• Wed, Jan 15 - 5:30 pm ET

This Is The First Breastfeeding Campaign I’ve Ever Seen That Doesn’t Involve A Guilt Trip

Last week I wrote a post about breastfeeding, and how I thought more women would stick with it if everyone wasn’t always talking about how “natural” and “easy” it was. The comments on the post really got to me. On the one hand, it made me feel great that I had helped women not feel as alone – and on the other hand really depressed me because I saw how many women had the experience of feeling unsupported and confused.

One of the comments directed me to this breastfeeding campaign from Nova Scotia. It’s called “The First Six Weeks.” Wow. It makes so much sense. After seeing it it hit me that I got absolutely no breastfeeding support or education before the birth of either of my children. The little exposure I did have to any breastfeeding campaign was usually in the form of a poster in the doctor’s office that reminded women how much better it is for baby. Thanks. A little extra pressure and guilt with no tips or help. That’s exactly what a hugely pregnant woman needs. Here’s a poster I saw a lot while pregnant with my children:

pr013-12-image

nyc.gov

Now compare it to a poster from the First Six Weeks campaign, which focuses on mother, instead of baby:

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first6weeks.ca

You know what I read when I look at the first poster? You’re a shitty mother if you don’t breastfeed your baby. You know what I read when I look at the second one? This is hard, but gets easier.

The campaign focuses on mothers, with a tagline “Learning makes it natural.” It describes it’s function as providing “information and support for women and families learning to breastfeed.”The website has many resources for women, including tips to tell if baby is getting enough milk and advice to get over public breastfeeding phobias:

Your baby can be fed as soon as he or she starts to fuss. It will be easier for you if you can overcome any embarrassment you may have about breastfeeding in front of others. One way to become comfortable with feeding your baby in public is to practice breastfeeding in front of a mirror before you do it in front of others. This will allow you to see what others will see. You’ll understand why most people will think your baby is just sleeping while he or she is breastfeeding.

This website is great. I am now forwarding it to every pregnant woman I know. Thank you, Canada.

(photo: Getty Images)

You can reach this post's author, Maria Guido, on twitter.
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  • Bethany Ramos

    That is an awesome comparison between the two. I really didn’t hear much about breastfeeding until I googled it while pregnant. Obviously, Dr. Google is a mixed bag…

  • kay

    I’ve said it before, but it seems like the rhetoric on breastfeeding is either that it’s so easy and everyone can do it or that it’s terrible and your nipples fall off. Explaining that it gets easier, and better isn’t something I hear often. And when my baby was born, and I was spending 6+ hours a day nursing her, visiting (awful, not helpful “you’ll have to use formula”) lactation consultants 3 times a week NO ONE told me that.

    At 6 weeks I started going to a moms group where the facilitator (it was run through the hospital) pointed out how different feeding a 6 month old looked like… and it was the first time I felt like I could make it to 6 months. (Baby is 7 months, we’re still rocking out and it’s awesome now)

    (the facilitator was also awesome about reminding people that feeding doesn’t have to look like what you planned, and if you only made it 2 days, or 2 weeks, or supplement with formula those are all great ways to feed your baby)

  • Kati

    I love this! It’s such a learning curve. I don’t know if we’re afraid of scaring ladies off, but we definitely gloss over the learning aspect with breastfeeding. It’s a skill. It’s really not all that natural or innate. I’m pretty sure we all learned how to eat, write, drive, basically perform any task. Yet we expect ourselves just to know how to breastfeed. I’m a speech pathologist. Before I had a baby, I knew a bunch about nipple placement, how an infant sucks, what constitutes a good swallow, how to hold a baby to nurse, etc. I’d worked with other people’s infants to help solve their feeding issues. I STILL sucked at breastfeeding. Worse yet, I expected myself not to suck at it. But there I was, holding a tiny, floppy baby who didn’t even seem real yet. I remember gingerly placing my nipple in his itty bitty mouth, completely terrified to actual shove it in there. I would grimace, knowing full well that my nipple would look like a tube of lipstick after he pulled off. I was so afraid he would stop nursing if I pulled him off and tried again, I would let him nurse with a crappy latch and left myself with weeks of sore nipples. He didn’t know what he was doing. I didn’t know what I was doing. It took us a while to LEARN. But we did, and we got good at it. With subsequent children, there has still been a learning curve. I know what I’m doing, but my babies still took awhile to figure it out (an aside: I just typed “figure tit out” on accident. I was tempted to leave it in). We don’t want to horrify women with tales of blistered nipples, and (gasp!) nipple shields, but we’re doing them a disservice when we tell them how “natural” it is. It becomes natural. But at first, it feels foreign and weird, and sometimes (most of the time) painful. And that’s okay.

  • The Kez

    It is such a shame that women feel unsupported and confused when attempting to breast feed because there is such a wealth of information about it that can help. There are some fantastic websites including Kellymom and some facebook groups (beautiful breastfeeding, working moms who make breast feeding work) that offer practical advice. Australia, when discharged from hospital new mums are given a big fridge magnet which has 8 handy hints and a 24 hour phone line. You can call for free anytime and speak to an experienced breast feeding mother. I called a couple of times and it really helped the “is my baby eating enough/why is my baby feeding all the time/why is my baby latching on and off all the time” dilemmas.

  • Sara J. Hutchinson Underwood

    Ok, just a curious question – what kind of support are women looking for? I had two children, both times my child birth classes covered breastfeeding. My hospital stays both included classes on breastfeeding and a personal LC who stopped by every day “just to check” on me. I got kits, books, pamphlets, charts, coupons for storage bags and lansinoh samples. It took several days to get going with my first since my milk didn’t come in until day 5, and my second one was easier but there’s still a learning curve for both mom and baby, so I understand that it’s not just something that “feels natural.” Maybe my experience is just atypical and I just had a really awesome hospital, but unless LLL was having a meeting in my bedroom every night, I don’t think I could have gotten any more support.

    • Diya Naidu

      I’m terrified of breastfeeding, and what I’m looking for is support without judgment. That doesn’t seem to happen very often. The lactation consultants and breastfeeding supporters all seem to be completely attached to the outcome of breastfeeding without regard for the mother’s ability to produce enough milk, to produce at all. From what I see pain or cracked nipples are glossed over. I don’t have kids yet, but I will soon, and this is such a scary thing for me to tackle. And what I learned in my childbirthing classes just isn’t enough.

    • http://ichasekids.com/ Litterboxjen

      I said many times that before I got pregnant and while I was pregnant, I was all about whatever worked. If breastfeeding worked, awesome, if I didn’t, then formula would be fine and that was that. After my kid was born, my hormones and natural tendency to worry/obsess meant that I was all about figuring out breastfeeding, and I was determined to make it work.

      A few things that will hopefully help:
      - It can be weird at first. It’s not always the most “natural” thing, even if they tell you it is. Holding a baby to your chest, trying to line up their mouths with your nipples and make sure you’re supporting their neck/bodies/etc., etc. can be a lot to juggle. I was lucky, my kid was always pretty lightweight, but for someone who has a 9, 10, 11 lb. baby? That’s a lot of weight on your arm.
      - So, get a good breastfeeding pillow beforehand. I love the “My Brest Friend” pillow — nice and firm, clips around you, little pocket if you want it. The ‘ring’ type pillows are squishy and don’t give much support IMO, but you may feel completely differently. Check places like Winners, Marshall’s, etc. — you can usually find both styles there for cheaper than Toys R Us.
      - If you’re not finding a good personality match with a nurse/LC, find another. I was lucky in that the nurses and pediatrician in my hospital were all about making sure the baby gained weight, and if that meant supplementing when required, then so be it. Same with the nurse-LCs at the breastfeeding clinics I went to; keep doing what you’re doing, and supplement as required.
      - I let myself accept that not every latch was going to be perfect. My kid had a nursing blister off and on as a result, but she still got milk and filled her belly and the blisters are harmless. The latches weren’t painful, so if it was only 95% instead of 100% right, I was okay with that.
      - It gets better with practice, but it can be really mentally and physically stressful to make yourself do the practice. Cluster feeding is the worst thing I remember about those early days, but it’s temporary (though doesn’t feel like it when you’re nursing for hours on end). Don’t be afraid to do something other than try to feed the baby, like give him/her a bath; I found my kid would get so fixated on being on the boob and frantic when I took her off, but she would calm down after a minute because she wasn’t necessarily “hungry” — and that 20-minute break gave my boobs a chance to ‘refill’ (at least in my mind that’s how it worked, I know physically it’s not the case).
      - Don’t be afraid to pump so that you can try to store some milk to give yourself a break or even supplement if needed. I found pumping in the morning to be the easiest time, but I’ve no doubt everyone has their own best time. In the evenings your supply does tend to be lower, and comes in slower, so of course that’s when cluster feeding is at its worst; times like those, having formula or milk on hand to supplement can be helpful.
      - The first few weeks are the worst; as the doula/nurse who ran my pre-natal class said, by six weeks these guys are experts, and it’s true. I always found it hilarious when I’d lie my kid on the nursing pillow and her little mouth would open and just be ready for boob insertion (I also loved the look of concentration when she was eating, but that’s another matter).
      - I did end up with a brief period with a blocked duct and a blister on my nipple as a result after my kid was in the 8ish month range, iirc. Those latches were definitely uncomfortable, but not so bad that I wanted to stop. I didn’t have many problems with cracked nipples, but even when they’re just tender, nipple cream is helpful. You can pick up lanolin pretty much anywhere, and I used the cream from Earth Mama Baby Angel — more because I liked the smell than anything. You can put the creams on anytime, as they’re safe for baby’s ingestion, and they can help a lot.
      - If you can, take some prenatal or breastfeeding classes before baby comes around so that you can learn more about the symptoms of things like blocked ducts, mastitis, etc. And try to make sure your partner is educated on the signs so he/she can remind you of what to look for (or can look for the signs him/herself) if you’re experiencing them. There’s a lot to remember/think about, and sometimes you forget details (sorry, just saw you did take a childbirthing class – see if you can take a breastfeeding one, or maybe even ask an LC questions beforehand? I’m not sure if they do that or not).
      - You may find you have a good boob and a bad or not-as-good boob. When possible, I would mix things up, but when my kid got older it just got easier for me to stick to the good side. I did that more after she was on solids IIRC, so it wasn’t like I was having her constantly on one side only. Even if you only ever do one side, your body figures it out — and if it doesn’t, then that’s what formula is good for. Yes, it meant I was somewhat lopsided while nursing, but the ladies are back to normal now. ;)
      - Buy some bottles to have on hand regardless of whether you’re nursing full-time or not. You’ll need them if someone else is going to feed baby, or if you are giving non-boob-directly milk.

      Hopefully some of this book is helpful, and I wish you the best of luck. It can be lovely, it can be scary, it can be stressful, and it can be frustrating. It’s also not for everyone, and that’s okay — we’re all different, our babies needs are different, and that’s what formula’s good for.

      (Also, if you’re only keeping formula on hand for supplementing, I recommend the premade liquid kind. So much faster to get to a hungry grumpy baby. If you’re going to give formula regularly, then powder is the most economical option.)

    • kay

      I gave birth at a hospital that was rad at supporting breastfeeding (they’re a “baby friendly” hospital which among other things supports breastfeeding)… their childbirth class barely covered it-explained you’d get the baby to put the breast just after birth, and that your milk starts out as colostrum. That was about it. (there was a separate breastfeeding class, so if you wanted it you had to take it an addition to childbirth-and infant care-which again, no breastfeeding-was another class)
      I asked for help with breastfeeding after the baby was born (she only wanted to nurse on one side at first), she was almost 24 hours old before the LC came in. At which point I also found out that there were hidden breastfeeding pillows to use that no one told me about.

      No kids, coupons for anything, I think maybe one pamphlet?

      And like I said, this was a very pro-breastfeeding hospital (baby right to chest, breastfeeding immediately, babies room in, etc). It all worked out for me, but it was a lot of figuring it all out on my own.

    • Kelly

      I think you’re very fortunate. All I got was treated like shit by a lactation consultant and told not to dare use that poison formula while my infant rapidly lost weight.

      Thank God I ignored her and fed him as my doctor instructed or he would have starved to death.

    • Life-Sized Mommy

      Did we have the same LC?
      “Your baby won’t latch because they gave him a bottle and now he’s too lazy.”
      No, bitch, my baby won’t latch because he’s a month premature and sick with severe jaundice. And they gave him a bottle because I was unconscious with eclampsia and kidney failure the first two days of his life.

    • Jen

      I also had a similar experience at the hospital. In addition to the pamphlets and other paraphernelia and a great LC, all the nurses were super helpful and supportive. Once I got home though, I didn’t (obviously) have a full staff of nurses to answer questions. My husband has been very supportive, which really helped get me through the first couple of weeks when I thought, at times, that I wouldn’t be able to keep BF. I’ve been able to find the answers I needed online though (you are right, Kellymom is great). I think maybe that women aren’t looking only for information and answers (though there is certainly that aspect of it), but also just encouragement that it does get better and what they are dealing with is totally normal, even if it wasn’t discussed in class/by the LC/etc.

    • S

      At the very least I would have liked the nurses to be positive about it. They wrote my son off pretty early as an “angry baby”. They’d manhandle my boobs and shove him at me. When he got upset they’d give up, say he was angry and leave. It was ridiculous. I was most sore after they tried to “help”. One of them said he was “starving” after she made him cry, then said I should give him formula.
      The lactation consultant was the only one (other than my midwives) that I felt actually supported me. She came in, watched me try and told me I was doing it right and just keep at it.

    • RM

      I gave birth at a small community hospital in a rural area. I took a breast feeding class that was offered by the hospital as well as a newborn class. The breast feeding class was, eh ok. Looking back it was a general education class how to do it but since every baby and mom is different none of it really worked for us bc we didn’t fit the “normal”. I don’t remember her telling anyone formula was poison, she was zealous but not nutty. After giving birth my only support in the hospital was cranky old time nurses who made me really uncomfortable and pushed for me just to formula feed bc that way it was easier for them to account for how much food my daughter was getting. (They also told me I wasn’t woman enough bc I was having a really hard time with breathing through the contractions and anytime the doctor or nurse checked to see if I was dilated I screamed bc it f-ing hurt. I wasn’t a toughie when it came to labor so I wasn’t a woman apparently) My daughter had low blood sugar for 3 days after so that was a complication and I understand why she HAD to eat. But that was it. When she wouldn’t latch on they just gave me a bottle. They tried to kind of sort of help with the latch but then would leave bc we were boring. Then one nurse gave me a nipple cover bc she thought that would help my daughter and I. I had no actual LC bc there is not one at the hospital. I had no help after we got home bc I didn’t know who to call. I don’t live in a major metropolitan area so the chances of a LC showing up I felt were pretty slim. I mentioned it to my OB and the pediatrician and both just kept saying keep trying it’s hard. So no, not every hospital has a fully stocked LC department.
      Next baby will be at a larger hospital, a good hour away, but I’m hoping for a better experience.

      My daughter is 4 now and super smart, always been healthy and attached at my hip, so the crap where BF people try to push only BF accomplishes that is terribly misleading.

  • Clara

    I like this. All of the prenatal breastfeeding information I received was of the `rainbows and unicorns` variety. You know the posters: sweetly smiling mom wearing starched white blouse feeds tranquil baby while seated in an antique rocking chair in a clean, clutter-free sunny drawing room, doting husband hovering nearby….
    Boy, was I in for a surprise when reality struck with rock-hard engorgement, scabbing nipples, undersupply, epic spit-ups and the sleep-deprivation Olympics. It left me believing that our situation was highly abnormal and that definitely contributed to my decision to throw in the towel.
    Honesty is the best policy and I`m glad to hear the breastfeeding lobby is catching on.

  • Kay_Sue

    I really love this campaign. I wish that this kind of information had been available when I breastfed my first (and my second, really). It was all about the baby, and when I was pulling my hair out and felt like a total failure, it was all the more shattering because I felt like I was failing so completely as a mother because I wasn’t able to put my baby first. If I’d had a more honest look at the fact that, yes, it takes time, and it isn’t always wonderful and special and magical, I think I would have nursed him longer. For a young and dumb kid trying to do what was best for her baby, though, all the information that I got did was reinforce the idea that I wasn’t doing it right and underline the thought that I wasn’t good enough to be a mother.

    I am really glad I just gave up for my second. Not gave up on breastfeeding, but gave up on being perfect at it. I remember one night, he was probably five or six days old, and I looked at him at just after midnight and said, “Okay, buddy, we’re going to get this together.” And we did. It was freeing, and I wish someone had told me there was a learning curve when I had my first.

  • steampunk

    Sadly the site itself still gives a lot of bad and negative information about “breastfeeding will help your baby bond with you” (like bottle feeding *won’t* allow bonding) and the medical issues that have *never* been actually proven that breastfeeding reduces, like leukemia or high cholesterol or the crap that one will take less sick days from work or need to go to the doctor less. So they are still using the guilt-trip mantra.

    I know breastfeeding does have benefits, but a lot of these have *not* been actually proven and have come from bad studies that do not understand correlation does not equal causation or use surveys from mothers trying to remember how they fed their kids 3-7 years ago to gather their information. *sigh*

  • Carinn Jade

    I think I say we should move to Canada on a daily basis since I started writing for Mommyish. This campaign is really awesome. I’m a huge proponent of breastfeeding (and Bloomberg) but those ads got to me every time I saw them on the subway. This first 6 week one is brilliant.

  • quinn

    Here was my experience with breastfeeding: With my first I was very young and tried to do it at least 50% of the time while working, and it was very frustrating and more than I could handle, and I quit after 4 months. She’s 5 now and smart and AWESOME. With my 2nd I went in with very low expectations. It hurt for a little while, and then it got better. There were times where I broke down crying, times where I supplemented formula, and times where it all came together and I thoroughly enjoyed it. He’s 3 months now and most days I love it, but sometimes we can’t get comfortable and we both end up crying. What I have learned is that just because something is natural doesn’t mean it happens flawlessly every time. Most moms are just doing their best to feed their babies, we should all support each other in that, no matter which route we take.

  • Steph

    I don’t have children but I was 16 when my younger sister was born. My mother is a very pleasant christian lady but I remember her telling a nurse to “just piss off” because she kept hovering around and threatening to feed my sister formula. The nurse’s departure seemed to do the trick, and baby sis was the first of us to be breast fed. Moral of the story: just piss off and let mum do what she needs to, either way.

  • Natasha B

    I really like this. I believe one of the reasons I was successful was because my mom, midwife, and LLL leader were super helpful and supportive, without ever making me feel guilty. And told me ‘it gets better!’
    Hope this campaign catches on!

  • Pingback: My interpretation of Infant Feeding Support Survey 2013 | evidencebasedtitsandteeth

  • http://www.twitter.com/ohladyjayne allisonjayne

    There’s a campaign going on in my city (I believe it’s advertising a breastfeeding support program run by our public health office) and the tagline is something like “Most mothers start. We’ll help you continue”. It seems like a nice message that I hope is working well for them.

    I had a similar experience to Sara J Hutchison Underwood – I got lots of non-judgemental and useful support, though perhaps that’s unique to my city/region. The nurse asked me if I was planning on breastfeeding and said there was a lactation consultant who did a daily class, so I attended the morning after I gave birth, and the LC was pretty great (lots of visuals to show you that your newborn’s stomach is teeny-tiny and hands-on support). Of course I have to give my biggest thanks to my midwife who showed me how to nurse lying down and to my friend who showed me how to nurse while baby-wearing, as both of these tools were absolutely essential for my continuing to nurse.

    What I find interesting is that I rarely see ads that capitalize on what to me is the biggest selling point for breastfeeding – it’s FREE. Especially here in Canada, where most women have access to and take a full year of maternity leave, you may not even need a pump in that case. I had a cheap hand-pump that worked well enough for the times I did need it.

    • Sara J. Hutchinson Underwood

      I guess my question isn’t because my experience was perfect – honestly, my milk supply ran out around 4 months with my oldest and 6 months with my younger son – but because every time I read one of these articles every just says “Moms need support!” without actually thinking about what women really need when they talk about support. It sounds like a lot of women have access to resources, but they either have bad personal interactions (like a LC who tells them that formula is poison or a nurse who just pushes formula because it’s easier) or want personal visits/advice in the few weeks after the baby is born. It would be nice if people pushing the breastfeeding agenda would take this into account and give women the support they want, rather than just doing things that women aren’t looking for (free breast pumps and locking up formula unless medically necessary come to mind). Maybe instead we should be advocating for a 24 hour phone line with someone to talk to, or weekly visits from a LC for a month.

  • Grr! Arrgh!

    My baby is currently 3 mos and we’ve become a champion breastfeeding team. I would say we had a lot of support, mostly because we were lucky enough to be well educated, live in a large urban area, had jobs that allowed me 12 weeks of mat leave, and frankly, could afford the good insurance for the fancy teaching hospital and the lactation consultants. But we had to seek it out and without the jobs and financial resources, I doubt we would have had many of those things. Even with all those advantages, and a completely healthy mom and baby, learning to breastfeed was hard!

    The first week was tough and painful and I went through lanolin like it was essential to life. The second week, sometimes it didn’t hurt when she latched and sometimes I cried through a feeding because of the pain. The third week, we had more good latches than bad. And now it’s easy and convenient and works beautifully for al involved. I was so lucky to have a lactation consultant tell me, breastfeeding is like working on a project with someone you’ve never met – almost everyone figures it out, but it’s also going to take time and work to learn to work together. Like that campaign, she acknowledged that it is great for a lot of people, but that it can also take some time and struggle to get right, and that struggle doesn’t mean you’re failing. It’s a message I think is often lost in the breastfeeding conversation, but was crucial to getting me to this point. Because if all I had to go on that second week was ” breast is best” or the dirty, dirty lie ” breastfeeding doesn’t hurt if you’re doing it right” and the incredibly judgmental Womanly Art of Breastfeeding I would have quit, probably around day 3.

  • Janok Place

    Awesome to see!

  • Katherine Handcock

    Yay! I was the one who shared this link, and I’m so excited to see it featured!

    I worked with a mom-to-mom breastfeeding support line — basically, you could be paired with someone who wanted to nurse, and help guide them as they got used to the process, up until they started introducing solid foods (or longer if folks wanted). The thing I noticed with all of the information people were being provided by public health offices etc. is that it was very all-or-nothing, and a lot of it was really directed at the first few days and being misapplied. So, instead of saying to women, “It’s tempting to supplement with formula at night to get some extra sleep, but since night-time suckling helps generate the hormones that increase your milk supply, you need to be careful that supplementing doesn’t affect your supply,” it would say, “Supplementing with formula decreases your milk supply.”

    I keep saying to myself that someday, I will write “The Real World Breastfeeding Book” that will talk about all of these things in a non-judgmental, accessible way. I read and/or bought about half a dozen books about nursing when I was working for the support line, and I can honestly say I would never give ANY of them to a soon-to-be or new mom.

    • meghancnyc

      Put that book proposal together STAT!

    • Katherine Handcock

      You know what? I actually kind of have in my head — I’ve been thinking how I’d structure it, what I would say, what tone the book would have…Maybe I should get off my butt and do it ;-)

  • val97

    So much has changed in recent years. When I had my first child 14 years
    ago, the internet was nothing like it is now. I got most of my
    information about breastfeeding from my mother and a few friends. At the
    hospital, they wrote either breast or bottle on the nursery tag. I’d
    say it was about 50/50. When hanging out with my bottle-feeding mom friends, I would joke that I was too poor to bottle-feed (which was kind of true at the time).Then when I had my second kid 8 years ago, there
    was a little more pressure to breastfeed, but I still felt like I was
    kind of alone. Some of my friends breastfed, but some didn’t. A lot of friends didn’t even attempt it. I was lucky and had an easy time of it. I think the fact that I’m the
    oldest of 4 kids and my mother breastfed all of us past the first year
    helped. I grew up seeing it as normal.

    But NOW things seem way different. My little sister just had a baby, and she tells me she basically had no choice. The hospital didn’t give her a formula option, and she
    said a nurse kept coming in and forcing her breast into her baby’s
    mouth. She quit after just a couple weeks.

    I think it’s great that so many people breastfeed now, but it still feels like “support” comes in the form of pressure or shaming.

  • meghancnyc

    Another reason some woman may “fail” at breastfeeding is that the clock is ticking before you’re forced to go back to work in the U.S.. Of the (many times) short amount of time you will have with your baby do you want to be miserable, crying from pain, getting up in the middle of the night to pump in order to build up a stash, and frantic because you’re not sure if your baby is eating enough? Or would you rather feed your baby formula without the pain, uncertainty, and get a bit more sleep because you’re not a slave to a breast pump? I know “breast is best”, but I certainly understand why women here don’t continue.