Tuesday, May 19, 2009

There is a Pigeon in the house...

Life is beautiful. Life is complex. Look at the daisy and we see the beauty, the complexity of life. If only one were a flower like the daisy, life would be so simple. No need to think about life, just be life. Just reach to the sun and unfold, feel the rain, the heat of the moment. Feel the wasp gently tickle our petals as she moves and feeds. Feel the wind, gently move us or on some days pull us down to the ground. We are one with the earth, we make no judgments about the flowers next to us. We don't feel prettier or uglier than the flower next to us. We aren't richer than the rose. We aren't dumber than the ivy who climbs to the top of the house. We just are here. We can relax into living until our time is up. Sigh....oh humanity where is our souls? Lost in the maze of getting ahead of our neighbor--being richer, smarter, better-looking, having the power to move others to do our bidding. We are truly lost in a world that could be at one with life, with mother earth.
How does one gently, kindly make criticisms to people you care about, love. I am not sure there is an easy way to do it. Should one remain silent, so that the people you care about are not hurt by your thoughts? Should one remain silent because the situation is too painful to look at, too hurtful. Should one remain silent, because criticism invites ostracism? Should one remain silent because that criticism impacts how people make a living?
There are people outside breastfeeding advocacy that will not understand what I am writing about and I apologize ahead of time. But for those who have been following discussions on Lactnet regarding Lansinoh and the WHO Code, this particular post to my blog might be of interest. We, in the breastfeeding community have over the years been upset over the connections that the medical establishment has with the infant formula industry. We become angry about the way in which infant formula is marketed. Yet, we are blind to the insidious way in which various companies have gained favor in our breastfeeding organizations. Take for instance Lansinoh. Back some years ago, Lansinoh became the first company that La Leche League endorsed. As a La Leche League leader back then, I felt the need to write letters to the BOD of La Leche League stating my disapproval of this event. In response, I got a hand written note from one of La Leche League founders, Betty Wagner Spandikow. Her letter stated her agreement with my disapproval of endorsements by La Leche League but that the majority of the BOD had approved the endorsement. This was before I had a personal computer (1980 something) and I had typed letters sent by snail mail to every board member and every founding mother. I kept Betty's letter to me for some years but at this point I have no idea if it is still around. I was impressed that one of the founders took the time to hand write a letter to me. Not long after that I attended a Breastfeeding Conference and who should sit down next to me but Sue Huml, IBCLC who was an employee of Lansinoh (last I read she was the Director of Education & member of the Breastfeeding Advisory Board at Lansinoh). Sue Huml was a former executive director of LLLI and Exhibit Manager for LLLI. We both looked at each others badges and I realized that this was my golden opportunity to ask her a few questions. But someone I knew started talking to me and when I turned again I found that she had moved to the other side of the room. Lost opportunities. Anyway, I was not pleased with La Leche League's endorsement of Lansinoh but I lived with it and mostly forgot about it. Then a few years back I bought a newer edition of the Womanly Art of Breastfeeding because my old edition was ratty. One day I was trying to find a quote from the book and happened upon a sentence in the book where it was basicly an endorsement of Lansinoh for sore nipples. I just sat in my chair and couldn't believe it. I don't think this endorsement was in previous editions of the Womanly Art. I had never seen it before. I felt an enormous sense of anger that La Leche League would use this book to advertise for Lansinoh. I felt shock then but that was some time ago and nothing much shocks me anymore. We are living in mighty strange times. As most breastfeeding advocates now know, Pigeon Company of Japan bought Lansinoh. Pigeon is considered a WHO Code violator. Lansinoh, despite the fact that it is owned by Pigeon, has advertised in the JHL and allowed to have booths at breastfeeding conferences (although Medela is no longer given such privileges). The stance by ILCA, according to Liz Brooks, IBCLC (ILCA board member) is that there is a firewall between Pigeon company and Lansinoh--that the same people that ran the company before the Pigeon takeover are still the people running it now. According to the information I saw on the web the president of Lansinoh is now Shigeru Yamashita, Chief Director of Overseas Business for Pigeon. Reshed Hagen is listed on the website as "Founder." How much control she has over decisions is difficult to know. Lansinoh's breastfeeding advisory board is James Sears, MD (son of William Sears), medical advisor. Rubina Mason, RN, IBCLC is also a medical advisor to Lansinoh. And Gina Ciagne, CLC is director of Breastfeeding Relations and Outreach at Lansinoh. Gina Ciagne at one time was employed by the Office on Women's Health in the US Department of Health and Human Services and she was involved with the Breastfeeding Ad Campaign (a campaign that failed for a number of reasons). The difficulty that the medical profession has with extricating itself from relationships with the infant formula and pharmaceutical industries is similiar to this situation. Endorsements carry obligations to both parties. It is so easy to be critical of the cozy relationships between medical societies and the infant formula industry. But when the Pigeon is in our house, what do we do? Do we walk the walk, talk the talk? Or do we give excuses for our cozy relationships? The Pigeon in our house belongs outside. We are no different then the people we criticize, if we accept this situation.
Copyright 2009 Valerie W. McClain