Dads

Sweet photo of dad feeding baby turns controversial

Feb. 28, 2012 at 9:48 AM ET

Courtesty: Bob Trott
Bob Trott bottle feeds infant daughter NJ and is proud of it.

I never would have thought that one day I’d have a favorite New Zealand rugby player, but now I do.

Everyone, meet Piri Weepu.

Weepu found himself in a breastfeeding firestorm recently when the New Zealand government put him in an anti-smoking public service announcement. The ad initially included an endearing two-second shot of him feeding his 6-month-old daughter from a bottle. However, the country’s Health Sponsorship Council bowed to pressure from La Leche League and other motherhood advocacy groups, which claimed that the image didn’t mesh with its core message: that breastfeeding is best for children. "It's really important that those messages are consistent across the board,” New Zealand La Leche League director Alison Stanton said.

Here, you can see both the anti-smoking ad and the image of Weepu giving his daughter a bottle that was edited out of the spot. I must warn you, though: Click on that link only if you have the stomach to see something as alien, evil and corrupt as A FATHER FEEDING HIS CHILD. I hope you can fight off the urge to wail uncontrollably and smash any furniture within reach.

Now, there are plenty of organizations with good intentions and stated goals that take things waaaaaay too far (looking at you, PETA and NRA). But this bit of extremism is especially galling because 1) as mentioned, the ad isn’t even about breastfeeding or children’s nutrition -- Weepu talks about how he’ll never smoke because he has kids in the house; and 2) Weepu’s daughter, Taylor, is allergic to dairy, so she has to be bottle-fed formula.

But, of course, parents feed their children breast milk via bottle all the time anyway. And mix formula and breast milk feedings. Back in the days of my daughter’s bottle-feeding, I’d have never guessed that warming up some breast milk and feeding it to her could, if they ever found out, rile up a bunch of overly rigid New Zealand extremists. (The New Zealand government officials deserve some scorn, too – they seemed to have caved in pretty quickly to the censorship demands.)

And what about women who can’t breastfeed their babies, for whatever reason? I’ve known moms who’ve had difficulties – unable to get their child to latch on, for example – and it’s one of the most sensitive issues you can come across. It’s the sort of situation that calls for understanding and compassion; declaring that an image of a child being bottle-fed is unfit for public consumption … well, that’s a message that’s counter-productive, to say the least.

The saddest thing is that the real breastfeeding issue of the day is whether moms should be able to pump and feed in public or at work. Bans on public breastfeeding are ridiculous – the idea that a woman feeding her child is offensive or indecent or inappropriate is, I think, offensive, indecent and inappropriate.  And new mothers should have spots in their workplaces where they can pump or feed in privacy.

There’s a lot of work to do in those areas, and La Leche League shouldn’t lose focus of that by being shrill and overreaching. How can anyone keep a straight face while arguing that, on the one hand, women should be seen breastfeeding in public, and that there’s no shame or indecency in it,  yet men shouldn’t be seen bottle-feeding their children?

When Piri Weepu or any other guy is trying to be a good dad, let him be a good dad. Good dads feed their kids.

Here’s a Facebook page where you can show your support for Weepu.  

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