Breastfeeding Role Models: Should this job be taken more seriously?

Celebrities can band together with public health officials to promote healthy breastfeeding messages and help families find places to get support.

 

In a recent Netflix comedy standup special“Hard Knock Wife,” Ali Wong describes breastfeeding as a “brutal  savage ritual.” Ali is one of the few comedians who has included her breastfeeding experience in her standup material. It provided an insight into her experience and was pretty hilarious. I am sure many mothers found a connection to Ali and it brought about some normalizing of the experience.

“Hard Knock Wife.” Aly Wong, Netflix, 13 May. 2018.Netflix, www.netflix.com/title/80186940.

 

A Netflix comedy special (as well as her recorded audience) is not primarily comprised of nursing mamas looking for a laugh. Based on a 2018 Socratic Technologies survey,  72% of Netflix viewers are Millennials. That includes young men and women who are thinking about starting families and making decisions such as “Will I breastfeed and who will support me?”  Ali’s negative demeanor toward breastfeeding as seen in her exaggerated facial expressions and phrases like, “chronic physical torture” and “she sucked the life out of me” could influence young people to question whether it is a worthwhile choice.  

 

Would this depiction of breastfeeding have been a better fit for breastfeeding support groups where mamas get to talk together about their struggles? In an environment like this, adding humor to the pain and dedication necessary to make breastfeeding work is a great way to normalize and lighten the mood, especially if it is a group of women who have an especially trying time with breastfeeding. As Ali puts it, “When you’re a new mom, it’s like the walking dead out there – you’ve got to hook up with a crew to survive!” This is a good example of the sharing effect and can be comforting. But sharing our experiences with others can oftentimes influence them as well. I’m sure you have experienced that the more negative experiences seem to stick the most. When someone shares their own experience of making it to the top of the mountain, then you, too, can feel like you can. If you hear someone talk about how awful their experience at the gym is you tend to feel discouraged about exercising. If you are a mama breastfeeding – for the first time especially- the stories of those who have gone before you are critical to your self confidence and intention. (Read more in this study of peer to peer counseling for breastfeeding, from Maryland). When you already feel overwhelmed with decisions, stress, and pain it’s hard to know who to trust and what choices to make.

Here Ali says, “Breastfeeding is a blast” but her facial expressions say something else. https://www.instagram.com/p/BhAAKLXhDfv/?taken-by=aliwong

 

Celebrity opinions matter – people take them seriously particularly the younger generation, with the world of social media. There is a lot of talk about breastfeeding in public and nursing your children past 2 years of age. But there seems to be less of an emphasis on simply making the choice to breastfeed and especially how to find support while you are engaged in the process. If we tell young people breastfeeding is “brutal”…they won’t do it.

Heidi Montag embracing the glamour of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding makes her, “feel strong from the inside out.”

https://www.cosmopolitan.com.au/celebrity/heidi-pratt-breastfeeding-photo-25729

 

The WHO, Surgeon’s General Call to Action, and American Association of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months. Celebrities need to band together with public health officials to promote healthy breastfeeding messages and where families can get support. This type of collaboration happens in the US when we have a tragedy like Hurricane Katrina’s A Concert for Hurricane Relief or for chronic illness like Seth Rogan’s “Hilarity for Charity.” Why not for breastfeeding?

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson shares how he “handles this business” called breastfeeding. https://www.cosmopolitan.com.au/celebrity/heidi-pratt-breastfeeding-photo-25729

 

In the US there is a lack of breastfeeding education for health professionals. The primary influencers of woman are actually her partner’s and grandma’s motivation (ie:continuous community support). Nurses and lactation consultants provide some education while at the hospital and pediatricians do verbally inquire about the mama’s experience but that is often the extent to which women receive support for breastfeeding.

 

Moms are not routinely provided with extended breastfeeding training or a comprehensive breast exam while breastfeeding. Ali talked about her experience with health providers, “I didn’t take any classes on breastfeeding. The nurse promised me that I would have a particularly easy time because my nipples looked like fingers.” “I was never trained, I just did it.” A nurse promising a mama that she would have a easy time -for whatever reason- is just setting her up for disappointment. Health providers have more influence over new moms than do their families or celebrities. And even Ali, whom I assume had great hospital and prenatal care, was left with no education on breastfeeding. The LiquidGoldConcept Lactation Simulation Model, along with other simulators, offer health providers a more realistic experience while training to provide support for patients. If Ali’s nurse had been trained with the simulator would their experience together have been more successful? Would Ali have felt more confident in her ability to breastfeed?  Would her “lily pad dream” have come true?

 

Further thoughts and ideas:

Katie Hinde talks about mother’s milk and what the US can do to better support breastfeeding mamas.

Kristen Bell talks about being a new mama with Katie Lowes. Kristen prides herself on being a mom advocate but is limited by the tools that she has to share advice. What if she had an LSM and held a breastfeeding support group for your celeb friends? Would they feel better and more prepared…I bet!

 

Is it a social obligation of celebrity status to promote public health messages or is that asking too much? Post your thoughts below 🙂

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