Paul Little at large
Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: Breast-feeding zealots lose plot

Piri Weepu and his older daughter Keira.
Photo / Daily Post
Piri Weepu and his older daughter Keira. Photo / Daily Post

Unusually for a seven-day media wonder, there were clear winners and losers in the Piri Weepu/breast/bottle/babies/La Leche/public health/anti-smoking brouhaha.

Biggest losers were Maori males who lost yet another positive role model when All Black Weepu was sin-binned out of the Health Sponsorship Council's anti-smoking ad for not breastfeeding his daughter.

Also losers were those mothers who, for one very good reason or another, could not breastfeed. They were reminded - as if they needed to be - that they are inferior parents, their action just one degree of separation from child abuse.

But the biggest losers were the La Leche League, who could have done themselves a lot of good but chose not to. This is a group that in recent years has had slightly less media exposure than the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards. Such a publicity bonanza should have worked in their favour, but it did not.

Having initiated the fracas by complaining about the repellent image of a man bottle-feeding a baby (supported, initially at least, by Plunket and the NZ College of Midwives) they finished the week revealed for the self-righteous, intolerant fanatics that they have always seemed to be.

No one voted for La Leche. No government appointed them. They have, therefore, every right to be as crazy as they want to be. No one has to listen to them, which is why, for the last few years, hardly anyone has. Everyone knows breast is best. If ever La Leche had a purpose, it has been achieved. They can now channel their energies into something more useful than embarrassing All Blacks.

But the Health Sponsorship Council, a Crown entity, did listen to them. The council's website proclaims it is "a government agency that uses health promotion to promote health". It might want to look up tautology in the dictionary before it goes further.

More importantly, it might want to grow a backbone and use its own discretion and some common sense when it is, as a government agency, acting in our name to "use health promotion to promote health".

The council was the big winner from the week, because it managed to escape almost any criticism. But it was the council, not La Leche or anyone else, which made the craven decision to remove the beautiful image of Weepu from the anti-smoking ad.

The non-argument the council accepted when dropping Weepu was the La Leche League's contention that health messages need to be consistent across the board - so an anti-smoking ad also needs to be pro-breastfeeding.

The All Black should also, presumably, have been seen to slip, slop, slap and walk determinedly past a poker machine and bend at the knees when lifting a heavy weight.

The council failed to see that the ad did not have a pro-bottle-feeding message but an effective anti-smoking message - or, as they would probably say, it was an ad that criticised smoking to make a criticism of smoking.

As for La Leche, they were just doing their job: being self-appointed busybodies who think they have the right to tell other people what to do and shout down anyone who disagrees. The Health Sponsorship Council was not doing its job.

By the way, material supplied free by my wife Wendyl Nissen to Natural Parenting magazine is no longer being used because of her public criticisms of La Leche. I'm not sure if this represents a potential conflict of interest, but you can't say you haven't been told.

It's not cannibalism if you do it on TV

Dutch authorities have announced that the presenters of the TV show Proefkonijnen (Guinea Pigs), who cooked and ate their own flesh before a live studio audience - a story you may have missed - will not be prosecuted for cannibalism. Surely a victory for common sense if ever there was one.

Money doesn't buy tates

It was illuminating to take a tour of Kim Dotcom's mansion - formerly the Chrisco mansion, built by the Christmas-hamper peddlers - in the Herald on Sunday and on Campbell Live. For one thing, it confirmed the dictum that money cannot buy taste. But it also had me wondering: was Kim Dotcom able to get all that house by putting aside just $250,000 every week for a year?

- Herald on Sunday

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