Bias in favour of breasts is understandable, but not when it discriminates against the bottle

“Make mine a double.”

Dunno why a mum named Claire Sword should be grizzling to news media about being hard done by.

It seems to Alf she has been done a big favour. She has been given the opportunity to spurn hospital tucker.

But the media have gone for the discrimination angle.

The story (here) is about her being denied a free meal in hospital while she sat beside her infant son’s hospital bed.

Other mothers were given a free feed. But Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) rules denied her the same thing because they breast-fed their babies.

She bottle-fed her son.

How come the board’s bias against the bottle in favour of the breast?

CDHB child health manager Anne Morgan said when a baby was admitted to hospital, not including the maternity ward, the stress could impact on the mother’s ability to lactate properly.

Therefore, because a breastfeeding mother was the source of their baby’s nutrition, those with a sick baby up to 6 months old were offered meals to ensure they could continue to feed their baby, she said.

Mothers who bottlefeed are not given free meals save in “exceptional circumstances”.

Ms Sword, aged 25 and a mother of two, should have been denied free food on the grounds she can’t spell or has given her son a silly name. His name is Lleyton.

The thing is that Lleyton was born with a heart defect and spent his first nine weeks in hospital.

That’s when the discrimination kicked in.

She said once she stopped breastfeeding, because she had a low milk supply and Lleyton did not have the energy to feed properly, she was no longer provided with meals.

During the next few months, Lleyton was in and out of Christchurch Hospital with viral meningitis, fluid on the brain, and for foot surgery and Sword was never given meals because she was bottlefeeding.

Sword called the CDHB’s attitude “discriminatory” because often bottlefeeding mothers could not breastfeed.

Alf is inclined to agree with her that mothers need energy to care for their children regardless of how they feed the wee buggers.

Mind you, he must admit he has no personal experience in this matter to bring to bear on the discussion.

Mrs Grumble did all the mothering.

Anyway, the hacks at Stuff have found another mum, Antonia Hide, whose bottlefed son was admitted to hospital with bronchitis when he was a few months old.

She agrees this is discrimination.

“I think it’s ridiculous. If your child is sick you need to keep up your energy as well whether you are breastfeeding or not, ” she said.

“They should be providing for all mothers the same.”

But bottle-feeding mums shouldn’t expect health officials to come out batting for them.

The Ministry of Health chief adviser child and youth health Pat Tuohy said it was a decision by individual district health boards.

“The ministry believes it’s important that hospitals support parents with children in hospital wards as best they can, recognising that these parents are often under considerable stress, and may be reluctant to leave their child’s side to get a meal.”

He supported the rationale that breastfeeding mothers were prioritised for food in wards because babies depended on them for nutrition.

On this point, Alf can draw on years of personal experience.

He has been getting a great deal of his daily nourishment from a bottle for several years.

It has done him no harm.

Mind you, if Alf had been able to get his daily ration of whisky direct from the breasts of – let’s say – Lucy Lawless….

The very idea makes your hard-working member an enthusiastic champion of genetic modification.

Back at the DHB, Morgan pointed out that the bottle-feeding mums need not starve, because parents can buy a hospital meal to be delivered to the bedside.

Free meals are offered in special cases, such as when it is difficult for a parent to leave a child’s bedside.

Alf assumes that Ms Sword could leave her child’s bedside.

Accordingly he tends to be somewhat scornful of her complaint.

His reasoning is simple: hospital food, whether free or paid for, is best avoided, in his experience.

The smart thing for a bottle-feeding mum to do is duck out to the nearest fish and chip shop, cough up the few bucks that will be demanded by the fish and chip shop proprietor, and be grateful you can look forward to a decent tuck-in once you have returned to your son’s bedside.

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