I suppose this is as good a place as any to begin this blog . . .
This story aired Friday night on 20/20: Breast-Feeding Ads Stalled, ‘Watered Down’. I usually go out of my way to avoid news magazine shows, but as a breastfeeding mom and communications consultant, I thought I should watch.
Well, I watched and now I am annoyed.
Not because the formula-industry exerted their influence, but because the message was so weak from the start. Given the involvement of the Ad Council, I shouldn’t be surprised that their message about breastfeeding was so off target. After all, they are the same folks who decided it would be a good idea to equate teens who use drugs with international terrorists.
How could the message have been better? Well first you’d have to consider who is and is not breastfeeding and then address why. While breastfeeding is natural, it does not come easily to all women. Some women try, but experience difficulties and give up. Just check out La Leche League’s FAQs to get a sense of some of the challenges that some moms face.
I consider myself lucky that I made it past the first year and am still nursing my son, Ethan. But, I realize I had it pretty easy: I work from home and am rarely away from him, I live in an area that is very comfortable with mothers nursing in public, my milk supply has always been plentiful and Ethan is a great little sucker.
Despite that, to make it beyond the year of nursing that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, I still required the help the nurses in the hospital, the home visitation nurse I was lucky my health plan provided, a lactation consultant, a supportive family (particularly my sister who breastfed her kids), a network of friends who were breastfeeding along with me, and my monthly trips to La Leche League meetings. Take away any of those support mechanisms and who knows how long I would have been able to nurse.
Yet, rather than addressing the obstacles and promoting access to the types of support mechanisms available to mothers who want to nurse, these dumb ads imply that women who don’t nurse are just selfish. If you really want behavioral change, it seems only logical to attempt to address the barriers to change first.