ACTION ALERT: Canadian Family
The front cover of the April 2005 issue of Tree House Canadian Family features the picture of a chubby baby sucking on a baby bottle, next to the story headline, “REACTIONS! 15 ways to curb allergies in babies.” Not surprisingly, the inside feature story, entitled, "get that away from me", (which runs over a two-page color picture of the same baby on the front cover, holding a baby bottle) begins,
"Almost from birth, Monica Gibson's first-born child, Kyle, was covered in angry red eczema. "As soon as I breastfed him, he would vomit up the milk and hurl in practically across the room." “The article goes on to say that Gibson was a fierce supporter of breastfeeding and continued with her son until he was 9 1/2 months of age. As soon as she weaned him, his eczema went away. The culprit, Gibson's steady diet of bagels and peanut butter being passed to her baby through her breastmilk!!
While buried deep in the article is the recommendation to exclusively breastfeed for 4 to 6 months, the message is drowned out by the frightening headlines and lovely pictures of the chubby, healthy, bottle-feeding baby that accompanies the article. Not surprisingly, there also are two full-page formula ads in the magazine. The article was written by the editor-in-chief, Diana Swift.
We’ve written a letter to Ms. Swift (please see below) and invite you to do the same. Some important points to cover:
Since Canadian Family is not available on the web, please contact INFACT Canada if you would like to receive a fax copy of the article in order to respond to this Action Alert.
05 April 2005
Treehouse Canadian Family
111 Queen Street East
Dear Ms. Swift:
Your article entitled, “Get that away from me” (p. 34, Treehouse Canadian Family, April 2005) is both misleading and misinformed. Coupled with the picture of a baby clutching a bottle, it sends a dangerous message to parents that there is a negative connection between breastfeeding and allergies. This message is further reinforced with the cover photo of the same baby, bottle-feeding.
According to a report by Dr. Robyn Cosford (Nutritional, Metabolic and Environmental Influences in Children’s Health) childhood asthma rates have doubled over the past twenty years, now affecting up to 35 percent of children. Allergies are also increasing. One UK study showed that 54 percent of children are affected by some form of atopic (allergic) symptoms. Given these alarming statistics, it’s critical that the nutritional advice that appears in your magazine be both accurate and reflect the very real risks of formula feeding to infant and child health.
Numerous studies have determined that breastfeeding substantially reduces the risk of asthma and allergy. Moreover, the longer an infant breastfeeds, the greater the health benefits. Conversely, there are numerous health risks associated with artificial feeding. Consider the following:
Dell S, To T. Breastfeeding and Asthma in Young Children, Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 155: 1261-1265, 2001
Saarinen UM, Kajosarri M. Breastfeeding as a prophylactic against atopic disease: Prospective follow-up study until 17 years old. Lancet 346: 1065-1069, 1995
Wright AL, Holberg CJ, Taussig LM, Martinez FD. Relationship of infant feeding to recurrent wheezing at age 6 years. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 149: 758-763, 1995
Kerkhof M, Koopman LP, van Strien RT, et al. Risk factors for atopic dermatitis in infants at high risk of allergy: the PIAMA study. Clin Exp Allergy 33: 1336-1341, 2003
Please refer to the enclosed pamphlet, Fourteen Risks of Formula Feeding, which further outlines the negative health effects of artificial feeding.
World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated each year in Canada from October 1 to 7. This year’s theme is Breastfeeding and Complementary Foods: Getting a Solid Start on Life. It recognizes that exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, as recommended by the World Health Organization, provides a solid nutritional, immunological and emotional foundation for babies. The Canadian Pediatric Society has also endorsed the recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. I note that your article recommends that solids be started at four to six months.
The appropriate introduction of nutritious family foods after the first six months of life permits the optimal development of a baby’s immune system to offset not only infectious disease, but also allergies, asthma and other autoimmune disorders. Breastfeeding to two years and beyond provides this protection as the infant grows and develops into a healthy toddler. Highlighting World Breastfeeding Week would provide you with an opportunity to set the record straight that exclusive breastfeeding and continued breastfeeding for up to two years and beyond protects against the risks of allergy, asthma and atopic disease.
At present, Canadian Family’s advertising practices are a direct contravention of the World Health Organization’s International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. The International Code, which is designed to protect infant health, expressly forbids the advertising of formula products and clearly states that information about infant nutrition should not come from the very industry that stands to gain the most by undermining breastfeeding. I note that the issue of Canadian Family in question features two full-page advertisements, one by Nestlé, the other by Mead Johnson.
Whether consciously or not, coupling misleading articles with advertising that promotes products proven to put the lives of infants and young children at risk is a shameful misuse of the Canadian journalistic privilege.
Elisabeth Sterken, BSc, MSc, Nutritionist
National Director, INFACT Canada
Steering Committee, United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition
cc: Hon. Ujjal Dosanjh, Minister of Health
George Smitherman, Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
INFACT Canada’s Board of Directors
INFACT Canada’s Policy Working Group