My lactation consultant said what??!!

This piece is not satire.

I have complained several times that it is getting harder and harder to parody homebirth advocates and lactivists. No matter how outrageous the parody, there is a comparable example in real life.

Several days ago I wrote a satire entitled Natural childbirth is a risk factor for tyranny. I was satirizing the penchant of natural childbirth advocates to fabricate outrageous claims about the benefits about unmedicated birth (“Peace on earth begins with birth.”) Now I learn that a counselor for the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA), a government funded organization, was caught by a reporter insisting that baby formula is like AIDS.

That’s right. Lest you think someone is exaggerating, a major Australian newspaper sent the reporter (who is pregnant) to the class to confirm a complaint that an Australian Breastfeeding Association counselor was teaching utterly fabricated assertions.

Formula is a little bit like AIDS… Nobody actually dies from AIDS; what happens is AIDS destroys your immune system and then you just die of anything and that’s what happens with formula. It provides no antibodies.


Every 30 seconds a baby dies from infections due to a lack of breastfeeding and the use of bottles, artificial milks and other risky products. Every 30 seconds.

And in case anyone failed to get the point:

“Of course, there’s the higher IQ and all of the diseases that you don’t get,” the breastfeeding counsellor said in her opening remarks.

“We used to talk about all those sorts of things, but we don’t talk about any of those any more.”

She added: “A couple of years ago I broke this leg, quite badly. Nobody said to me ‘we have this wonderful range of wooden legs now’ … they fixed the leg.”

Like wooden-leg salespeople, formula companies would try to promote benefits, attendees heard.

“That’s what formula is; it’s pure sales pitch. They don’t say ‘look, a baby dies from this product every 30 seconds’ … they forget about that bit.”

All this from one of the ABA’s most highly regarded counselors, mentioned by name in the most recent Annual Report, available here:

Desley Hubner, a counsellor with the West End Group, was the counsellor who took the highest number of calls on the National Breastfeeding Helpline …

She received the ABA’s highest honor in April:

The remarks got a swift response from Mamamia, a major Australian parenting website:

If you didn’t read yesterday’s papers, get ready to have your jaw hit the floor.

Yesterday the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) were accused of using ‘scaremongering’ tactics following revelations one of their most popular counsellors told a class that, “Baby formula is a little bit like AIDS’ and that a baby dies ‘every 30 seconds” from formula feeding.

The author put her finger on the real problem:

Baby formula

… it is time to acknowledge that there is a fanatical, zealous undercurrent to the ABA that is disturbing. And it is undermining all the good they do.

Frightening vulnerable parents into breastfeeding by using blatant lies and propoganda [sic]; intimating that formula is akin to AIDS and that babies are dying every thirty seconds is nothing short of a disgrace…

What is without doubt is the fact the ABA counsellor in question is not alone. We know from past posts on Mamamia … that there are many more stories of ABA counsellors who are discrediting the name of the ABA and doing the organisation damage …

A spokeswoman for the ABA appeared on Australia’s Today Show this morning.

Fortunately, the ABA is denouncing the counselors claims, but the spokeswoman could not explain why a counselor would have made such outrageous statements or what the ABA plans to do to prevent others from making the same mistake.

This incident shines a harsh light on a phenomenon that I have described repeatedly: the propensity of natural childbirth advocates, homebirth advocates and lactivists to simply make things up.

It is unlikely that the ABA taught these claims to the counselor. There is no reputable organization or book that advances these claims. Moreover, these claims are ludicrous on their face and betray a woeful ignorance of immunology, AIDS and the benefits of breast milk. But in the world of homebirth, natural childbirth and breastfeeding advocacy, whether or not a claim is true is irrelevant. If it makes sense to an advocate (an extremely low standard), it is deemed to be true and it is proudly proclaimed to others.