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Mother & Baby - Their response to the Press Complains Commission

This blog began back in June with my first posting: Mother & Baby, sorting fact from fiction.  I decided at the time to complain to the Press Complaints Commission, really with issues with one line of the article in particular.  A lot I think could be classed as opinion (although completely incorrect and misleading) but as I say one line really annoyed me more than the others; it was:
Formula milk is not toxic, lacking in nutrients, Or in any way bad for a baby’s health when prepared properly– and we can all read the back of a packet for instructions.

How can Mother & Baby claim breastfeeding reduces risks of various conditions, and then in the same breath claim formula milk doesn't make a child less healthy?  It's the exact same statement phrased a different way!  If breastfeeding reduces the risk of say gastroenteritis, then not breastfeeding (ie using formula) increases the risks of gastroenteritis!  Yet Kathy Blundell made a clear statement this is untrue; her claim doesn't read as opinion, but as a fact.

Anyway. here is Mother & Baby's response to the Press Complaints Commission:

July 14th 2010

Dear William

Thank you for your letter of 1 July detailing two complaints received at the PCC.

Both complaints are reacting to a one-page opinion feature by Deputy Editor Kathryn Blundell in our July issue who – for reasons explained in the piece – decided to go straight to bottle-feeding. It was her choice, and this was an account of her personal experience, which the feature made abundantly clear. Readers could choose whether or not they agreed with Kathryn, and it is clear that a few vocal individuals, including the two complainants, strongly disagreed with Kathryn’s choice and her reasoning. But we defend our right to publish that opinion, and defend Kathryn’s right to express it has her ‘Viewpoint’.

Context is very important too. Mother and Baby promotes breastfeeding as the norm. Last summer we used a cover of a model breastfeeding her baby, a first for the UK magazine industry. We also conducted a campaign “Lets Make Britain Breastfeeding Friendly” and we went on GMTV to back this up. I personally wrote a piece in the Daily Mail saying how outrageous it was that women are often made to feel uncomfortable. We offer help and advice to women on a monthly basis on this very issue: our May edition included a six page ‘get started and stick with it’ feature, our July issue (the one complained of) had a feature on the best breast pumps, and our next issue carries expert advice on surviving painful feeding in the early days.

Further, in the feature Kathryn herself states “ Sure breast milk has the edge over infant formula – it’s free, it doesn’t need heating up and you can whip up a feed in the middle of the night without having to get out of bed. Then there are all the studies that show it reduces the risk of breast cancer for you, and stomach upsets and allergies for your baby.” Read as a whole, and in proper context, I do not think that anyone should reasonably have concluded that Mother and Baby were saying that breast was not best. (COMMENT INSERT: why is it best if formula isn't in any way bad for a baby's health as Kathy claims?)

If these complaints are to be considered further, and by default Kathryn’s piece is not considered simply as an opinion piece, we would be obliged to ask for the opinion of medical professionals. For example, we would need to look at whether the research Miss Cole refers to on ‘breast sagginess’ was peer reviewed and published, and how the opinion and conclusion of those doctors sits with the general body of medical opinion. Similarly, we would need medical opinion on the ‘extensive evidence’ on the risks of formula feeding that Miss Cole again refers to, and to understand how that research fits with the general body of medical opinion and research to the contrary. We would also need to have opinion on whether it would be possible to feel tipsy (as opposed to drinking one unit of alcohol) and safely breastfeed. Our view is that it is not be appropriate to ask the PCC to adjudicate on matters of opinion such as these.

You should be aware that we have been inundated by supportive emails and letters of Kathryn’s ‘Viewpoint’ article (43 in total which we are happy to make available in anonymous form for the PCC to see) applauding her honesty: in their opinion we have made readers feel ‘normal’ and less of a ‘failure’ for not managing to breastfeed – a situation which is incredibly common.

Please do call me if you would like to discuss any of this further, and I am sure you will let me know if you wish me to expand on anything.

Yours sincerely

Mother and Baby


  1. Mmm, I wrote my own response to this tripe! Proof? Ho ho ho, they've walked into an unwinnable fight.

  2. So it's ok to print rubbish, but when challenged they want CITATION? Bring it on....


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