Michelle Obama Talks Breastfeeding And Weight Loss

Michelle Obama, speaking to the Congressional Black Caucus earlier this week, called obesity, especially for black Americans, the “slow, quiet, everyday threat that doesn’t always appear to warrant the headline urgency of some of the other issues that we face.”

But in the world of maternity care and pregnancy, obesity has been making a lot of headlines.

Michelle Obama likened her anti-obesity campaign to the civil rights movement. She urged legislators to initiate and back programs that encourage better nutrition and access to healthy foods.

She also talked breastfeeding:

She said that the promotion of  breast-feeding, especially in black communities, is crucial.  She said that 40% of children in black communities do not get the health benefits of breastfeeding.

There have been a number of new breastfeeding campaigns, aimed at different populations. Last year the “Best For Babies” breastfeeding campaign came up with some gorgeous posters (see below). In August we saw the celebrity-endorsed “whip ‘em out” video. Both of these campaigns were designed with a hipper, more modern attitude than previous promotions which tended to have a hearth-bound, soft-focus look to them.

A huge public breastfeeding campaign was launched in New York City last week. Images of breastfeeding mothers of all colors have been put up at city bus stops; there have also been tv spots and ads on buses and in shelters.

The New York State Department of Health press release states: ”The campaign, which will run through the end of October, reaches out to new and expectant mothers, primarily in lower-income areas. The campaign addresses the support that breastfeeding mothers need from family, employers, health care providers, and the community and describes the many benefits for mothers and their babies.”

One of the TV spots (video below) aggressively promotes breastfeeding as a weight loss program which is a little misleading since about half of breastfeeding women don’t whittle away just by nursing alone. Some breastfeeding mothers do, and all burn about 500 calories a day. But other mothers seem to hold on to some weight while nursing. I have to agree with Elita who writes on her excellent blog Blacktating (“Breastfeeding News and Views From a Breastfeeding Mother of Color”), “It’s like they took the script from a Jenny Craig or Weight Watchers commercial and replaced ‘meetings’ and ‘sensible meal plan’ with breastfeeding. After loving the print ad so much, I was disappointed to see this TV ad.”

Still, it’s great that law-makers and influential women like Michelle Obama are making an effort to get out the word that breastfeeding is a perfectly normal and healthy option to communities where that concept may not have much hold.

Best For Babies 2009 Campaign (bestforbabies.org)

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