The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breastfed for a year because of the medical benefits it confers. More mothers might choose to breastfeed if they had that information. However, people should make decisions with their doctors about caring for infants, based on a calm consideration of medical advice. They shouldn’t make those choices out of fear.
That’s why I don’t like this ad from the Department of Health and Senior Services. The ad urges readers to prepare for “those emergencies that come up every day or during a natural disaster” and admonishes that breastfeeding is “even more important during emergencies.” The ad also features a little emblem that looks like a sheriff’s badge and reads, “Breastfeeding: A Vital Emergency Response.”
The website explains the link between breastfeeding and emergencies: If people can’t get to a store because of a natural disaster, it’s helpful to be able to breastfeed. Well, I guess that’s true. The print ad doesn’t make the connection, though, and even after reading the website’s commentary, I’m still confused by the reference to “emergencies that come up every day.”
The ad leaves readers with the impression that breastfeeding is necessary to avert disasters that could strike at any time — much like last year’s midwifery op-ed that claimed we need midwives in case of floods or hurricanes.
Besides provoking anxiety with its allusions to unlikely scenarios, the ad tells women to “contact a local public health department,” as though women could only breastfeed with the government’s help.
Although I personally think breastfeeding is an important practice, I don’t want the state to push that choice on everyone — especially not with scare tactics.