Ready to Launch in August 2003
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 39 No. 3, June-July 2003, pp. 51-54.
In 2000, the Surgeon General of the United States announced a national comprehensive breastfeeding policy—The Health and Human Services (HHS) Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding. With this policy, the United States officially embarked upon a course already taken by many other countries—to promote, protect, and encourage breastfeeding.
Two important objectives of the campaign are to increase the awareness that human milk is the best nutrition for babies during the first six months of life, and to assure the public that breastfeeding is normal, desirable, and achievable. Achievement of these objectives is an important priority of the newly announced National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office on Women’s Health (OWH) has been funded to carry out the recommendations of the HHS Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding (2000) into the National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign to promote breastfeeding among first-time parents who would not normally breastfeed their babies. The overall goal of the campaign is to increase the proportion of mothers who breastfeed their babies in the early postpartum period to 75 percent and those at six months postpartum to 50 percent by the year 2010 (Healthy People 2010). The campaign aims to empower women to commit to breastfeeding and to clearly illustrate the consequences of not breastfeeding such as a higher likelihood of diabetes, obesity, some childhood cancers, and other illnesses. Besides trying to raise initiation rates, the campaign will also stress the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months.
As a part of the National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign in the United States, a comprehensive three-year media campaign will be launched in August 2003 in commemoration of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7). The Advertising Council (See editor’s note at end of article.) has selected the National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign for official sponsorship. OWH will work in close coordination with the Advertising Council to implement the campaign.
The media campaign will be based on the goals, objectives, and recommendations of the HHS Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding and will primarily target first-time parents who would not normally breastfeed. Since breastfeeding rates are lowest in the African-American community, the campaign will have a special focus on African-American women, but will also focus on the general market audience.
The campaign will be marketed in partnership with strategically selected organizations, including La Leche League International, and will employ state-of-the-art communication techniques through a variety of channels and strategies such as public service announcements (television and radio), bus stop posters, billboards, and educational pamphlets. Articles will be submitted to community newspapers, parenting magazines, women’s magazines, and Web sites. Thirteen La Leche League pamphlets (See sidebar) are being disseminated through a special breastfeeding helpline funded by OWH where calls are being answered by La Leche League-trained Breastfeeding Information Specialists.
Community-Based Demonstration Projects
Community-based demonstration projects (CDPs) throughout the United States (See sidebar) will work in coordination with the Office on Women’s Health and the Advertising Council to implement the National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign at the local level. The CDPs, which include breastfeeding coalitions, hospitals, universities, and other organizations, have been funded to offer breastfeeding services, provide outreach to their communities, train health care providers on breastfeeding, implement the media aspects of the campaign, and track breastfeeding rates in their communities. La Leche League Leaders are involved in many of the CDP projects.
The National Women’s Health Information Center (NWHIC), a project of the Office on Women’s Health, has launched a new breastfeeding helpline and Web site to help mothers with common breastfeeding problems and challenges. NWHIC and LLLI worked together to provide La Leche League training for Breastfeeding Information Specialists who are available to answer emails and assist callers with questions and concerns about positioning, pumping, storage, and many other topics. They also provide the support that mothers, fathers, prospective parents, families, and health care providers may need to overcome breastfeeding challenges. These counselors answer questions in English and Spanish Monday through Friday from 9 am to 6 pm, Eastern Standard Time (1-800-994-9662, TDD 1-888-220-5446). Information is available 24 hours a day on their Web site, www.4women.gov/
The Breastfeeding Information Specialists use the LLLI BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK and other resource materials when answering calls and refer callers to La Leche League Leaders or other contacts if the caller appears to need additional assistance. When the campaign is launched, the Information Specialists will also be referring callers to the Community-Based Demonstration Projects that have also set up helplines.
Focus Group Research
In preparation for the campaign, extensive research was conducted in Chicago, Illinois; San Francisco, California; and New Orleans, Louisiana in November and December 2002. Thirty-six focus groups, including first-time expectant and new mothers, expectant fathers, and grandmothers, were brought together to discuss infant feeding practices. Half of the groups were African-American and included those who were using or planning to use artificial milk as well as those who were breastfeeding or intending to.
Though there were variations among the groups, including ethnic and cultural differences, varying knowledge about breastfeeding, and age differences, the similarities of views about breastfeeding outweighed the differences. The findings are summarized below.
Strategic Implications of Research Findings
The research shed light on the fact that low breastfeeding rates are not necessarily due to a lack of awareness. Many of the participants appeared somewhat knowledgeable about the positive benefits of breastfeeding. A major contributing factor is that many in the USA see formula as the standard or the norm in feeding a baby or young child. Breastfeeding is seen as having "added benefits" or "adding vitamins to a standard diet." Perhaps this is due to the way breastfeeding is discussed in the mainstream: "If you choose to breastfeed…" or "Benefits of breastfeeding include…." If language were reframed to "If you do not breastfeed, your child is more at risk for childhood cancers, diabetes, ear infections, obesity…," people might begin to see that there are consequences associated with not breastfeeding. Breastfeeding advocates have done a good job of making people aware of breastfeeding; this government campaign is focused on changing behaviors.
There is also
a need to clarify an attainable goal for duration. When asked how long
one should breastfeed, participants’ answers spanned two months
to two years. Going back to work was often used as a reason for weaning
or not breastfeeding at all. Though the United States Surgeon General
and leading medical and pediatric organizations have published recommendations
on the duration of breastfeeding, they have not been consistently or
effectively conveyed to the American public.
In addition, it was evident during the focus groups that mothers who breastfed were more confident and self-assured—characteristics that were not conveyed by formula-feeding mothers. There is a strong need to create a sense of personal empowerment so mothers feel more comfortable and committed to breastfeeding their children.
How Advocates Helped
The National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign included the creation and dissemination of a variety of materials including Public Service Announcements (PSAs) for TV and radio. The Advertising Council plans to distribute the PSAs to TV and radio stations in the top 210 media markets in the US. Those who will be helping to promote having the PSAs played on their local TV and radio stations went through media training conducted by OWH and were supplied with community action kits (packages including campaign materials and PSAs).
LLL Leaders in various locations participated in this media training and received community action kits. They will play a key role in this National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign.
Editor’s note: The Advertising Council is a private, nonprofit US organization that marshals volunteers from advertising and communications industries, media facilities, and business and nonprofit resources to deliver critical messages to the US American public. The Ad Council produces, distributes, and promotes thousands of public service campaigns on behalf of nonprofit organizations and government agencies in areas such as improving the quality of life for children, preventive health, education, community well being, environmental preservation and strengthening families.
For More Information
Office on Women’s
Dr. Suzanne Haynes
Senior Science Advisor
Public Affairs Specialist
Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign–
Leche League International Pamphlets
Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign