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20. Born to Be Breastfed

Olson and Wells

(l) Christine Olson (r.) Nancy Wells

Christine M. Olson, Nutritional Sciences, and Nancy M. Wells, Design and Environmental Analysis, completed a community intervention study in which a campaign to make parents comfortable with breastfeeding their child in public was successful. For three months, people living in upstate New York’s Herkimer County saw the message, “Babies are born to be breastfed,” on billboards, posters, and public service announcements during breaks in shows such as Deal or No Deal, Today, and the Dr. Phil Show and on the Comedy Channel, Court TV, Nickelodeon, and Soap TV. After the campaign almost 69 percent of men and 46 percent of women surveyed said they would be comfortable with having their child breastfed in public—up from 54 and 35 percent, respectively, before the campaign. The intervention was the first initiative of the Healthy Start Partnership of Herkimer County, which seeks to improve the cultural acceptance of breastfeeding as helping women shed pounds after childbirth, while reducing infants’ risk of obesity in later life. The evaluation shows that this kind of community intervention can create a social environment that is more supportive of breastfeeding. Researchers do not completely understand why breastfed infants have a lower risk of obesity later in life, but as Olson noted, it is harder to overfeed a breastfed infant than a bottle-fed one, and breastfed infants gain weight more slowly, which has been linked to a lower obesity risk. The advertising campaign was part of a one-million-dollar, four-year project led by Olson and Wells that seeks to promote healthy weights in childbearing women and their infants through the Healthy Start Partnership.

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