’s none of my fucking business. It doesn’t harm me, therefore I “live and let live”.

There are private lounges, bathrooms, and other private area where you can go if you have to breast feed.

Some places have private facilities where breastfeeding can be done. Some of these places are too hot, too cold, too smelly, too uncomfortable for me to even consider going in them. I don’t see why any breastfeeding mother should have to put up with that for the sake of one or two prudes.

As for bathrooms – do you eat in the bathroom? Do you consume food in a room where bacteria lingers for hours on every surface after a toilet is flushed? If you flush with the lid up, a polluted plume of bacteria and water vapour erupts out of the flushing toilet bowl. The polluted water particles float for a few hours around your bathroom before they all land.

Otherwise I feel you can give them a bottle. [..] If the child is fussy or hungry enough it will take the bottle or give it a pacifier.

And what if the child will take neither a bottle or a pacifier? My daughter does not know HOW to drink out of a bottle. She has no need to, therefore has never learned. If you place a bottle in her mouth, she sticks her tongue out and tries to make a back-forth motion with her tongue as she would to remove milk from the breast. This achieves nothing with a bottle, and would serve to frustrate her further if she was “fussy or hungry enough”. Likewise, she will not take a dummy/pacifier, and it’s easy to see why.

Let’s suppose, though, that Isabel is unique. That she’s the only baby in the world that cannot drink from a man-made nipple on a man-made bottle. What are all of these babies who’re out in public going to drink? Breastmilk? Not all mothers can express milk. It’s hard work. Imagine having your breast placed inside a hard plastic funnel, and your nipple tugged at unforgivingly by a stream of air powerful enough to pull your eyeball out. Yeah, I’m going to sit there and do that every time I need to nip to the shop just in case Isabel needs a feed… not. Of course, there’s an alternative, formula! Except that it’s inadequate and unnecessary when there are large milky breasts just waiting to be emptied.

The child will not starve to death in a few short hours.

A newborn infant has a stomach roughly the size of a marble/walnut (little people, little bellies). Furthermore, breast milk is digested rapidly; more quickly than artificial milk. It takes roughly 20 minutes for a baby to make use of that lovely, healthy milk. It makes sense, therefore, that it would require frequent small filings to keep a baby from going hungry. As the baby grows so does the stomach, but this is a slow process, and infants are designed to graze at the breast constantly (much like adults graze on snack food constantly, but we don’t expect them to eat in a bathroom).

It’s only in the West that we try and push a baby to go hours between feedings. No, a child will not starve to death in a “few short hours”, but a child does not know the meaning of “few short hours” and a baby that is hungry enough to cry for food needs it there and then, not in 3 hours time. Or would you rather listen to a hungry baby crying, wailing pitifully because its only source of nutrition is gone?

Anyone who says yes to that has clearly never heard a baby crying for food.

I don’t think I should have to watch you breast feed in front of me.

So turn around?

Breast feeding may be natural, but so is peeing and so is sex.

Have you ever tried to make an infant hold in their pee? It’s like asking them to wait for milk. It’s impossible. They have the need and the desire to urinate (or drink) now now now. They are not adults. Applying adult logic such as “suck it up, I’m to prude to watch you pee!” to a baby or a small child is just as stupid as “suck it up, I’m too prude to watch you eat!” hence why babies have diapers (nappies). So, while you can hold your full bladder, or your empty stomach for “a few short hours”, a baby cannot hold it for that long.

And if you can’t wait until you get home to have sex? See a doctor.

My baby’s needs are more important to me than your stupid, immature objections to a woman breastfeeding. If you don’t like it, look away.

HiPP Baby Club Aggressive Marketing

I signed up to HiPP Baby Club a while back to vote for a friend’s picture in a competition they were holding. When signing up, you’re asked to specify details of your children such as how you’re feeding them (I specified breastfed), their age, etc.

So, there’s me checking my e-mail first thing this morning to find an e-mail from the baby club titled “5 months old – Weaning special”. Now, Isabel has only just turned 5 months today. You’re not supposed to start weaning until at least 6 months (see NHS no rush to mush page). This is based on studies that show early weaning is damaging to the digestive health of babies. I’ve already made clear my thoughts on early weaning so I won’t go on about it, but I just couldn’t believe how bloody blatant this push to early wean was.

It wasn’t even subtle about it; there were several misleading lines, including:

6 months is the recommended age to begin (for development reasons you shouldn’t leave it any later than this), but some babies may be ready sooner.

and:

Signs to look for
Baby still seems hungry, even after more milk has been given
Showing an interest in your food
Putting toys and objects in their mouth
Able to sit up well with support

For starters, milk (either breast or artificial) is the only source of nutrition a baby needs for the first year of life; food is for fun, to explore tastes and textures. Even hungry babies don’t need early weaning because solid food contains less calories! Secondly, there is no “developmental” reason to delay solids, it is in fact recommended by many professionals to delay solids (more so if there’s a history of allergies). As for the signs to look for… total tosh! Isabel has been doing those things since under 3 months old, are they suggesting I should have weaned at 12 weeks?!

I tried to unsubscribe to the mail and the web page gave me an error, so I sent them a ranty response and smugly deleted their mail thinking it’d be the last I heard from them.

No such luck. The postie interrogated me at lunch time to give me a bright green cellophane-wrapped package. I could barely hide my excitement! ;) Mind you, it was short-lived. Lo and behold, yet more HiPP weaning crap. Free samples of follow-on and night time formula (don’t even get me started on this shit) and a sachet of baby rice. Nowhere on the accompanying letter was it mentioned that the recommendation is to wait until 6 months before weaning. In fact, the wording positively encourages you to start asap: “the perfect start”, “Babies love organic goodness” etc.

I can’t stand this sort of aggressive marketing, and rest assured that the whole lot went in the bin. I’ll start weaning Izz after 6 months, not before, and certainly not on to HiPP products!

Never buy a car from Dream Car Sales, Telford

IMPORTANT UPDATE: Dream Car Sales are now Redland Car Sales

At the end of October last year, I wrote an entry in which I mentioned a local car dealer: Dream Car Sales, Telford. We bought a car from Dream Car Sales to tide us over while ours was undergoing repair because I was heavily pregnant and could’ve gone into labour at any time.

The car we bought was an M reg Astra MK3 3 door, with a catalogue of problems (most of which we found after parting wth our cash) including:

  • One tyre was so badly degraded it came apart in the tyre shop.
  • The airfilter was missing, and the trunking was split hugely
  • The brakes are shocking. The pedal goes to the floor.
  • The exhaust sections are held together by bolts with no nuts, ceramic cement and cable ties

You can see the full list, including pictures, on Karl’s page.

Since writing the entry, I’ve been contacted by two separate people regarding Dream Car Sales. First, through by entry by a guy called Chris:

hi i am sorry to hear of your car i too got a car from dream car sales whats the word DREAM all about nightmare more like, JUST BEFOR CHRISTMAS it was my wifes first car and she was gutted she could not drive it i am in dispute and dealing with trading standards to get my cash back £500 he sold the car for spares or repair which is illegal to let you drive it away

…and then again through Facebook by a guy called Sam:

hi, just found your blog as i searched for dream car sales on google to see if anyone else had a whinge about them, they had my car put through a dodgy mot, it had very dangerous brakes, suspension faults on all four corners and several electrical problems. car nearly killed me in the snow last week, tracked all the previous history on motinfo.co.uk.

just a bit of advice if you still have the car, check the mot sheet and see if it says ‘yes’ in the advisory box, and check the left hand corner for the sheet of paper that they rip off that warns you how rediculously dangerous your new ‘dream car’ is…

you can use the mot number and the reg to find out all recorded mot history (when it went computerised 5 years ago) on www.motinfo.gov.uk. i only recently checked this but i did challenge the mot tester as it had been on the forecourt since the mot and had passed with a brake light, headlight out and the horn didnt work, but we didnt realise the extent it was gone until the brakes failed after not feeling right since i had the car. however the garage insisted it was normal on my shape clio and the car was very cheap for what it was.

mine had failures that then turned to advisories (advisory means you should sort them, if somethings failed and repaired it should be fixed and not mentioned on the retest, when it says ‘brakes are barely at pass level and should be checked thoroughly), and they rip this sheet off and sell you the car anyway. as they have done with me.

In addition to this, the last time Karl went to our local mechanic, he was told of another lady who’d bought a bigger car from Dream Car Sales as she was expecting twins, and she was left with an unsafe vehicle too. If the owners are willing to put pregnant women into cars that could quite easily fail at a moments notice due to failing brakes or a perished tyre, it won’t be long before one of their cars is involved in an accident, and I dread to think of the consequences.

If you’ve been sold a car by Dream Car Sales, please get in touch: jem@jemjabella.co.uk

Letter to Fisher Price

I wasn’t going to post this, but it was requested.

To whom it may concern,

I have recently become aware of a page on your website titled “Breast or Bottlefeed? How to Decide” (URL: http://www.fisher-price.com/fp.aspx?st=665&e=expertadvice&catparcode=ps_nttfd&ccat=PS_NttFeeding&content=38918 )

I think this page unfairly represents the choice between breastmilk or formula. The only positive aspect to breastfeeding you list is “breast milk is the ideal nutrition for babies” – in fact, the preceding paragraph almost undermines even that, by making breastfeeding out to be so hard that only “almost all” mothers can do it. On the other hand, you list 6 specific benefits to formula feeding. This directly contravenes Article 4.2 of the WHO International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, which states:

Informational and educational materials, whether written, audio, or visual, dealing with the feeding of infants and intended to reach pregnant women and mothers of infants and young children, should include clear information on all the following points:

1. the benefits and superiority of breastfeeding;
2. maternal nutrition, and the preparation for and maintenance of breastfeeding;
3. the negative effect on breastfeeding of introducing partial bottle feeding;
4. the difficulty of reversing the decision not to breastfeed; and
5. where needed, the proper use of infant formula, whether manufactured industrially or home prepared.

I would suggest that one-sided articles such as this not only make it harder for new mums to choose to breastfeed, but demonstrate a total lack of support for those who do. As a new mum who is choosing to breastfeed, the last thing I need is a massive corporation making light of my commitment, encouraging the majority to see formula feeding as the norm.

I propose that the page should be updated to make reference to the points above, as well as making clear the health implications to both mother and child if choosing formula (increased risk of gastroenteritis and allergies in child, increased risk of certain cancers in mum). I would also like to see the so-called positives of formula feeding balanced with positive breastfeeding related notes, e.g. as a comparison to “Mom doesn’t need a breast pump, nursing bras or other special clothing.” one might note “Mom doesn’t need to spend money on bottles, steriliser/sterilising solutions and formula”.

As a web developer, I would be happy to donate my time to bring the page in line with the WHO code if necessary.

Look forward to hearing from you,

Jem Turner
(number removed)

Given that Fisher Price produce bottle feeding paraphernalia, I doubt it’ll have any effect.

I’m a Whiny Cow

I’ve just sent in a complaint email to the Mars company/customer care people, because every Malteser I’ve had so far from a bag I bought today has tasted like plastic. I just wanted some tasty, crispy chocolate, jeez. :(