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- American journalist
A baby “is not what mom eats,” La Leche League International’s Diana West tells Yahoo Parenting, fuming about a new ad campaign that she says is “horrifying” in the shame it doles out to mothers who consume junk food. (Photo: SPRS)
Body art gets alarming in a new ad campaign depicting three mothers each breastfeeding with an image of junk food painted onto her breast, giving the appearance of the infant gobbling up the fast food item himself.
“Your child is what you eat,” reads a message drawn on each woman’s chest next to the soda, burger, and doughnut art. “Yours [sic] habits in the first thousand days of gestation, can prevent your child from developing serious diseases.”
Created for the Brazilian Pediatric Society of Rio Grande (SPRS), the campaign’s goal is to encourage nursing mothers to eat nutritiously. “Love and affection are vital,” a note on the organization’s website declares, “but it is important to educate and inform mothers about the procedures necessary for proper nutrition and baby care.“
The actual effect of the ads, however, is seriously discouraging, according to the breastfeeding advocates at La Leche League International. “It’s mean and awful,” La Leche spokeswoman Diana West tells Yahoo Parenting. “It promotes the idea that you have to have a perfect diet to breastfeed.”
“If women think that their milk isn’t ‘good enough,’” adds West, “they won’t bother breastfeeding at all. It’ll also make them worry that they’re not ‘perfect’ moms. Shaming like this is horrifying.”
Research shows that shaming doesn’t turn people to better behaviors, the expert continues. “It only turns them to alternative behaviors that make them feel better about themselves,” says West. “And those generally aren’t a better behavior.”
The worst part? “The message isn’t even true,” says West. Indeed, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics: “The mammary glands that produce your milk are able to provide your baby with highly nutritious milk even if your diet isn’t perfect every day.” The organization recommends that nursing mothers avoid alcohol, more than three cups of coffee daily and fish containing high amounts of mercury in their breastfeeding diet guidelines, but other than that, they provide no specific recommendation in terms of processed or “junk” food. “The mammary glands and milk-producing cells,” reads the report, “help regulate how much of what you eat and drink actually reaches your baby through your milk.”
A baby “is not what mom eats,” proclaims West. “The nutrient levels in moms’ milk stay fairly stable regardless of the type of food you eat. It’s nature’s way of protecting a newborn from variances in their mother’s access to food. So milk is almost invariable nutritionally adequate — even if the mother is on a ‘junk food’ diet.”
Experts at the Mayo Clinic advocate that nursing mothers consider the nutritional benefit of their food for babies. “Focus on making healthy choices to help fuel your milk production,” advises a breastfeeding tip sheet on the hospital’s website. “Opt for protein-rich foods, such as lean meat, eggs, dairy, beans, lentils and seafood low in mercury. Choose a variety of whole grains as well as fruits and vegetables. … [But] there’s no need to go on a special diet while you’re breast-feeding. Simply focus on making healthy choices — and you and your baby will reap the rewards.”