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Tuesday
Aug042009

Breastfeeding: Remove the Booby Traps with Best for Babes 

The theme for this year's World Breastfeeding Week is Breastfeeding: A Vital Emergency Response. Yes, breastfeeding is essential in emergencies. Infants have a much better chance of survival in an emergency if they are being breastfed. But that is not a lot of comfort to mothers who want to breastfeed and were not able to.

ZWIN PUB 08-06953 Mom and Baby-BfB_Life Saving-smallThere are many reasons that women are unable to breastfeed. Most of them can be overcome. Myths, lacking support, and poor advice are some of the things that keep women from meeting their breastfeeding goals. The Best for Babes Foundation recognizes, as I explained in my post Can breastfeeding promotion learn something from drunk driving ads? , that scaring women into breastfeeding isn't the right approach.
Best for Babes Co-Founders Bettina Forbes and Danielle Rigg contend that women are being pressured to breastfeed, but prevented from succeeding. “Moms don’t need more pressure, judgment or guilt,” says Forbes, who initially did not want to breastfeed. “It’s the cultural and institutional barriers—or ‘booby traps’—that are keeping moms from making informed decisions, and keeping those moms who want to breastfeed from achieving their personal breastfeeding goals,” says Rigg, who ran a successful lactation counseling practice.

It is with this thought in mind that Forbes and Rigg planned their new advertising campaign pictured in this post. The text of these ads that are going to run in magazines reads:
Every day and in emergencies, breastfeeding saves lives. Planning on nursing? The right crew can make for smoother sailing. Get a support group. Get expert lactation help. Make sure your hospital, pediatrician, employer and insurer are doing their part to help you succeed. We'll show you how at bestforbabes.org.

I fully support their message. Breastfeeding promotion is not about bashing formula feeding moms. It is about creating conditions that will help moms overcome the barriers to successful breastfeeding. I've written about this before and I will continue to write about it. To read some of my past posts on the need for breastfeeding support or the ways that breastfeeding moms are sabotaged read:

Please pass the message along. We need to share this information (Tweets, Stumbles, facebook shares, etc. about any of these posts are always appreciated...use the little share button at the bottom of every post. It's easy!). Breasts can be life-saving devices. Moms and babies deserve to be able to breastfeed and to get the support that they need.
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Reader Comments (24)

This is tangentially related:

Today I took my two-month old to the pediatrician for a checkup. She is exclusively breastfed and quite healthy. Out of the blue, her pediatrician recommended that we start giving her vitamins, since she's not on formula. My husband and I had never heard in our lives that it was necessary to give breastfed babies vitamins, and were kind of appalled. We happened to be in Walgreens later and I looked at the vitamins the pediatrician recommended, out of curiosity. I was unsurprised to see that they're an Enfamil product! Are the formula companies and pediatricians in cahoots (well, obviously they are, but I mean in this specific instance)? Is it necessary for me to give my breastfed baby vitamins?

Not sure if you'll know this or not, but I'd value your opinion.

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterCate

Love it - great ad!
It's true that we often tend to focus on the negatives when trying to convince others to take-up or continue breastfeeding - but if they are having issues, or are scared of the whole unknown process, then it will only serve to discourage them even more. We don't have an intrinsic support culture like women just a century ago had when it comes to breastfeeding - we have to go and find our support. Not always easy... Sometimes starting before baby is born will help. Or at least have the number of a trusted, bfing experienced friend and/or a lactation consultant on hand in case we run into the inevitable bumps in the road is a good idea.

Here in Ottawa we are blessed to have handfuls of free drop-in clinics going on daily in every part of the city. Note: daily as in each part as one once a week kind of thing - but Ottawa isn't crazy huge! I would go to one, and the next, and the next, and make it through the week like that, and they really were a blessing. I got the contact of one of the LC, so I could see her at the clinics, but also in private when we had bigger issues like DD's weight loss. There is also the buddy program where they match you with a currently bfing mom (who's been bfing for more than 6 months) which I wish I would jhave signed up for, but my friend did it and she loved it. I'm not sure what the situation is in other cities, my guess is there is other places like that as well, with similar services. The best would be that all cities have this type of support (or at least the buddy program, as well as LLL meetings), of course. This is perhaps what we should strive for! Personally, I always guide friends in the area with questions and concerns to these services.

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohanne

@Cate: I assume the Vitamins that were recommended were Vitamin D? In most cases, babies do not need them. If doctors are going to be recommending something, they should be recommending that the mother get more Vitamin D while pregnant, rather than recommending that babies take it in extremely high dosages (even higher than what they recommend for a pregnant woman).

Here are some good resources to read on Vitamin D supplements:
http://kellymom.com/nutrition/vitamins/vitamin-d.html
http://blog.babyready.ca/2009/07/whether-or-not-to-offer-vitamin-d.html

August 4, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

I'm so glad that you continue talking about this, and I agree wholeheartedly. We need to support and protect breastfeeding. We need to make sure that moms have the information and help that they need, when they need it. We need to make our voices heard and work to provide that support.

August 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAmber

I adore this ad. It avoids both bashing formula/formula feeders AND the problematical "breast is best" language. I really just want to strew posters with this ad everywhere I go; perhaps plaster my government's offices with it too.

August 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArwyn

Hi, I've just come across your site. It's great to promote breastfeeding but here's what leaves me puzzled: how can poor mothers or eve lower middle class mothers who have to work breastfeed when there's no paid maternity or parental leave in the US? Shouldn't you push for maternity leave instead? Not every employer is supportive (especially not when you're poor, I guess) and I can't imagine pumping and refrigerating milk for any serious length of time, especially if you're poor. It always feels weird to me that in the US breastfeeding seems to be framed like a personal, perhaps even a moral issue: If you don't breastfeed, it's because of your lack of information, your psychological issues, perhaps even your lack of responsibility or willpower (at least, that is my impression from what I read on the internet).

I don't think that's really accurate or helpful. I don't know, I'm not an American, but isn't the widespread culture of formula feeding just a simple result of the fact that the US don't have a state supported paid maternity leave? At least half a year would be great because it would give mothers enough time to learn - I can't imagine handling the demands of care of a new baby, going to work and breastfeeding for the first time. It seems only natural that many mothers give up on breastfeeding under such circumstances. Information campaigns are nice but in the end, I don't think they're really going to change anything substantially.

August 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMajoranka

Eh, now I feel stupid. You're Canadian, right? That should teach me to read a blog carefully before I start commenting.

August 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMajoranka

Just to let you know that I also blogged on breastfeeding in emergencies (you beat me to it though!) today. I work for an international charity and we strongly work on promoting breastfeeding in emergencies, with a first evaluation of the Myanmar/Burma cyclone experience.

August 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commentercartside

@Majoranka: I absolutely agree that better maternity leave is required in the United States. But I don't think it is a matter of pushing for maternity leave "instead" of breastfeeding promotion and support. As you noted in your second comment, I am in Canada, we have one year of maternity leave, and there are still lots of women that are not able to meet their breastfeeding goals.

August 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Just a note that most adoptive parents cannot breastfeed so to be conscious that we are out there and can be invisible. Adoptive parents have typically suffered a lot in their journey towards parenthood without having the stigma of "breast is best."

August 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterHarriet

@Harriet: I understand that. Adoptive parents are fortunate that formula exists. I understand that you probably feel judged. I've been there. I had to bottle feed my son for the first two months of his life and peoples eyes felt like darts. I wanted to scream "but there is breast milk in that bottle" or "he's tongue tied, okay?".

But does that mean we shouldn't try to create conditions that will allow other women to breastfeed? That we shouldn't fight against the barriers that keep them from being able to meet their breastfeeding goals? Maybe we shouldn't talk about the need for car seats or seat belts because not everyone owns a car or can afford a car?

I know that it is hard sometimes, but I think we have a personal responsibility to say, "okay, I understand that message is not directed at me" and move on. Because the message is important for others.

August 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

you said" "I know that it is hard sometimes, but I think we have a personal responsibility to say, “okay, I understand that message is not directed at me” and move on. Because the message is important for others."

Seriously!! I wish more people understood this!

August 5, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay @ Kickypants

@Lindsay @Harriet

I should also have mentioned that my words in reply to Harriet above were partly inspired by @Arwyn (who commented above)'s most recent post: http://www.raisingmyboychick.com/2009/08/how-else-would-you-have-us-say-it/

August 5, 2009 | Unregistered Commenterphdinparenting

Thank you for the info on this website... it is my new helpful link for friends who are new moms or expecting moms. I had a painful, difficult experience breastfeeding and in the midst of it would rather desperately trawl the internet looking for support ~ I wish this site had existed then! Truly, reading the section on booby traps was helpful even now as I reflect on the experience.

August 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterSusan

Thank you for this post, and I give a hearty YES MA'AM to what you've said. I am an American who has breastfed 4 children. I am so glad to have links to your other breastfeeding posts too!

August 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterFrelle

[...] Greetings!This week is the World Breastfeeding Week. Organized by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), the focus this year is In Emergencies, Breastfeeding is a Lifeline. I never thought about breastfeeding this way, but it makes sense. Children and infants are most vulnerable during a catastrophic emergency – whether natural or man-made. According to WABA estimates, child mortality can be 2 to 70 times higher than normal under these conditions due to diarrhea, malnutrition and respiratory illness. They believe that by supporting breastfeeding in non-emergency situations, we can be better prepared to save the lives of young children during emergencies. Here is a great post by my blogger friend Annie on this subject by Annie on PhdInParenting. [...]

Great post! I know that if I had more support I would've been able to breastfeed my first much longer and w/out giving her formula. That experience helped me to better prepare myself with my 2nd and we're still going strong now.

I have something for you over at my blog :)

August 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDarcel

Great post! I believe that breastfeeding is still best for babies.

August 7, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPatrice

@Harriet: I agree that breastfeeding advocates need to be conscious and sensitive to adoptive parents. What Best for Babes would like to see, is that adoptive parents could receive free or purchase screened, pasteurized, donated human milk for their babies for the same cost as purchasing formula. Donated milk is recommended by the World Health Organization, which says that it is superior to formula, and that formula should be the choice of last resort. This brings up complex issues but these are issues that need to be raised! We have already spoken Dr. Jane Aronson, who is an expert on adoption and on orphans (she founded the World-Wide Orphans Foundation), and has helped Angelina Jolie. Would love to have your involvement in making this choice available to more adoptive parents!

August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBettina

@Majoranka
At Best for Babes, we believe that one of the reasons we have such poor maternity leave policies in this country is that not enough mothers are demanding it. How do we get moms to demand it? Through information and advertising campaigns such as the one above! In addition to focusing attention on the lack of employer support (though we state it in a positive, empowering way, to encourage moms to make sure their employers support them), we are also focusing attention on the fact that far too many new moms are being prevented from succeeding at breastfeeding in the first few days, or weeks, long before they go back to work! Getting moms to understand that it is not their fault but that they are being undermined by "booby traps" is the reason we were founded, and this takes an "information campaign" also. Check out our "booby traps" section on our website for more info. Thanks!

August 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBettina

Thank you Susan, and thank you for helping us spread the word!

August 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBettina

So I'm really late commenting on this post, but I do NOT understand the picture that Best For Babes chose to put on their home page. I am a mother of five. I haven't had visible collar bones in well over seven years. Why do I want to look at yet another too-skinny naked model? Adding the infant to the picture makes it even worse. The baby looks to be *maybe* a month old. I don't know many moms who look that good naked a month after giving birth! And quite frankly, don't we get enough of the "celebrity got her body back in 2 weeks" pressure from magazines? Do I need to get it from a site I'm looking to for support, as well?

I also don't understand the overt sexuality of the picture. Why are they trying to make breastfeeding look sexy? I just don't get it. One of the biggest battles that women who NIP fight are against people who think there is something sexual about breastfeeding. Why on earth would they choose to validate that belief? Breastfeeding is intimate and nurturing and powerful, and looking at my healthy breastfed babes is a wonderful boost to the ego in an "I am woman" sort of way. And all of those things *can* be sexy (much in the way a confident woman is sexy), but emphasizing sexuality in a breastfeeding advocacy campaign just seems... ill advised, at best.

I have such a gut-level, adverse reaction to that image that, for me, it undermines the credibility of the site. Are there any moms - particularly new moms - who look at that image and feel that it speaks to them? Did BFB gather any consumer insights before they launched? I get wanting to be hip and a little edgy - I think that's a fantastic idea - but I think that image is just way off the mark.

October 9, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterAnna/5rottens

First of all, bravo that you breastfed your babies! I understand that not everyone relates to this picture, and to be honest, our goal is not to preach to the converted (the tiny minority that breastfed). Our goal is to do for breastfeeding what Demi Moore and the cover of Vanity Fair did for maternity--the Annie Leibovitz photo in 1991 was provocative and shocking to many, and many complained. Yet it set in motion a cultural appreciation of pregnancy and changed the social norms so that women did not have to hide their pregnancies or stay home or away from the beach! Our photo is intended to be visually arresting and to get people to pay attention. We have had a tremendously positive reaction to it and success with it in the media, among corporate sponsors and celebrity backers because it is very different than the images most people associate with breastfeeding. Unfortunately, too many in our culture think breastfeeding is disgusting or think women should hide it. We don't agree, and if we have to frame an image in a context that people relate to in order to get them to think differently, than so be it! I do not think the photo emphasizes sexuality, but do think our model, nursing a 3 month old baby, exudes confidence, power, and the complexity of mother- and woman-hood! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

October 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBettina

[...] we’re working to get started. But when writing material directed at formula companies, at women who are facing the “choice” of feeding method, when we are discussing as lactivists the best way to get our message across, when we, as I try to [...]

December 29, 2010 | Unregistered Commenter“How else would you have

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