“Imagine that the world had invented a new ‘dream product’ to feed and immunize everyone born on earth. Imagine also that it was available everywhere, required no storage or delivery and helped mothers to plan their families and reduce their risk of cancer. Then imagine that the world refused to use it. The ‘dream product’ is human breast milk and is available to us all at birth and yet we are not using it.”
- UNICEF 1991
So why aren’t we using this ‘dream product’?
Breastfeeding is often seen and presented as a social taboo, difficult to establish and has multiple barriers in the workplace and community. International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLC) and other breastfeeding advocates have long been the solo choir in a heavily saturated marketing atmosphere in which companies with large financial marketing budgets thrive. With little to no funding support in the community, barriers in the workplace and a lack of supportive breastfeeding practices in facilities, it is not surprising that exclusive breastfeeding rates in Texas plummet in relation to initiation rates, making it difficult for the lactation advocate to feel valued.
It is simply not enough to provide data and research to health care providers on the benefits of breastfeeding. Promotion and support messages must engage the health care provider in a way that will increase buy-in for this ‘dream product’. Lactation advocates must be dynamic with their presentation of breastfeeding information. Skills in communicating with health care professionals must be fine-tuned and motivational using evidence-based data that is well prepared and concise. This is a skill set that many lactation support staff and advocates find challenging; but fortunately resources in social advocacy marketing and communication are available. Social marketing resources like Facebook, blogs, websites and forums are great resource tools for advocacy and offer free alternatives to marketing challenges that require financial support.