'Breast is Best' Campaign Sends Wrong Message, Advocates Say

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Some believe breast may not be best Credit: Getty Images

"Breast is best."

OK, so "Sonnets from the Portugese" it's not. But hey, it rhymes. That's a plus. And, as far as catchy advertising slogans go, it's better than "Think Breasts."

After some 200 million years of mammalian evolution, however, does breast-feeding really need to be marketed like toothpaste?

That's the problem some breast-feeding advocates have with the British Department of Health's efforts to promote mother's milk. The BBC reports government officials want to encourage it because breast-fed babies are less likely to become obese as children or adults.

The crusade is becoming widely known in Britain as the "Breast is Best" campaign.

A spokesman for the Department of Health tells the London Daily Mail the government does not formally use "Breast is Best" as a slogan. It's just a popular phrase that has been attached to government educational efforts. The department's website actually uses the non-rhyming phrase, "Breastfeeding gives babies the best start in life."

Regardless, groups, including the Breastfeeding Network, find the government's approach trite. Lesley Backhouse, the chair of the organization, tells the BBC the message -- no matter how it is officially phrased -- suggests breast-feeding is something special rather than the norm.

"We've got to knock breast-feeding off this pedestal," she tells the national broadcasting system. "Breast-feeding is the only case where the biological norm is expressed as the exception rather than the rule."

Backhouse tells the BBC that government officials should focus their efforts on promoting breastfeeding as normal and create the right conditions for mothers to breast-feed in comfort.

Janet Fyle, a midwifery adviser at the Royal College of Midwives, tells the BBC she agrees the "Breast is Best" concept is outdated.

"It's time to normalize breastfeeding and create the right conditions for mothers to breast-feed in comfort, wherever they go, whether that's in a restaurant or a shop when they're out and about," she tells the broadcasting system.

An unidentified spokesperson for the Department of Health tells the BBC one-liners are not what's important. What's important, he or she adds, is the broader message behind it.

"Breast-feeding is good for babies, good for mothers and incredibly convenient. It's crucial that mothers get the support they need to make breast-feeding a success for them and their baby," the spokesperson says.

Health department officials point out that breast-fed infants not only have a decreased risk of obesity, but also a lower risk of gastroenteritis and respiratory and ear infections.

Government statistics, the BBC reports, show that eight in 10 women in England start off breast-feeding, but only one in five is still breast-feeding when her baby is 6 months old.

Related: Breast-Feeding Could Save Lives and Money, Research Finds

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.