Weepu's tender bottled image revealed

By Kathryn Powley

For a week, the nation has been talking about a banned image of All Black hero and role model Piri Weepu bottle-feeding his daughter.

Now, the Herald on Sunday can reveal, for the first time, the image that the breastfeeding advocates of La Leche League didn't want you to see.

A close relative of Weepu posted it online, and it has been passed around on Facebook. Friends shared it with friends and soon the image found its way to a site called: "Bring Back the Scenes of Piri Weepu bottle-feeding his baby".

Yesterday the site had 2160 fans, but nobody seemed to twig that the scene they wanted restored was right there on the page.

Health Sponsorship Council chief executive Iain Potter said he was aware the image had leaked out but an investigation had not revealed how. An early version had been sent to various organisations seeking comment, but he hadn't been able to establish whether Weepu too received a copy.

Weepu, in Melbourne with the Auckland Blues, couldn't be reached for comment, but a top Health Ministry official has come out backing the All Black.

Pat Tuohy, the Health Ministry's chief adviser on child and youth health, 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."

He said Weepu had been dragged into something that had nothing to do with him - the breast versus bottle debate.

Tuohy said health promotion ads were "notoriously difficult" to make.

"They're carefully scripted and it's important that they don't interfere with other messages."

La Leche League receives $18,000 a year Ministry of Health funding, to run its office.

When the Health Sponsorship Council asked the league's view on the footage of Weepu bottle-feeding his 6-month-old daughter Taylor, La Leche said they opposed it. But the league also encouraged its supporters to bombard the council with emails - many of which were vitriolically-worded.

Tuohy said La Leche was a single-issue non-governmental organisation whose sole purpose was to support mums in breastfeeding.

"Who could be surprised when they said, actually this is not a good idea?"

The ministry requires all maternity facilities to maintain "Baby Friendly Hospital Accreditation" which means not providing artificial teats to new babies, nor giving newborn infants of breastfeeding mothers other food or drink unless medically indicated.

The edited 30-second anti-smoking ad, which also features singer Young Sid, will screen on television this evening.

- Herald on Sunday

Editor's Note: The original version of the story said that La Leche League supporters sent hundreds of emails to the Health Sponsorship Council. In fact, the number was 67.

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