Alberta Health Services Nutrition and Food Services “Nourishing the Neonate 2018”

September 25, 2018


Attention: Kim Brunet Wood


Reference:  Alberta Health Services Nutrition and Food Services “Nourishing the Neonate 2018”



Breastfeeding supporters, health care professionals and all who care about ethics and conflict of interest around commercially sponsored health professional education are calling for Alberta Health Services to remove Mead Johnson’s sponsorship of “Nourishing the Neonate 2018”


Canada supports The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. The Code, subsequent relevant Resolutions of the World Health Assembly, state that:

“No financial or material inducements to promote products…should be offered by manufacturers…to health workers…nor should these be accepted by health workers.”

“Financial or material support by manufacturers of products covered under The Code to health workers creates a conflict of interest.”

“The interests of manufacturers may conflict with those of breastfeeding mothers and their children. Sponsorship or other financial assistance from the infant feeding industry may interfere with professionals’ unequivocal support for BFHI (Breastfeeding Friendly Hospital Initiative) and breastfeeding.”


Sponsorship of this event by Mead Johnson is clearly part of a marketing effort, to undermine breastfeeding. As 97% of Alberta women make enough milk to feed their babies, why is AHS a part of this marketing? Aggressive, inappropriate sponsorship undermines health professional’s confidence in human milk. Ongoing unethical commercial seminars make health professionals think the formulas are just like human milk. The Provincial Conflicts of Interest Act applies to AHS Departments and employees.[1] Protect babies and our health care dollars: stop this any future conflicting sponsorship for health professional seminars. Please advise at your earliest convenience when this conference will be cancelled or a new sponsor found.

We await your reply,

With Regards,

Jennifer House MSc, RD


Calgary Breastfeeding Matters Group Foundation

  Jennifer Peddlesden

Political Action Committee

Calgary Breastfeeding Matters Group Foundation


  1. INFACT Canada, Alberta Breastfeeding Committee, Breastfeeding Committee of Edmonton, Canadian Association of Neonatal Nurses

[1] “include restrictions to avoid a conflict of interest or apparent conflict of interest due to the acceptance of gifts by the persons subject to the code of conduct and establish maximum cash values of gifts, including a maximum cash value of gifts within the year from a single source, that may be accepted by the persons subject to the code of conduct” page 46 Alberta Government Conflicts of Interest Act.

Thyme Maternity’s Partnership with Nestle

Thyme Maternity’s partnership with Nestle.

Email to Thyme Maternity:

January 25, 2011

To Whom it May Concern;

I am writing on behalf of the Calgary Breastfeeding Matters Group Foundation, to take issue with Thyme Maternity’s partnership with Nestle.

By providing pregnant women with formula samples, your current partnership threatens the mom and baby breastfeeding relationship. Having a jar of formula easily available during the first days of breastfeeding makes it easy for a new mom to quit breastfeeding and offer the formula instead. Formula companies know this, and attempt to get the formula into the homes of pregnant women. Even one formula feeding can harm the baby and produce substandard development.

By providing Nestle your customer contact information and promoting their formula, Thyme Maternity is also violating the International Code of Marketing of Breastfeeding Substitutes. This Code states that: “(infant formula) should not be marketed or distributed in ways that may interfere with the protection and promotion of breast-feeding.” More specifically regarding the general public and mothers:

5.1 There should be no advertising or other form of promotion to the general public of products within the scope of this Code.

5.2 Manufacturers and distributors should not provide, directly or indirectly, to pregnant women, mothers or members of their families, samples of products within the scope of this Code.

We request that you respond to this letter, and discontinue your marketing relationship with all infant formula companies.


Jennifer House, MSc, RD
Board Member CGMGF
On behalf of CBMGF

cc. Elisabeth Sterken, INFACT Canada
Yeong Joo Kean, Legal Council IBFAN
Members, Calgary Breastfeeding Matters Group
Managers of Thyme Maternity stores in Calgary, Sunridge, Crossiron Mills, Northland
Birth Unlimited
Calgary Attachment Parenting Society
Gene Zwozdesky Alberta Minister of Health
Dr. David Swann, Leader of the Official Opposition and Executive Council Critic

Response from Thyme Maternity

October 2011
Following a report in 2010 that mothers shopping at Thyme Maternity in Calgary, Alberta, were receiving unsolicited infant feeding related products and coupons from Nestle, the Calgary Breastfeeding Matters Group wrote to Thyme Maternity regarding this violation of the World Health Organization International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. The following are quoted from a letter from Nestle to Anneleis Allain, Director of the International Code Documentation Centre in Penang, Malaysia regarding this violation.

Nestle apply the Code with a double standard. Ignoring that the Code applies worldwide, they choose not to consider mothers and infants in Canada at risk for the morbidity and mortality from inappropriate marketing and feeding of breastmilk substitutes. Unfortunately the Government of Canada has not put the Code into law and is referred to by Nestle. This is a strong message that unless we advocate for the Code in our own country, multinational food giants will do what they will to sell their products, regardless of the risk to life.

From Gayle Crozier-Willi, Nestle, Switzerland. “…we [Nestle] apply strict Code enforcement in the higher risk countries, but apply national rules in countries subject to lower public healthrisk. Canada falls into the latter category. Thus this activity is not in contradiction to Canadian legislation nor to our policy and instructions.” Gayle Crozier-Willi, Nestle

After complaints to Thyme Maternity, the following change was said to be made.

“Now, when shopping at Thyme Maternity, expectant mothers can choose to fill out a form and specify by “opting in” that they are interested in receiving additional information about how to join the Nestlé Baby Program. They are then sent a customized card that explains that if they would like to become a member, they must return the card or register online. Only when that form has been filled out or registered online, will expectant mothers be registered into the program and receive the various program elements, such as the backpack including the sample.” Gayle Crozier-Willi, Nestle, March 23 2010

Should any of you hear of mothers shopping at Thyme Maternity in Calgary who have “opted out,” yet received products, please report that to CBMG by clicking on the link in the Issues and Bouquets section, and our Political Action team will follow up with Nestle with copies to the ICDC and yourself.

CBMG Political Action Committee
Jen Peddlesden
Jen House

Bottle Feeding Baby on Motherisk Webpage

Image of Mother bottle feeding baby on Motherisk webpage.

Email To Media Relations and Policies Sickkids; Webmaster Motherisk:

Dear Ms Lipkin, Ms Simeon, Ms Nicholson, and Motherisk Webmaster,

A Lactation Consultant colleague of mine, Maureen Fjeld, pointed out that the picture on your homepage of a mother and baby includes a feeding bottle. Though this is an engaging image of a mother and baby, the feeding bottle conveys a message promoting artificial feeding which does not reflect the support which Sickkids and Motherisk provides for the most normal and healthy start to any baby’s life—breastfeeding!

I encourage you to consider changing this image to one of a mother and baby, breastfeeding or not, but one which does not condone artificial feeding as portrayed by the inclusion of this feeding bottle. For example, La Leche League Canada and INFACT Canada have many images available of mothers and babies without including inadvertent promotion of artificial feeding bottle, and also images promoting breastfeeding.

Canada is a signatory to the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and subsequent relevant Resolutions, and this Code states that health professionals must not use images of artificial feeding as this inappropriately condones artificial feeding versus normal feeding–breastfeeding. Rather health professionals should be promoting normal feeding.

Thank you for making this change. I have included for you on this e-mail the address of INFACT Canada, and La Leche League Canada, plus the names of several others whom I believe would support me in your replacing this image.

Jennifer Peddlesden BScPharm IBCLC
La Leche League Canada Leader

Response from Motherisk

Hello Jennifer – The use of the image of the baby with the bottle was inadvertent and has now been changed. We thank you for alerting us of your concerns.

Best wishes from Motherisk.

Right to Breastfeed in Restaurants

Interview Regarding Mother’s Right to Breastfeed in Restaurants (we have a long way to go, but applaud Yasmin, a SAIT journalism student for addressing the issue)

Breastfeeding in Restaurants

by Yasmin Mayne, SAIT journalism student

Mothers who breastfeed in restaurants make some people uncomfortable, but that does not mean they should forsake the health of their babies to placate others.

In a Facebook post in September, of 2013, the Breastfeeding Action Committee of Edmonton reported there was at least one incident in 2013 where an Edmonton woman was asked to cover up because she was breastfeeding in a Chili’s restaurant.

“Breastfeeding is crucial for a baby’s development and growth and mothers have the right to breastfeed their babies anytime anywhere,” said Jennifer Peddlesden, a volunteer spokeswoman for INFACT Canada, a political action group that advocates breastfeeding.

While the Health Canada website says breastfeeding is the “normal and unequalled method of feeding infants,” there are some who argue that a restaurant is not the place for such an intimate act.

Breastfeeding in restaurants is different than breastfeeding in public, because servers have to interact with the mother while she is breastfeeding.

“I think a lot of people don’t like talking to someone who is breastfeeding and servers are put in that situation,” said Chris McDonald, the assistant general manager at Market Mall’s Moxie’s Classic Grill.

“The word awkward comes up a lot,” he said, in reference to comments made by servers who attend women who are breastfeeding.

However, Peddlesden argues that a lack of awareness about the birth process is at the root of why people, like servers, feel uncomfortable when having to speak to a mother who is breastfeeding.

“People are not accustomed to seeing a mother breastfeed, so when they do see it, they think it’s abnormal,” she said.

“By educating the public as to how breastfeeding is a natural process and important for the health of the baby, we can reduce the awkwardness that people feel when they see a mother breastfeeding.”

Not only that, some mothers find breastfeeding to be the easiest way to feed a baby.

Sandi Sykes, a mother who has breastfed her children in restaurants, said,” breastfeeding is much less of a hassle than a bottle, because you don’t have to worry about how much milk to bring or where to store it so that it doesn’t become spoiled.”

“Really, breastfeeding is the most user-friendly method out there,” said Sykes.

However, Sykes only supports breastfeeding in restaurants so long as the mother covers up.

Rikki Steinkrauss, a second-year hospitality and management student at SAIT said, “It is not acceptable for mothers to breastfeed in restaurants, especially without a cover, because it’s indecent.”

In McDonald’s 15 years of working in the restaurant industry, all the mothers he has seen breastfeeding have always used a cover, but if he were to see a mother breastfeeding uncovered, he would ask her to cover up because then she would be acting inappropriately.

But Peddlesden said, “It is a mother’s prerogative to breastfeed with or without a cover.”

“Breastfeeding is not an obscene sexual act and there is no harm in showing a tiny bit of breast…especially when there are women on television in over-tight costumes doing lewd and crude things every day.”

“Yet people can choose what they watch on television, but in restaurants customers and servers cannot avoid seeing a mother breastfeed,” said Steinkrauss.

An alternative for mothers who are set on breastfeeding without a cover, and which Steinkrauss believes is a solution that is acceptable to both restaurant-goers and mothers, is the creation of more private breastfeeding rooms.

In Calgary’s Market Mall, there is a “mother’s room” located in the ladies washroom near the food court, as well as a private family nursing lounge in the hallway next to the Disney Store, where mothers can go and breastfeed their babies in private.

However, Peddlesden does not think these private breastfeeding rooms are a good idea.

“By asking mothers to use these rooms, we are alienating them.

“We are telling them they are not like everyone else and what they are doing must be kept hidden,” she said.

For Peddlesden, the only solution to this issue is to continue to educate the public about breastfeeding and have mothers breastfeed in restaurants and other public areas, so much so that people will begin to see it as a natural and ordinary act and cease to be offended by it.

But until that happens, people like Steinkrauss will object to mothers breastfeeding in restaurants.

“Luckily I haven’t had to serve a mother who is breastfeeding, but if I ever was put in that situation, I would totally get my manager to serve her for me,” said Steinkrauss.

Thyme Maternity Selling Customer Names

Thyme Maternity selling customer names to corporations (including Nestle), without consent

May 27, 2014

Dear Thyme Maternity Privacy Officer,

I have avoided shopping at Thyme Maternity during my pregnancy, as I know your store partners with Nestle, which I do not agree with. Nestle’s marketing is a violation of the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and undermines women’s efforts to breastfeed. However, I did make a trip in to see what the current Thyme Maternity policies and partnerships were currently (and returned my purchase, as I see they haven’t changed). The free bottle you give away when a woman signs up for your Thyme iD card is also a violation of the Code mentioned above. These are not “gifts” but well-placed marketing, illegal for a reason.

I specifically completed my Thyme card information, not checking the Nestle box, to avoid receiving any “gifts” from Nestle. So I was surprised when I started receiving emails from Nestle, marketing infant formula. Then I received their baby backpack filled with marketing, coupons and formula. I have also received information from Huggies. While ultimately I disagree with these cross-marketing affiliates (and know you lose business because of them- and not just mine), I am writing to complain about your faulty privacy practices.

On your Thyme iD card, it states that: “if I do not check the consent box, I will not be contacted by that specific cross-marketing affiliate.” Yet have been contacted by Huggies and Nestle, so I know that my contact information was sold to all of the cross-marketing affiliates, despite the fact that I did NOT check the consent box. From the reviews on the Thyme Maternity facebook page, it seems that this is common occurrence, and it does not matter whether your customer checks the consent box or not. Their name and contact information is sold anyways.

I submitted a complaint to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. They requested that I contact the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta instead. The Privacy Commissioner of Alberta recommends first completing the attached Privacy Concern Resolution Form to communicate with the company. If that is unsuccessful, then I will be completing a Privacy Breach Report Form.

Please see the attached Privacy Concern Resolution Form and I request that you please:

1)    Delete my contact information from your files. I realize you have already sold my name to your cross-marketing affiliates, and expect that I remove my name from their mailing lists myself. I will do this, along with letting them know that I did not consent to having my contact information released to them.

2)    Explain how you manage Thyme iD card customers information. It appears to me that it is sold to cross-marketing affiliates, despite opt-in permission.

3)    Explain why you need a cross marketing affiliate program. I know it has caused many people to boycott and avoid shopping at your store, due to questionable privacy policies and partnerships.

Thank you,

Jennifer House

The reply from Thyme Maternity is attached here: Thyme Maternity Reply.

Chinook Centre Breastfeeding Policy

Chinook Centre Breastfeeding Policy

December 6, 2015

6455 Macleod Tr SW

Calgary AB T2H 0K8

Attention: Stacie Woolford, Marketing Manager

Reference:  Chinook Centre Breastfeeding Policy

A local mom visited the Santa at Chinook mall on around 11am on Saturday Dec 5, 2015. She registered for her daughter to meet Santa and waited in the play area, where she breastfed her daughter. The mom was approached by a female employee and was told the dad felt uncomfortable with a mother nursing and asked if she had a nursing cover, to which the mom replied she did not. The employee asked if the mom would cover with a jacket, to which the mother again declined.

This was an incident of discrimination, and illegal in Canada. The right to breastfeed is protected under Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Alberta’s Human Rights Act. Alberta’s Human Rights Commission recently clarified its advice to retailers, reminding them that breastfeeding is an integral part of being a mother and that retailers must allow breastfeeding in a public area, and must not ask women to cover up or move.

Whether or not the employee was a Chinook mall employee, we would encourage an apology to the mother, and creation or enforcement of an official breastfeeding policy for your mall. We would be happy to assist you in creating a policy, and help to make Chinook a family-friendly mall.

We look forward to your thoughts and reply.

With Regards,

Jennifer House  MSc RD – Co-Chair

Jennifer Peddlesden  BcPharm IBCLC – Political Action Committee

Calgary Breastfeeding Matters Group Foundation

Human Milk in Postpartum Units

Advocating for funding of human milk in postpartum units. The health minister did reply, that this was an AHS issue, and to contact them (still in the works!).

June 23, 2016

The Honourable Sarah Hoffman, Minister of Health

423 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5K 2B6

Dear Minister Hoffman,

Reference:  Human Milk in Postpartum Units

The Calgary Breastfeeding Matters Group is requesting Alberta Health Services consider using pasteurized donor human milk in postpartum units. Human milk provides crucial immunoglobulins, antibodies and nutrients that are beneficial to babies first feeds. These nutrients are not present in manufactured formula.

Alberta babies are fortunate to have access to breast milk through the NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank, for use when their mothers’ own supply is not available.

In special situations when supplementation is required, mothers in the postpartum units of Alberta Health Services should be given a choice of whether to offer their infant formula or breast milk. A small amount would be needed (100 mls day one, 200 mls day two and 400 mls day three). The cost to supply a baby with breast milk for the first 3 days is just $54. Often times newborn babies require just one or two feeds the first day for medical conditions such as low blood sugars or if moms own breast milk production is delayed.

Just one feed of formula alters the intestinal microflora of the baby. A healthy microflora is responsible for a healthy immune system. While infant formula is subsidized by Mead-Johnson (through contracts that contravene the International Code of Marketing of Breast milk Substitutes), human milk is healthier for our babies, Healthier babies save health care dollars.

Please let us know if you would consider the use of donor human milk in post partum units in Alberta.

We look forward to your reply.

With Regards,

Jennifer House  MSc RD – Co-Chair

Jennifer Peddlesden  BcPharm IBCLC – Political Action Committee

Calgary Breastfeeding Matters Group Foundation

cc.Verna Yiu, President and CEO, Alberta Health Services

Debbie Leitch, Executive Director Maternal Newborn Child & Youth SCN

Brenda Huband, AHS Senior Vice President – Calgary Zone

Dr. Doug Wilson, Head, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Director NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank

Jannette Festival, Executive Director NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank

Jodine Chase, Breastfeeding Action Committee of Edmonton

Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes

SSUE – Canada does not enforce the International Code of Marketing of Breast milk Substitutes. An original letter was sent to Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau. Her office responded that we should contact the Minister of Status of Women. The Minister of Status of Women responded that we should contact the Health Minister. So here is our letter to the Health Minister … waiting for a response!

January 12, 2017

Honorable Jane Philpott;

Thank you for announcing the recent changes to Canada’s healthy eating guidelines, including food labelling changes and restrictions on food marketing to children. These are great steps towards improving the health of all Canadians. As the mother of three, Dietitian specializing in pediatrics and co-chair of the Calgary Breastfeeding Matters Group, the health of women and children in particular are close to my heart. Specifically, I am passionate about breastfeeding advocacy.

Canada could strengthen new guidelines around reduced marketing to children, by including enforcement of the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes (the Code). While infant formula is not marketed directly towards babies, it is heavily and unethically marketed to parents. This marketing decreases breastfeeding rates, harming the health of mothers, children and therefore the entire country. The purpose of the Code is to protect ALL babies through breastfeeding support and the proper and safe use of breast-milk substitutes and stopping their inappropriate marketing.  Countries with this legislation and enforcement of the Code have higher breastfeeding rates.

One goal of the World Health Organizations (WHO) Global Nutrition Targets for 2025 is to: “Increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months of life up to at least 50%.” Ninety eight percent of Canadian women initiate breastfeeding. However, this drops to about 50% by three months of age and by six months, just 15% are exclusively breastfed, falling far short of WHO’s goal.

Evidence shows that almost all mothers are able to breastfeed, and will be able to meet their goals with support and accurate information. So why are mothers falling short in meeting their goals? Partially because formula industry marketing practices cause mothers to question the quality of their milk and their ability to make milk. Ultimately, formula marketing dis-empowers women. It’s too easy to reach for the multiple free cans of formula in their pantry received in the mail during pregnancy. Or perhaps the mom was sent home with formula from the hospital, which likely receives funding and free formula for distributing one brand. Enforcing the Code is required to eliminate this marketing of breast-milk substitutes to both mothers and the health care system.

From the Joint statement by the UN Special Report: “…providing the support and protection necessary for women to make informed decisions concerning the optimal nutrition for their infants and young children is a core human rights obligation.”  Besides being a human rights issue, helping mothers reach their breastfeeding goals is important to the health not only of the child, but the whole of Canadian society.  Decreasing marketing of artificial milk will strengthen the physical health of babies (i.e. decreased risk of necrotizing entrocolitis, SIDS, leukemia etc.) AND mothers (i.e. decreased risk of postpartum depression, breast and ovarian cancers). I would encourage you to help strengthening the enforcement and legislation related to the Code in Canada. I would be happy to participate in a discussion on how Canada could do this, and would be thrilled to receive a response.


Jennifer House MSc, RD

Enc: Joint statement by the UN Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Food, Right to Health, the Working Group on Discrimination against Women in law and in practice, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child in support of increased efforts to promote, support and protect breast-feeding

Available here: