Monday, October 31, 2011

Changing the way we talk about breastfeeding... a controversial subject?

I'm constantly reminded of a speaker that I listened to at a International Breastfeeding conference last June when I read breastfeeding research articles and updates. Diane Wiessinger spoke about watching your language... In her speech she addresses how we approach breastfeeding and that our language may in fact be detrimental to our cause.
Take "Breast is Best" for example, of course the breast is best but by saying it this way we emphasize that it is superior when in fact it is normal. Formula is inferior! We often say things like, "the advantages of breastfeeding are..." and "by breastfeeding your baby will have less risk of..." Diane discusses how, though sometimes hard, we need to change our language to... "the disadvantages of formula feeding are...." and "by formula feeding, your baby will have an increased risk of..." Below is a copy of her article...
Globally we become so used to formula feeding as being the norm. In fact when we see moms breastfeeding in public we are shocked and apalled. It should be the other way around! Bottle feeding should be shunned and breastfeeding should not turn a head. Women should not be relegated to private areas, such as public bathrooms, when nurturing their child. Women should not be questioned about how old their child is and why they are still breastfeeding. Our society needs to embrace and support women who are breastfeeding not ostracize them.
I recently read an an update sent to me by UNICEF about research conducted at Oxford University in The United Kingdom about the reduced rates of diarrhea, lower respiratory tract infections, higher IQ and lower behavioral problems in those babies who are breastfed. This is very good and positive information but may be delivered in the wrong way. By saying it in this way we glorify breastfeeding. If we said it the other way around I'm sure that we will get the attention of many!
Take these ads for example...

"The original ad campaign was sponsored by the department's Office on Women's Health and developed by the Ad Council, a nonprofit group that produces public-service TV commercials. One spot shows a pregnant woman riding a mechanical bull while a voice-over says, "You wouldn't take such risks while you were pregnant -- why take them afterward? Babies were born to be breast-fed." Another ad features a hypodermic needle lying alongside a nipple-topped insulin bottle -- and states that formula-fed infants are 40% more likely to develop Type 1 diabetes. The ads aimed to shock women into an awareness that the risks of not breast-feeding their infants were real.
According to Gina Ciagne, a former public affairs specialist in the women's health office who worked on the campaign: "Very soft campaigns had always been used for breast-feeding. These weren't resonating. We needed something to break through the clutter."
Formula companies got wind of the ads on the Ad Council's website and immediately tried to kill them. Powerful economic interests were at stake. For Abbott Laboratories, Mead Johnson Nutritionals, Wyeth Nutrition and Nestle Nutrition, feeding babies is big business. For instance, in 2006, according to public filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Abbott Nutrition, a division of Abbott Laboratories and the industry leader, sold more than $1 billion worth of these products in the United States alone. "

Here is another one...

Interestingly enough, these ads were pulled. They were deemed too controversial. But that's the point, right? To raise awareness? I'm sure that this would get people's attention and maybe that is just what we need!

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