Breastfeed or else?

Have any of you seen the new ads yet that are being run on TV by the Department of Health and Human Services to promote breastfeeding? They’re a bit controversial. I was watching one of them with a co-worker this morning at work who had been unable to breastfeed her daughter, and she was quite incensed, stating that there’s already enough guilt associated with not breastfeeding without the government heaping it on, too, thank you very much. The ad showed two heavily pregnant women competing in a dangerous looking water sport where you basically run in place on a pipe in the water, with one of the women falling off towards the end of the commercial. The tag-line ran something like: you wouldn’t take such risks while you’re pregnant, why will you take such risks by not breastfeeding after the baby is born? Or something along those lines. The New York Times ran an article on this yesterday, and The Gothamist picked this up, too. From the times article: “Dr. Haynes, of the Health and Human Services Department, said, ‘Our message is that breast milk is the gold standard, and anything less than that is inferior.’ Formula ‘is not equivalent,’ she went on, adding, ‘Formula is not the gold standard. It’s so far from it, it’s not even close.’ ” Now, these are words I can 100% throw my weight behind, and I think it’s about time the government and medical community has taken a very firm stance on this! The US has always had low breastfeeding rates when compared to other developed countries, and I feel like much of this is cultural: as the Gothamist points out, our society is still a lot more puritanical than we’d like to think, and there are so many barriers in place which make it very difficult to breastfeed, such as short maternity leaves, very little breastfeeding support (often just those first few days in the hospital), the absence of breastfeeding rooms and support in the workplace, and societal messages which make breastfeeding women feel anything but welcome to breastfeed in public (Birth and Breastfeeding news has a good article on such barriers from the Journal of Pediatrics.) Maybe a strong government campaign like this is just what we need to make it very clear, once and for all, that breastfeeding is not just okay, but DESIRED, something which we won’t just tolerate, but ENCOURAGE….but even so, those are pretty strong commercials. I wonder if there’s a way to promote this message with just a little less guilt. Maybe showing women breastfeeding in the workplace, or standing up to their bosses who are asking them to not pump at work, or telling off someone who’s making it difficult for a woman to breastfeed in the park, or something that takes the pressure off of the mother, and looks a bit more at the environment that mothers must contend with when trying to breastfeed.

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