Monday, March 14, 2011

Got Money? La Leche League International milks the cash cow

Mothers giving milk....?
La Leche League International has grown since 1956 from a group of seven mothers to a highly reputable worldwide organisation with unparalleled achievements in promoting breastfeeding as the normal and healthy way to feed babies - with almost all work done by volunteers.

However, as with many worthy organisations, funding is a constant struggle.

This recent press release announces their first baby steps into the world of big business: the licensing of the slogan "got breastmilk" to LLLI from the California Milk Processor Board.   Sales from branded merchandise will provide royalties to the CMPB as well as funds to LLLI.

I was a longterm LLLNZ member with real responsibilities... but an even longer term vegan.  I see my breastfeeding relationship with my children as a logical extension of my veganism in order to raise healthy vegan children.  Knowing that some of the membership fees have supported factory dairy farming is saddening and unacceptable.

Conflicts of interest
A breastfeeding organisation and a commercial milk manufacturing organisation are a very odd couple.
  • Cow's milk manufacturers supply formula manufacturers in a clear commercial link.  If cow's milk were not so readily available, human milk banks would quickly reappear for those mothers truly in need.
  • The cow's milk industry commits atrocities on mothers and babies as a matter of doing business.  These are mother and baby cows, but the sheer numbers of victims and their acute maltreatment makes the despised behaviour of Nestle look gentle in comparison. 
  • The same commercialisation which often hinders the natural human breastfeeding relationship has resulted in a horror show for the same maternal relationship for innocent cows and their calves. 
LLLI's commercial deal with the CMPB implies a natural relationship between breastfeeding and drinking cow's milk that simply is not supported by evidence.

In exchange for market share, LLLI lends its hard-earned gravitas and worldwide reputation for being an evidence-based organisation with an unbiased concern for women's and children's commercial cow's milk processors.  In the process, LLLI loses its freedom from commercial pressure - a unique resource scrupulously maintained for decades.

Dissent and the majority

LLLI made this decision despite strong and ongoing concerns voiced by a minority of their Leaders, perhaps including
  • vegans
  • many other LLL mothers who found that they must themselves stop drinking cow's milk to enjoy a healthy baby (free of eczema and or digestive pain)
  • others who recognise the philosophical ironies or the commercial conflicts
One of the three highly-respected co-authors of the latest LLLI official breastfeeding handbook (The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding) is a vegan, as are other members of her family.

The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding clearly states that milk from other animals are "never necessary for humans".  This is in stark contrast to the message in the recent press release "cow's milk is the other best natural source of food for children" - if not strictly attributed to LLLI, so closely linked that few will notice the difference.

No conflict?

The international organisation have confirmed that they see no conflict of interest between LLL philosophy and cow's milk production.  They are there to help human mothers.

While LLL has never been associated with animal rights, they have never before been associated with animal exploiters.  Human and animal welfare are inextricably linked, and this issue is a prime example, not an exception.

Comments can be made directly via the Contact page for LLLI.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Minimalist....birthday parties? 5 easy steps

Fun and minimalism
Of course it can work.  And it can work for your kid's birthday party too.

I've just endured... I mean organised two large home birthday parties in quick succession for my children.  Nadia turned 3 in late January and Alex turned 6 last week.  Both parties were declared a major success, both with quite a reasonable budget.

Here are a few tips:

While my kids love getting party invitations in the mail, I have not returned the favour for our parties.  Same as my Christmas greetings, I use either e-cards or a carefully-crafted email.
  • my convenience (no shopping, multiple invites sent all at once, late invites sent easily)
  • low cost
  • low environmental impact
  • recipient's convenience in replying, scheduling and storing the information

And there are some very cute e-cards out there.  Care2 is free and supports the environment.

My last several party invitations have included:  
XXX has lots of toys - instead of a present, please consider making a small donation to your favourite charity and/or bring a gold coin to contribute to his special gift from the family.
I'd much rather some charity benefited than a chain store.  With the Christchurch earthquake, this was particularly appropriate.

Some invitees love this and some don't.  Alex very much enjoyed the haul he got this time regardless of this note, and I don't begrudge him that.  But the predictable happened:
  1. he didn't even see all the presents to open
  2. he hasn't even played with all of them yet
  3. I haven't managed to find a new home for them yet 
  4. He is having severe attacks of the gimmes from the mini catalogs that come with some of the toys
Remember when present opening was part of the party entertainment?  It's now so complicated and overwhelming that most parents skip it until later.

Serve some real food.  Serve it before the sweets appear.  OK, not celery sticks and raw broccoli, but active kids will not ignore crackers, nuts, fresh and dried fruits, etc.  Make it special - splurge on grapes, melon, cherries and blueberries.

If your guests party on with a table loaded with junk food, by the time the cake is cut, tummies are bloated and teeth sugar coated and the most beautiful and delicious cake is left in uneaten chunks on plates.
Remember when the cake was the finale and special treat of the party?
Nadia's party occurred during a flooding downpour and the weather was iffy for Alex's party as well.  
Nadia's guests were happy enough with our selection of toys but I needed to be more savvy for Alex's older guests.

We set up zones in our house for Face Painting (thanks Mom! and remember that you don't need an artist like my mom to paint a flower or zigzag on a cheek) and LegoLand.  Kids zipped out to the bouncy castle (hired) and trampoline (ours) and back in again when they needed food or quiet play or a break from the light showers and cold winds.

Having experienced serial party games, here's why they don't work for me:
  • Hard work for me!
  • Winners and losers - some kids (like mine) take this really to heart
  • Regimented - groups of kids find their own entertainment.  Calling them away from their own activities to play a formal game can be disruptive
  • Prizes - kids can be very disappointed to miss out on prizes.  And the prizes are usually more candy or cheap toys... leading on to....

To take home...
I don't know who invented the party bag, but they didn't do anybody any party favours!

Embarrassingly, my children now expect and ask for party bags when they attend parties.  When my kids have spent a few hours loading up on sugar and excitement, the last thing I want is a plastic bag containing more sweets and plastic toys.  Enough already!

I did the party bag thing once.  Once.  What hard work!  At the last party, I let each child pick a lollipop and a balloon to take home (no plastic bag needed), and parents and kids alike were very pleased.

Lighten up, it's a party!

Of course.  But let's celebrate the birthday and fun and not the availability of cheap food and toys.

What was the best party you've ever given or attended?