Thursday, 2 December 2010

NOT PJ: Maths and Swearing

_BernardDarnton This week Bernard Darnton uses the power of made-up numbers to answer the age-old question: is infant formula worse than the Holocaust?

Red Nose Day is back. From wherever it is that Telethon and other such institutions go to rest, Red Nose Day has been resurrected. Like the new Telethon it was naff, but then the original wasn’t that great either.

Last week’s Red Nose Day was to raise money for various childhood illnesses, presumably because cot death, the old cause, has gone thoroughly out of fashion. Having changed its name to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome no one knew what it was anymore, and we all promptly forgot that we cared.

Like any expired fashion, it still has a handful of holdouts. Breastfeeding zealots continue to use the fear of cot death to shove their agenda.

Before my daughter was born we went to an ante-natal class. We were informed by the ‘facilitator,’ whose enthusiasm outweighed her knowledge, that babies who were fed infant formula and whose parents smoked had a 75% risk of death.

“But that’s basically murder,” gasped one of my classmates.

“Yes,” said the facilitator seriously.

I was less credulous: “Are you completely fucking insane? Are you sure it’s not 0.75%? Or 75% higher than the base risk - as in the risk goes from five-eighths of bugger all to bugger all?”

“No, not at all,” she said seriously.

“Where did that number come from?” I asked incredulously.

“The Ministry of Health,” she said seriously.

“Did you read it right?” I asked incredulously.

“Of course,” she said seriously.

“Don’t you think the number’s a bit high? Come on - I mean, when Hiroshima was bombed 160,000 people were killed out of a population of 300,000. That’s a 55% death rate. Do you honestly believe that being fed infant formula is more dangerous than being attacked with nuclear weapons?

“The death rate amongst European Jews during the Holocaust was 70%. Do you really believe that being a baby who lives with smokers is more dangerous than being a Jew who lives with Nazis?”

Even those without my shining ability to combine maths and swearing knew that something wasn’t right. Most of us had grown up in the seventies and if the smoking and infant formula data was right, 75% of us shouldn’t have been there. The real number is less than a thousandth of that figure. But it does have a five in it.

The problem goes much further than gross innumeracy. Lots of new mothers are made to feel terrible for not breastfeeding. Some babies won’t latch on properly. For some mothers it’s too painful. Some breasts only serve up green-label milk when babies really want gold top.

An expensive Ministry of Health advertising campaign is currently nagging mothers as they wander round shopping malls and watch crap television. Of course, it’s not the first government department ad campaign encouraging more people to get on the tit. Advertising and media companies must be awed by Nanny’s bounty.

The Ministry’s propaganda team are backed up by legions of do-gooders who put on their pretending-to-help voices and persecute women who can’t, or - the horror - choose not to breastfeed.

Sadly, many women have a cognitive affliction that makes them take notice of other people’s opinions. There’s really no need. The only parenting advice I would ever give is: Run as fast as you can away from anyone who gives parenting advice.

Oh, except one thing: I’m no epidemiologist but if you happen to be grossly fat don’t put your baby in your own bed and then get so drunk you can’t tell if you’re rolling on top of him. Just saying.

* * Bernard Darnton’s NOT PJ column appears every Thursday here at NOT PC * *


  1. This is a WHO program that is suitable for impoverished nations and which is being forced on us.

    The gormless MOH passed the problem onto a bunch of idiotic middle-aged women who have grasped the power it offers and have applied it with missionary zeal and Nazi-like sensitivity. Chanting unprovable mantra about harm being done by failing to breastfeed a child, these useful idiots have emotionally and psychologically destroyed many anxious young mothers and made them feel like failures.

    They are nearly as dangerous as the midwives who push for vaginal birth at all costs. I wonder when the number of children with cerebral palsey, and the number of mothers who have faecal incontinance and painful sex, will be exposed as being due to excessively prolonged labours and unneccessarily complicated deliveries.

    Beware of these people as they do not know what they don't know.

  2. James Stephenson2 Dec 2010, 10:22:00

    Brilliant. I shall be drawing this to the attention of a good friend and co-ante-natal grouper who, in the midst of feeding tribulations, lost his rag and told the Plunket nurse to "fuck off and don't come back".

  3. "I was less credulous: “Are you completely fucking insane? Are you sure it’s not 0.75%? Or 75% higher than the base risk - as in the risk goes from five-eighths of bugger all to bugger all?”"

    I'm afraid she was actually more correct on this one --- in fact, babies fed infant formula and whose parents smoke, have an even higher risk of death than 75%, they in fact ultimately have a 100% risk of dying. Fact! It's very tragic.

    - DavidJ

  4. Proud Breeder of Organ Donors2 Dec 2010, 11:12:00

    Shit, I wish I went to the same ante-natal class as you, I really could have done with the entertainment. Mind you, our facilitator was clearly not the panic merchant yours was, and took it well when I turned up late and hung-over on the second Saturday with a big bag of McDonalds after having a quick fag in the car-park first. It was fortuitous the wife was pregnant and therefore the default designated driver!

  5. I've seen & heard all this before several times. There is a lot of peer pressure put on by grandparents in particular and the media to breastfeed.
    There was a baby show in Hamilton a few years back where 'Nutricia' (a brand of baby milk formula)was prevented from having a stand at the show because of a few protesters. (one of them was interviewed on TV at the time).
    I also agree with your last statement "The only parenting advice I would ever give is: Run as fast as you can away from anyone who gives parenting advice." It's usually given by people who were lousy parents themselves.

  6. If you have not yet noticed how much control the UN have on our lives then follow these two links.

  7. Is it just me or does the child in that photo look just slightly creepily too old/large to still be breastfeeding. I guess I'm being 'unscientific' but I believe in the rule of thumb, if he's old enough to ask for it, he's too old.

  8. Parents should educate themselves about the pros and cons of formula and breast feeding. There is plenty of medical research available.

    As this thread contains precious little beyond empty, know-it-all rhetoric, it should be taken as a starting point only.

  9. I agree with RRM.

    I think Bernhards knowledge of breastfeeding ends at being able to identify a breast on sight.

    Feeding your baby FORMULA is a poor second best. If it was BEST, then the human body would have developed FORMULA coming out of the breast.

    If feeding your baby second-best is OK to you, then by all means go for it, but if you want to give your baby the best possible food then I suggest breast feeding cannot be improved upon.
    Not just for the nutritional value either, but for other reasons too. Bonding, passing on immunities (which is also one of the important aspects of vaginal delivery)
    If there was a better way to give birth, women would have been designed with a zipper on their tummy to pull the baby from. It was designed to go through the birth canal for a reason.
    To the anonymous poster - the quote "you dont know what you dont know" has never been more applicable


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