LETTERS 21.12.19

Milking it
I CAN support Ann McCrae in her enthusiasm to ensure that parents are encouraged and well supported when they choose to breastfeed their children for the first six months or beyond (“Suck it up”, Thinking Allowed, Herald, December 14, 2019).
As she correctly asserts the World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding for this minimum period because the science has identified multiple physical health benefits for the child and the mother.
However, while a few discrete studies may have found small and very preliminary associations between breast-feeding and adolescent and adult psychological health, many more have not.
It’s a complex if not impossible task (largely due to ethics) to adequately untangle the multiple confounding variables (including socio-economic status, education and need to return to work), let alone draw any definitive conclusions.
As such, sufficiently reliable and robust findings suggesting that breastfeeding prevents mental health issues in adulthood or that bottle-feeding is a risk factor for poor adult mental health outcomes, simply do not exist.
And most certainly there is no research linking breastfeeding in childhood to reduced rates of intimate partner violence in adulthood as was inferred, albeit perhaps inadvertently.
Childhood adversities, and in particular maladaptive family functioning (e.g. parental mental illness, child abuse, neglect) are the strongest predictors of poor adolescent and adult mental health and psychological disorders.
Indeed, according to a joint analysis of the World Mental Health Surveys of more than 50,000 participants across 21 countries, childhood adversities account for 29.8 per cent of all DSM-IV disorders.
So again I would agree with Ann that a safe, secure, loving, well-resourced home is optimal for the promotion of healthy child development, but would also stress, strongly, that there is no scientific evidence to suggest that creating such an environment is any less achievable for parents who, for whatever reason, have not breast-fed their children.
Stronger policies and increased funding to further support breast-feeding, and stronger policies and increased funding aimed at preventing poor mental health outcomes are definitely desirable.
However, from a scientific point of view these are two very separate public health issues, and to suggest that they are related is neither accurate nor helpful for the women and men experiencing the daily struggle to be and to feel like good enough parents.
Rachael O’Byrne
Clinical psychologist
High Street, Fremantle

Spilt milk
I’M going to give Ann McRae the benefit of the doubt and assume that her Thinking Allowed about breastfeeding was well-intentioned (“Suck it up”, Herald, December 14, 2019) .
However, if she is keen on supporting women it’s unhelpful (and frankly, bizarre) to imply that their feeding practices are contributing to unhappy marriages, mental health problems and domestic violence. Just because something is natural and ancient does not make it easy and for many women, establishing breastfeeding can be very challenging.
Unfortunately, McRae is participating in another ancient practice: blaming women for the ills of society.
There are lots of ways to birth and feed a baby and women should not be punished for their choices or circumstances.
Take any number of adults and see if you can tell the breastfed from the bottle-fed, or the caesarean from the vaginal-birthed apart.
There are so many other challenges in life that shape who we are, and there are no guarantees that how a baby is birthed or fed will make the key difference.
If McRae truly believes that “mother knows best”, then she should leave mothers to make their own choices based on their own complex lives.
With her smugness, illogical correlations, and black-and-white thinking, I shudder to think of her counselling new mothers out in the community.
Women deserve support and care during the vulnerable postpartum period, not judgment and condescension.
L Dawe
Hamilton Hill

He’s a real bright spark
AMAZING; I read that ScoMo dreamed up a new tax for electric vehicles before they even hit the road.
Was it on the grounds they will not be paying fuel tax?
The rest of the world is subsidising EVs on the basis that we will all benefit from clean, breathable air, plus billions of dollars saved in health costs.
But wait, Sco Mo’s right – how can we replace the lost revenue for his precious surplus.
Easy, according to the International Monetary Fund which found global subsidies for fossil rose to $5.2 trillion dollars in 2017.
Subsidies in Australia are around $30 billion and increasing annually.
Green energy subsidies are less than half that – around $14 billion.
Get the feeling your being lied to?
The IMF report found that if fossil fuels had been priced appropriately, global carbon emissions would be reduced by 28 per cent.
Significantly, effective fossil fuel pricing would also lead to a decrease in air pollution. Guess you could say we’re paying them to poison us, and they keep putting up the cost.
So it seems logical that by reducing the subsidies for fossil fuel plus the obvious health savings maybe even ScoMo could start a program to install EV infrastructure for cleaner, healthier Australian cities.
John Paterson
White Gum Valley

C’est drab
FREMANTLE prides itself on being a city with a Mediterranean climate and an enthusiasm for festivals and encouraging creativity.
It has the added advantage of having inherited a creamy limestone as its bedrock; and yet Freo council approves new developments “dressed” in black and drab grey “because it’s considered fashionable”.
As if fashion should dictate our architectural wardrobe.
Where are the watermelon and citrus colours of the Mediterranean, the tones of Saint-Tropez and Portofino, the soft reds and browns of Lisbon?
We were promised a design advisory committee, presumably attended by our heritage architect, that would ensure a high, if not exceptional, standard of architectural design in any new development, especially those falling within the West End heritage boundary.
On the one hand our council lauds and encourages vibrancy, on the other hand it colludes with a “dress code” suitable for a funeral, or the grey armour of a Soviet tank.
David Hawks
Bellevue Terrace, Fremantle

Boo-boo?
WITHIN the first two paragraphs, Mrs McRae has referred to domestic violence as “episodes” and depression as “plain”, before curiously connecting Australia’s drought to breastfeeding (“Suck it up”, Thinking Allowed, Herald, December 14, 2019).
Whilst I don’t doubt Ms McRae’s breastfeeding experience, both personally and professionally, her perspective insults legitimate mental health illnesses and bizarrely blames Australia’s “mental health problem” on women.
Her argument only serves to further isolate women, rather than offering support and compassion that new mothers so desperately need.
This article fails to consider wider psychosocial contexts that influence a woman’s ability and choice to breastfeed.
What we need in the world right now is empathy and this piece was entirely devoid of it.
Ashleigh
Rennie Crescent,
North Hilton 

Beach boy
I REFER to your front-page story “Great wall of port” in last week’s Herald.
It was with great joy that I read that Fremantle council is finally going to do something to preserve one of my favourite venues – the beautiful Port Beach.
I remember going there with my parents and siblings when I was a young boy, then later as a teenager and young adult. It stills holds a very warm place in my heart. 
Port Beach is what economists would call a ‘free good’. 
That is, something that everyone can enjoy without outlaying any cash. 
The beach has survived the ‘great stone invasion’ in the past and as mentioned in the article, continued erosion.
So please, all the powers-that-be and other interested parties, give this very worthy cause great consideration.
Steve Grady
Murray Road, Palmyra

Going through the motions
IN last week’s Herald story “Great wall of port” you report that Fremantle council has committed to a sea wall to protect the Coast restaurant, the old surf club and public toilets.
Whereas one might infer this from the council resolution, a closer reading reveals something much less specific.
Briefly, council resolved to:
• Adopt a policy position of managed retreat as the preferred strategy for responding to coastal erosion risk at Port Beach and Leighton Beach
• Request officers progress with the coastal adaptation and protection project made in the 2019 Rogers port beach coastal adaptations options report, to further evaluate the suitability of options identified and the funding arrangements that will address coastal erosion risk up to 2040 (The latter is good news, as it could mean I’ll have a beach until I am 105).
The Rogers report referenced by council was informed by three reference group workshops, which produced a multi-criteria analysis that yielded four options.
In order of weighted score these are: sand nourishment by dredge; protect; retreat and protect; sand nourishment by truck; and headlands/groynes.
Rogers took no position on these but recommended that sand nourishment by dredge be further investigated, noting it would take two years to do that.
A further problem would be the unlikely availability of dredge spoil when needed now and into the future. Council has opted for managed tetreat, defined by Rogers as removing or relocating assets within areas with an intolerable risk of damage from coastal hazards.
The better option would be to protect now, defined by Rogers as a structure that can be constructed to preserve the foreshore reserve, public access and public safety, property and infrastructure.
There was much talk at last Wednesday’s council meeting about finding a strategy for ‘going forward’.
Sadly, after 20 years of reports and patching up the damage, we are again standing still and hoping that the ocean doesn’t catch us up.
Gerard MacGill
Convenor, NFCA/Precinct 12

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