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National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign
Ready to Launch in August 2003

From: LEAVEN, Vol. 39 No. 3, June-July 2003, pp. 51-54.

In 2000, the Surgeon General of the United States announced a national comprehensive breastfeeding policy—The Health and Human Services (HHS) Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding. With this policy, the United States officially embarked upon a course already taken by many other countries—to promote, protect, and encourage breastfeeding.

Two important objectives of the campaign are to increase the awareness that human milk is the best nutrition for babies during the first six months of life, and to assure the public that breastfeeding is normal, desirable, and achievable. Achievement of these objectives is an important priority of the newly announced National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign.

National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office on Women’s Health (OWH) has been funded to carry out the recommendations of the HHS Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding (2000) into the National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign to promote breastfeeding among first-time parents who would not normally breastfeed their babies. The overall goal of the campaign is to increase the proportion of mothers who breastfeed their babies in the early postpartum period to 75 percent and those at six months postpartum to 50 percent by the year 2010 (Healthy People 2010). The campaign aims to empower women to commit to breastfeeding and to clearly illustrate the consequences of not breastfeeding such as a higher likelihood of diabetes, obesity, some childhood cancers, and other illnesses. Besides trying to raise initiation rates, the campaign will also stress the importance of exclusive breastfeeding for at least six months.

Campaign Components

Media Outreach Campaign

As a part of the National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign in the United States, a comprehensive three-year media campaign will be launched in August 2003 in commemoration of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7). The Advertising Council (See editor’s note at end of article.) has selected the National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign for official sponsorship. OWH will work in close coordination with the Advertising Council to implement the campaign.

The media campaign will be based on the goals, objectives, and recommendations of the HHS Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding and will primarily target first-time parents who would not normally breastfeed. Since breastfeeding rates are lowest in the African-American community, the campaign will have a special focus on African-American women, but will also focus on the general market audience.

The campaign will be marketed in partnership with strategically selected organizations, including La Leche League International, and will employ state-of-the-art communication techniques through a variety of channels and strategies such as public service announcements (television and radio), bus stop posters, billboards, and educational pamphlets. Articles will be submitted to community newspapers, parenting magazines, women’s magazines, and Web sites. Thirteen La Leche League pamphlets (See sidebar) are being disseminated through a special breastfeeding helpline funded by OWH where calls are being answered by La Leche League-trained Breastfeeding Information Specialists.

Community-Based Demonstration Projects

Community-based demonstration projects (CDPs) throughout the United States (See sidebar) will work in coordination with the Office on Women’s Health and the Advertising Council to implement the National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign at the local level. The CDPs, which include breastfeeding coalitions, hospitals, universities, and other organizations, have been funded to offer breastfeeding services, provide outreach to their communities, train health care providers on breastfeeding, implement the media aspects of the campaign, and track breastfeeding rates in their communities. La Leche League Leaders are involved in many of the CDP projects.

Breastfeeding Helpline

The National Women’s Health Information Center (NWHIC), a project of the Office on Women’s Health, has launched a new breastfeeding helpline and Web site to help mothers with common breastfeeding problems and challenges. NWHIC and LLLI worked together to provide La Leche League training for Breastfeeding Information Specialists who are available to answer emails and assist callers with questions and concerns about positioning, pumping, storage, and many other topics. They also provide the support that mothers, fathers, prospective parents, families, and health care providers may need to overcome breastfeeding challenges. These counselors answer questions in English and Spanish Monday through Friday from 9 am to 6 pm, Eastern Standard Time (1-800-994-9662, TDD 1-888-220-5446). Information is available 24 hours a day on their Web site,

The Breastfeeding Information Specialists use the LLLI BREASTFEEDING ANSWER BOOK and other resource materials when answering calls and refer callers to La Leche League Leaders or other contacts if the caller appears to need additional assistance. When the campaign is launched, the Information Specialists will also be referring callers to the Community-Based Demonstration Projects that have also set up helplines.

Focus Group Research

In preparation for the campaign, extensive research was conducted in Chicago, Illinois; San Francisco, California; and New Orleans, Louisiana in November and December 2002. Thirty-six focus groups, including first-time expectant and new mothers, expectant fathers, and grandmothers, were brought together to discuss infant feeding practices. Half of the groups were African-American and included those who were using or planning to use artificial milk as well as those who were breastfeeding or intending to.

Though there were variations among the groups, including ethnic and cultural differences, varying knowledge about breastfeeding, and age differences, the similarities of views about breastfeeding outweighed the differences. The findings are summarized below.

Strategic Implications of Research Findings

The research shed light on the fact that low breastfeeding rates are not necessarily due to a lack of awareness. Many of the participants appeared somewhat knowledgeable about the positive benefits of breastfeeding. A major contributing factor is that many in the USA see formula as the standard or the norm in feeding a baby or young child. Breastfeeding is seen as having "added benefits" or "adding vitamins to a standard diet." Perhaps this is due to the way breastfeeding is discussed in the mainstream: "If you choose to breastfeed…" or "Benefits of breastfeeding include…." If language were reframed to "If you do not breastfeed, your child is more at risk for childhood cancers, diabetes, ear infections, obesity…," people might begin to see that there are consequences associated with not breastfeeding. Breastfeeding advocates have done a good job of making people aware of breastfeeding; this government campaign is focused on changing behaviors.

There is also a need to clarify an attainable goal for duration. When asked how long one should breastfeed, participants’ answers spanned two months to two years. Going back to work was often used as a reason for weaning or not breastfeeding at all. Though the United States Surgeon General and leading medical and pediatric organizations have published recommendations on the duration of breastfeeding, they have not been consistently or effectively conveyed to the American public.
In addition, it was evident during the focus groups that mothers who breastfed were more confident and self-assured—characteristics that were not conveyed by formula-feeding mothers. There is a strong need to create a sense of personal empowerment so mothers feel more comfortable and committed to breastfeeding their children.

How Advocates Helped

The National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign included the creation and dissemination of a variety of materials including Public Service Announcements (PSAs) for TV and radio. The Advertising Council plans to distribute the PSAs to TV and radio stations in the top 210 media markets in the US. Those who will be helping to promote having the PSAs played on their local TV and radio stations went through media training conducted by OWH and were supplied with community action kits (packages including campaign materials and PSAs).

LLL Leaders in various locations participated in this media training and received community action kits. They will play a key role in this National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign.

Editor’s note: The Advertising Council is a private, nonprofit US organization that marshals volunteers from advertising and communications industries, media facilities, and business and nonprofit resources to deliver critical messages to the US American public. The Ad Council produces, distributes, and promotes thousands of public service campaigns on behalf of nonprofit organizations and government agencies in areas such as improving the quality of life for children, preventive health, education, community well being, environmental preservation and strengthening families.

For More Information

Office on Women’s Health
Dr. Suzanne Haynes
Senior Science Advisor

Gina Ciagne
Public Affairs Specialist

National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign–
US Community-Based Demonstration Project Cities:

Atlanta, Georgia
Birmingham, Alabama
Boston, Massachusetts
Camden, New Jersey
Chicago, Illinois
Kansas City, Missouri
Knoxville, Tennessee
Los Angeles, California
New Orleans, Louisiana
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Portland, Oregon
Providence, Rhode Island
Pueblo, Colorado
Rosebud, South Dakota
San Francisco, California
San Juan, Puerto Rico
St. Paul, Minnesota
Washington, DC

La Leche League International Pamphlets
Disseminated via Breastfeeding Helpline

  • Approaches to Weaning
  • Breastfeeding after a Cesarean Birth
  • Breastfeeding and Working: The Balancing Act
  • The Breastfeeding Father
  • Breastfeeding Twins
  • How to Handle a Nursing Strike
  • Mother’s Guide to Pumping Milk
  • Sore Breasts
  • Treating Thrush
  • When a Nursing Mother Gets Sick
  • When Babies Cry
  • Your Baby’s First Solid Food
  • Breastfeeding the Baby with Reflux

National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign
La Leche League’s Role

Cindy Garrison, Canonsburg PA USA
Barbara Emanuel, Boulder Creek CA USA

LLLI is delighted to share the news that World Breastfeeding Week will have a special feature this year. The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has developed a Public Service Announcement (PSA) for release during World Breastfeeding Week in 2003. This represents a new way for mothers in the United States to learn about breastfeeding.

The goal of the National Breastfeeding Awareness Campaign, being launched August 2, 2003 in numerous US locations, is to increase breastfeeding rates in the United States. La Leche League International has been working with the HHS to develop a pamphlet to be released in conjunction with the PSA. The HHS Office of Women’s Health has trained their 800 line operators in the LLLI Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program. LLLI representatives have been working with the operators on general questions that may come up when mothers call for more information. LLLI materials in both English and Spanish will be available to be sent to mothers who call.

This three-year campaign is designed to reach women who have chosen not to breastfeed. It will focus on the general audience as well as the African-American community. This program will have a direct impact on US Leaders. The Office of Women’s Health operators will also be referring mothers to LLL Leaders in the US and to the Leader Locator on the Schaumburg office phone system. Leaders in the participating locations may notice an increase in the numbers of phone calls they get and in the kinds of questions they receive. Leaders may find it helpful to add a note to their materials by the phone as a reminder to ask where the mother got the Leader’s phone number. It will be helpful in assessing the effectiveness of the campaign to have these numbers reported. Areas may choose to have this statistic added to the monthly meeting report or reported separately to the District Advisor or other designated Area administrator. The total statistics could be reflected on the Area Coordinator of Leaders’ fall report to her Division support person. These figures would then be totaled and sent on to Shirley Phillips, LLLI Deputy Director, who coordinates statistics for La Leche League International.

Leaders may also notice increased attendance at meetings. Many Groups are in communities where those who attend are already considering breastfeeding positively. The mothers in the target group of this campaign are those who traditionally do not breastfeed. Whether due to personal choices of other family members or friends or as a result of cultural norms where the mothers live, Leaders may want to be sensitive to this fact as they plan meeting discussions. Referring to "Leading an Effective Discussion," pp. 39-40 in the 2003 LEADER'S HANDBOOK (pp. 56-67 in the 1998 edition), will provide additional ideas.

Groups may also want to use this information as they plan for the World Walk for Breastfeeding. The theme of the cooperative pamphlet might be incorporated into the Group’s general publicity or that being done for the Walk event. If a Group is located in one of the target locations, they or the Chapter they work with may use this as a means of contact with the local media running the PSA.

It will be no surprise to Leaders that, in the planning for this campaign, it was found that one mother has the most influence with another mother. With breastfeeding being recognized as a public health issue in the United States, La Leche League is in a good position to offer the support these mothers will need as they make a choice that is outside the ones usually chosen by mothers in their community.

Editor’s Note: Make sure all of your contact information is correct in the LLLI database and on the LLLI Web site. Send any change of email, phone number, fax number, and online Group Web pages to your local LLL support people.

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