It might have meant well, but a Mexican breastfeeding campaign is under fire after releasing posters that offended some health advocates. The campaign is part of a new health initiative encouraging new mothers to breastfeed.
Celebrities posed topless with a sign across their breast that read: “No les des la espalda, dale pecho,” which translates to: “Don’t turn you back on them, give them your breast.” Critics say these posters sexualize breastfeeding and stigmatize women who don’t breastfeed, rather than encourage them.
According to the World Health Organization, only 14 percent of Mexican women breastfeed their children for the first six months. That’s one of the lowest rates in Latin America. This might account for the fact that Mexico is the most obese country in the world because studies show that breastfeeding can help lower childhood obesity and breast cancer.
“It’s not only a very terrible campaign in terms of how it looks, but it’s also the message that if you don’t breast-feed, you are a bad mother and you are the one to blame,” said Regina Tames, of the reproductive rights group GIRE, NPR reported.
Tames says that there are many other reasons why women in Mexico don’t or can’t breastfeed. Some reasons are poverty, poor nutrition, and the fact that women are now working longer hours. Also, pumping milk is not encouraged and is oftentimes not allowed.
The ads "condemn mothers, rather than informing them about breastfeeding, and they reduce a social problem with multiple players — fathers as well as mothers, workplaces, health authorities, and public spaces and the community at large — to one person: the mother," a group of activists wrote in a complaint to the city's human rights commission, the Associated Press reported.
â€” ASH: Fredric Wertham (@fredric_wertham) May 26, 2014
The campaign also excluded the reality of how mothers look when they give birth. The “new mothers,” portrayed by celebrities, show actress Camila Sodi, actress Maribel Guardia, and boxer Mariana “La Barby” Juárez with toned midsections.
"I don't know what these mothers reflect, or who they were supposed to attract," Tames said.
Breastfeeding initiatives and campaigns have been a part of health initiatives all over the world. In recent years, the U.S. has signed certain laws that encourage breastfeeding, such as the "Break Time for Nursing Mothers" law. In the United Kingdom, the Equality Act 2010 clearly states that businesses must not discriminate against a woman breastfeeding a child at any age.
Despite these laws, in the U.S., many women are shamed into going into bathrooms to breastfeed. This stigma was also portrayed by a college advertising project called, “When Nuture Calls.” The photos showed women in cramped, dirty bathrooms trying to feed their babies.
Despite these setbacks, issues such as this one raise awareness on the breastfeeding taboo and incite healthy conversations about the topic.