The message “babies are born to be breastfed” was part of a campaign to improve the cultural acceptance of breastfeeding in Herkimer County, N.Y. The campaign was part of a $1 million, four-year project led Cornell researchers and funded by the US Department of Agriculture.
“Babies are born to be breastfed.” That is the message that for three months, people living in Herkimer County in upstate New York saw on billboards, posters and public service announcements during breaks in such shows as “Deal or No Deal,” the “Today” show, the “Dr. Phil Show” and on Comedy Channel, Court TV, Nickelodeon and Soap TV.
The campaign worked: Almost 69 percent of men and 46 percent of women surveyed reported that they would be comfortable with having their child breastfed in public after the campaign, up from 54 and 35 percent, respectively, before the campaign.
“I was amazed by the findings. The evaluation shows that this kind of community intervention can create a social environment that is more supportive for breastfeeding,” says Christine Olson, Cornell professor of nutritional sciences.
The intervention was led by the Healthy Start Partnership of Herkimer County, a coalition of seven health and nutrition professionals, including Linda Robbins, nutrition educator from Cornell Cooperative Extension. The breastfeeding project is their first initiative, and it seeks to improve the cultural acceptance of breastfeeding as not only helping women shed pounds after childbirth, says Olson, but also helping reduce the risk of obesity in infants’ later life. Although researchers do not completely understood why breastfed infants have a lower risk of obesity in later life, Olson notes that it is harder to overfeed a breastfed infant than bottle-fed one and that breastfed infants gain weight more slowly, which has been linked to lower obesity risk.