Tuesday, January 06, 2009

"Selling breastfeeding in the US is a minefield"

I wanted to thank the person who made this comment. Yes it is a minefield. But the questions I think we need to ask are: how does something so positive become an object of explosive response? and how do we create the proper message for the proper audience?

The minefields we encouter are composed of normal human emotions, among them are fear of change, and need for acceptance/lack of self-efficacy.

Fear of Change: We currently live in a bottle feeding culture: breastfeeding is change. We currently still live in a somewhat Victorian culture with body exposure having only one general interpretation - sex. We currently burden new mothers with an unbelievable set of expectations to return to work, etc: breastfeeding is an economic change as well.

Need for Acceptance/Lack of Self-Efficacy: Storms occur when widely different weather fronts come into contact. This is the situation in the US with infant feeding. On one hand, we have the glorious, shiny labels and commercials of the formula industry saying all is well and this is what your friends do. On the other hand, we have breastfeeding advocates who have clear visions of what they and their friends are doing. When these come in contact, we get stormy weather. Everyone seeks acceptance and when there are two "camps" folks tend to join one or the other. If each woman were fully enabled to learn about infant feeding, what it means in daily life, what it means in terms of thier child's health, what it means in terms of their risks of diabetes, breast cancer, etc.

Carolina Breastfeeding Institute, among many others, seeks to enable and empower each individual to come out of the storm and decide for herself based on unbiased information concerning her and her family's health, lifestyle, goals, and rights. My thought is that we need to use all possible information if we wish to be heard by all audiences.


Karleen said...

I've been enjoying reading your blog. I think that part of what we need to do to more accurately convey the situation with regards the impact of infant feeding decisions on children, mothers and society is to change how we talk about it. For many years child health advocates have talked about breastfeeding as best and about all the benefits of breastfeeding. We now have a situation where many mothers and others see breastfeeding as non-essential, as unobtainable (who seeks to obtain the ideal?) and where the risks and costs associated with formula feeding are completely unrecognised. I think that even the term "optimal infant feeding" is problematic because if exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life is "optimal" what then is "good" infant feeding? I prefer now to talk about "good" and "poor" infant feeding practices for not only does achieving anything optimal sound unobtainable, pie in the sky idealism it leaves anything that's less to be normal.
Anyway, I'll have to read some more of the blog!

Mónica Pina said...

I sometimes wonder if those explosive reactions are conected with a sense of lack and of guilt. Most people were not breastfed. It is hard to see a baby being breastfed and feel one didn't have that bonding. It is also hard for people who didn't breastfeed their babies to accept they did something that could be harmful. All parents want to do well. And society doesn't help, as we so well know...