Will you be ready when the
This question isn’t about politics or war. It’s about the breastfeeding awareness project
that begins this summer.
In August 2003, the Ad Council, prompted by the Office of Women’s Health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will launch a 3-year nationwide
breastfeeding awareness campaign.
The Ad Council is a non-profit organization with a 60-year record of coordinating
donations from advertising agencies and media resources to bring public service
messages to the American 1 public.Over the years, many of the Ad Council’s characters and slogans have become part of American popular culture. At long last, the kind of creative resources that brought
us Smokey the Bear, Rosie the Riveter, the Crash Test Dummies, “A mind is a terrible
thing to waste,” and “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk,” will be enlisted to promote
It’s a challenge. Although the national breastfeeding initiation rate has been steadily inching upward at around 2% per year, reaching almost 70% in 2001, ours is still
far from being a breastfeeding culture. “Everybody knows” that breastfeeding is best for
babies’ health. We are even coming close to meeting our modest national goal of 75%
breastfeeding initiation. But breastfeeding is still viewed by the man and woman on the
street as just an option, something “extra” a mother might do for her baby, like taking a
vitamin pill in addition to eating a “normal” diet. Few American mothers and babies
achieve the global standard—exclusive breastfeeding for six months, and continued 2breastfeeding with adequate complementary foods until the second birthday or beyond.
In fact, there has been virtually no progress in exclusive breastfeeding in the U.S. over 3 the past two decades.
International experts have singled out three ways that individuals and institutions
can act to help families toward the goal: protection, promotion, and support for
(In the following lists, *asterisks* mark the responsibilities of healthcare providers.)
Promotion assures that everyone in the community—from pre-schoolers to
grandparents—knows that breastfeeding is the expected and achievable way to feed and
care for babies.
??Breastfeeding is shown as a normal part of life in books, art and the media.
??Young children grow up seeing breastfeeding at home or in friends’ and relatives’
??Children learn about lactation and breastfeeding as part of their science and health
curriculum in grades K-12.
??Universities cover breastfeeding topics in all relevant curricula.
??*Breastfeeding is taught as an integral part of childbirth classes.*
??*Women have a chance to learn about breastfeeding at every prenatal visit.*
Support is the care and encouragement that parents get from everyone—health
The Woman-and-Baby-Friendly University Initiative in Nicaragua made sure that breastfeeding care providers, extended family, friends, neighbors, co-workers—as they welcome a new information was included in the graduate programs in education, business, journalism, and law as well as baby, begin breastfeeding, and overcome any challenges along the way. science and medicine. ??*Babies and mothers get skilled help and follow-up from their caregivers as they start
??Families make breastfeeding a priority until mother and baby are experts.
??Girls and women receive adequate food so they reach childbearing age with excellent
Support (continued) ? Faith communities organize retirees and teens to offer practical assistance to families
with new babies.
??New fathers get something besides teasing from their buddies; they hear encouraging
words and good advice from experienced fathers about a man’s role supporting
breastfeeding for his child.
In Gambian villages, the young men have been organized to carry water for households where there is a
new baby. Carrying water is normally a woman’s job, so this community support allows new mothers to get
the rest they need while breastfeeding is getting established.
In Australia there are special parking places for nursing mothers, similar to our
“handicapped parking” spots.
Protection helps the mother sustain breastfeeding as long as she and her child
??*Health workers have the knowledge and skills to support breastfeeding through any
and all health problems: developmental challenges, prematurity, hospitalization of
mother or child, medications, chronic or acute illness, trauma.*
??Families and communities make sure women have enough care and help in the early
weeks of breastfeeding.
??After childbirth, mothers get sufficient job-protected, paid leave from their jobs.
??Lactating women in the workplace have sufficient break time and a place for
breastfeeding or expressing milk.
??Child care providers encourage breastfeeding and feed expressed milk to babies in
their mothers’ absence.
??Limits are placed on marketing infant feeding products directly to consumers or
through the health care system.
??There are no restrictions on breastfeeding in public places. Shopping malls provide
clean and comfortable rooms for baby care where parents can relax with babies who
need a quiet setting.
??Family law takes the breastfeeding relationship into account in child custody cases.
In India, it is illegal to advertise formula or baby bottles directly to consumers.
In New Jersey, a state law protects babies’ and mothers’ right to breastfeed in public
When the Ad Council campaign starts encouraging more women to breastfeed their
babies exclusively for the first six months, the health care system needs to be ready
to give them first-rate support.
Will you be ready?
1. For more about the Ad Council, <http://www.adcouncil.org/about/>
2. World Health Organization Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, 2002,
3. Alan S. Ryan, PhD, Zhou Wenjun, MS and Andrew Acosta, MBA. Pediatrics