Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Brazilian breastfeeding conference and 1,600 mothers breastfeeding

I wrote yesterday about sponsorship of events on infant care and the need to be wary of conflicts of interest.

Baby Milk Action accepts no funding from commercial organisations. The International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), to which we belong, has a policy members sign up to of accepting no funding from organisations with a commercial interest in how infants are fed, covering formula and bottle and teat companies as well as pump companies (that is pumps for expressing breastmilk). Pump companies are sometimes bottle companies as well, but even if not and even if code compliant, they have a commercial interest in how infants are fed. IBFAN wants no financial motives ascribed to its work to protect and promote breastfeeding. Our concern is infant health.

Pump companies are also controversial as their presence as a sponsor or exhibitor implies endorsement of pumps, whereas there are many breastfeeding counsellors who prefer to promote hand expression.

Last month I attended the Brazilian National Breastfeeding Conference in Belém, Para, a state in the north of the country which covers part of the Amazon delta. The location was chosen by IBFAN Brazil to strengthen the work of the network there and other breastfeeding support activities. The conference included the First Amazonian Human Milk Bank Conference, with training sessions for staff from milk banks, for example.

There were many sponsors for the event. With it being IBFAN Brazil I didn't have to concern myself about who they might be. At other events I have been caught out, with the surprise presence of a company like Tommee Tippee, for example, which is particularly aggressive in promoting feeding bottles.

So who were the sponsors? Well, as with all sponsors they appear prominently on conferencce publicity, such as the backdrop here at the closing ceremony where I am doing my impression of someone who speaks Portuguese.

(Picture copyright protected - ENAM closing ceremony)

Main sponsors were the state government and health authority, with support from the federal government, UNICEF, educational and health establishments, professional associations (including the baby friendly fire workers - representative sitting in the middle), the non-profit small business development agency (SEBRAE) and the state oil company (Petrobras).

Exhibitors were a variety of health organisations, educational establishments and crafts people.

Participants had to pay and with 2,700 registering, much more than budgeted, it was announced that there was a positive balance to go to future events (the next national conference will be in São Paulo).

There was media coverage of the conference and the event that kicked it off. This was billed as 1,000 women breastfeeding on the banks of the Guajara River. On the day 1,600 mothers actually turned up.

(Picture copyright controlled - Dr. Sonia and Mike de Oliveira Brady)

Here is a report on a Brazilian website with a picture.

(If you are interested in some pictures and thoughts on my day trip into the Amazon delta, take a look at my personal blog).

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