Reframing breastfeeding

Research shows that the majority of mothers in California wish to breastfeed but far fewer end up doing so. A lack of social, cultural and institutional support -- e.g. hospital policies that promote free formula over breastfeeding and workplace policies that expect women back shortly after giving birth -- can dissuade even the most determined mothers. In spite of this, much media coverage of breastfeeding suggests that breastfeeding rates are a reflection of the individual mother's choice rather than broader, environmental factors outside of her control. BMSG worked with the California WIC Association to help breastfeeding advocates be sure that news coverage of the subject would include the importance of reducing barriers to breastfeeding.

Analyze reports and news on breastfeeding

BMSG monitored the way journalists, public health advocates and others write and talk about breastfeeding. We analyzed the frames appearing in California WIC Association reports on hospital breastfeeding policy and subsequent news coverage to see how Cal WIC's efforts were shaping public dialogue about breastfeeding. BMSG produced two publications on our findings, which can be found below.

Develop a media advocacy strategy

Using the results from our media analysis as a guide, BMSG provided consultation to help the California WIC Association frame its messages for a long-term policy agenda designed to increase the rates and duration of exclusive breastfeeding among low-income mothers in California.

Related publications

Issue 18: Talking about breastfeeding: Why the health argument isn't enough by Lori Dorfman and Heather Gehlert

Public health advocates have for years been trying to increase the number of women who breastfeed by educating mothers about its health benefits. Breast milk improves babies' immune systems and decreases women's risk of everything from osteoporosis to type-2 diabetes. Reporters have picked up advocates' message and broadcast it widely, yet the number of women who breastfeed remains dismally low. In Issue 18, we explore what's missing from the conversation and show how advocates in California are shifting the conversation to include the factors outside of health that make it hard for even the most well-informed women to breastfeed.

Framing brief: Making the case for breastfeeding: The health argument isn't enough

Breastfeeding can improve women's and babies' health, but simply trumpeting that message won't improve breastfeeding rates. That's because many social and cultural barriers make it difficult or undesirable for women to breastfeed. This framing brief shows advocates the key ingredients they need to produce effective breastfeeding messages that promote policies in support of this very basic but vital act.

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