2012: Breastfeeding Awareness Year

While there’s been a lot of consternation this year over the sometimes negative media coverage of breastfeeding, 2012 will be looked back on as the tipping point in breastfeeding advocacy.

This year, for the first time, an advocacy group outside of the breastfeeding world took up the cause of formula marketing to new mothers in hospitals. For the first time, a US mayor and a state legislature created laws to encourage baby-friendly hospitals. It’s been a banner year for breastfeeding. As the first ever Breastfeeding Awareness Month draws to a close, let’s remember our victories.

Social media has helped to bring the politics of breastfeeding into the mainstream. In early February thousands demonstrated at Facebook headquarters around the world to protest Facebook’s policy of censoring breastfeeding photos. Mothers demonstrated for breastfeeding rights in MIchigan, in Washington DC and all over the country this year.

In early March, Public Citizen, the premier consumer advocacy group founded in 1971, wrote to 2600 US hospitals urging them to discontinue the distribution of commercial infant formula discharge bags.

In April, the organization launched a petition demanding that Abbott, Mead Johnson and Nestle’ stop distributing samples of infant formula in health care facilities; 15,565 have signed so far.

Banning the distribution of formula samples in hospitals is a cause Marsha Walker and the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition have been working on for decades and this year Massachusetts joined Rhode Island as one of two states that are bag free. This issue is important because research shows that formula marketing undermines breastfeeding success.

While some bloggers objected to the petition under the guise of freedom of choice, Public Citizen’s sponsorship of the campaign strengthened breastfeeding’s position as a public health issue. The Public Citizen petition garnered a lot of publicity, not only because of its 225,000 member base but also because of the organization’s broad media reach.

Because of this broad reach, bloggers defending the campaign were able to educate a large segment of the population about issues largely unknown outside of the breastfeeding advocacy community: the fact that freedom of freeding choice is a formula company tactic, and the economic value of breastmilk, among others.

Also in April, New York City Mayor Bloomberg announced that the NYC Health Department would launch an initiative, “Latch On,’ to encourage all city hospitals to be baby friendly. The announcement was made at the city’s first Baby Friendly Hospital, Harlem Hospital. A Baby Friendly Hospital follows ten steps that have been shown to contribute to successful breastfeeding.

In May, Mayor Corey Booker’s agreement to partner with formula giant, Nestle’, to promote breastfeeding in Newark came under criticism. Time reporter, Bonnie Rochman covered the story and once again, a larger audience was introduced to the importance of breastfeeding promotion being carried out by breastfeeding experts.

May became a watershed month for US breastfeeding when, on May 10th, Time magazine released online its May 21st print cover of a mom nursing a toddler. Attachment Parenting gained wide exposure through the Time article as did “extended” breastfeeding, which was widely debated in the media in the weeks leading up and following publication of the Time article. Because of this article, the US got a crash course on normal breastfeeding.

Jamie Lynee Grumet, the cover model for Time deserves recognition as a Breastfeeding Champion for enduring the criticism that was slung at her from all sides, myself included. At the time, I failed to recognize that the Time cover was an outtake, an inflammatory image that was not intended to show Jamie and her son at their best. Jamie had nothing to do with the photo choice, of course. She just posed for the cover under the assumption that her photo would be used to illustrate attachment parenting.

At the end of May, the Mom2Mom support group at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington launched a breastfeeding awareness campaign that included a photograph of two women in uniform breastfeeding. The two women, Air National Guard member, Sgt. Terran Echegoyen McCabe, and Staff Sergeant Christina Luna were caught unawares by the publicity storm that surrounded their photo and the women were ultimately chastised by the Washington National Guard and the Fairchild Air Force Base for promoting a cause in uniform. It was not until the 1980s that women remained in the military during and after their pregnancies.

On June 28th, the Affordable Care Act was upheld by the Supreme Court. Section 4207 of the Act sets forth the requirement that all employers provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” Further, employers must provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.”

On June 28, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed House Bill 4968 calling on every hospital in Illinois that provides birth services to “adopt an infant feeding policy to promote breastfeeding.” The bill asks hospitals to consider guidance from the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.

In July, Public Citizen and the United States Breastfeeding Committee held a joint webinar, “Take Action to Keep Formula Marketing Out of Health Care Facilities,” to encourage the third stage of Public Citizen’s action, that of individual’s contacting local hospitals to ask them to stop formula sampling.

This year, for the first time, a corporate alliance was formed between US businesses and the World Health Organization in support of the WHO Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. The companies that are part of this alliance, The Best for Babes CARE-WHO Alliance, have pledged to be fully compliant with the WHO Code:

Amamante Nursingwear

A Mother’s Boutique


baby gooroo

Bebe au Lait


Cariboo of New Zealand


Earth Mama Angel Baby

Fairhaven Health

Frank About Women

HALO SleepSack


Hot Mama Gowns

Jewel Minx


Leading Lady

Mamas & Papas

Mama Pear Designs

Melinda G






Seventh Generation

simple wishes


And, finally, Texas also deserves special mention for their corporate alliances, updated this year on the website (see photo above) of their exemplary Mother-Friendly Worksite Program. In 1995, the Texas legislature recognized “a mother’s responsibility to both her job and her child when she returns to work and acknowledges that a woman’s choice to breastfeed benefits the family, the employer and the society.”

With this in mind, the program provides a minimum criteria for and maintains a list of Mother-Friendly worksites. Businesses that have established a written worksite breastfeeding support policy may submit an application. Evidence indicates that the most effective worksite breastfeeding policies facilitate:

Privacy for milk expression.

Flexible scheduling and work options to accommodate milk expression breaks.

Dissemination of breastfeeding information and education to male and female employees.

A positive, supportive environment from management to co-workers for employees who are combining work and breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding came of age in 2012. Public health initiatives are increasing as is public awareness. Let’s not be too distracted by the naysayers. They are just evidence of breastfeeding’s assimilation into mainstream society. Look how far we’ve come.


Robert Weissman and Elizabeth Ben-Ishai of Public Citizen

Marsha Walker and Megan Renner of the US Breastfeeding Committee

Massachusetts and Rhode Island for being the first bag-free states.

NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the NYC Health Department

Bonnie Rochman, Renee Hefti, and Maria Pariapiano for Newark coverage and advocacy.

Jamie Lynee Grumet for the courage to illustrate toddler nursing.

Sergeant Christina Luna and Sgt. Terran Echegoyen McCabe for breastfeeding in the military.

The Supreme Court for upholding the Affordable Care Act

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and the Illinois legislature.

Bettina Forbes and Danielle Rigg for educating corporations about the WHO Code.

Texas for their Mother-Friendly Worksite Program.

All of you who have worked so hard to get the good word out about breastfeeding.

Please let me know who or what I forgot to mention.

Peggy O’Mara  (101 Posts)

Peggy O’Mara founded Mothering.com in 1995 and is currently its editor-in chief. She was the editor and publisher of Mothering Magazine from 1980 to 2011. The author of Having a Baby Naturally; Natural Family Living; The Way Back Home; and A Quiet Place, Peggy has lectured and conducted workshops at Omega Institute, Esalen, La Leche League International, and Bioneers. She is the mother of four.

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9 thoughts on “2012: Breastfeeding Awareness Year”

  1. I wondered if you realized that your blog also avertised free samples of formula along the side bar?


  2. Hi, You might want to fix the typo: “the fact that freedom of freeding”

    Thx for the review of successes. We are making a difference, slowly but surely.


  3. Great post Peggy. Sorry I called you old fashioned last spring. My best regards for your comprehensive and thoughtful compilation. And I agree with you-it has been a tipping point. I have noticed a backlash of dammage control from some connected sources to try to counteract the positive strides. I hope this momentum continues.

  4. Hi there very nice site!! Man .. Excellent .. Amazing .. I’ll bookmark your website and take the feeds also?I’m happy to search out numerous useful info here in the submit, we’d like develop more techniques in this regard, thank you for sharing. . . . . .

  5. Dear Peggy,

    This is an excellent post and compilation of the year’s advocacy and major events in the support and promotion of breastfeeding as the normal way to feed our babies and young children! I appreciate all that you have recognized, especially the United States Breastfeeding Committee through our Executive Director Megan Renner and member Marsha Walker. We are always working hard, and much of what we do is behind the scenes and not always out in the public eye.

    One small correction–the USBC declared August 2011 as the first National Breastfeeding Month in Washington DC at a rally and breastfeeding celebration at Howard University Hospital. Our spokesperson was Dr. Audrey Naylor. So this year was the second!

    Thanks again, and keep reminding us of the progress we make! We all need the positive reinforcement sometimes!


    Kathleen Marinelli MD

    Chair-elect, USBC

  6. As always, Peggy, Kudos to your insightful reviews and all the wonderful information you decipher and give back to us. Yes, there have been many wonderful upticks for the breastfeeding community. We are indeed proud that our Mayor Bloomberg put his foot forward and proclaimed the Latch On Project. Having recently been ripped apart for imploring businesses to offer smaller soda sizes, he had some practice taking on the heat. Lastly, keeping in mind the many positive aspects that the Affordable Care Act will produce, there are some new (aren’t there always?) crater-size problems and concerns arising with regards to the insurance agencies dictating what products and services mother/baby will be covered for. In the past it was how to overcome being rejected for services/assistance, now it looks like the resource pool will be shut down dramatically, allowing only those products or providers whom the insurance companies have brought into a contractual agreement.

  7. Peggy, Thank you for your wonderful article and your insight into the breastfeeding world and the progress that is being made. It seems sometimes that we are NOT making any progress, but your article shows that, in fact, we are.

    I did want to point out one small error, the US Air Force actually started allowing women with children (or who became pregnant) to serve in 1971 when they waived Executive Order 10240. Until that time women were automatically discharged. It has only been within the last 10 years that any of the branches of the military have created any type of policy regarding breastfeeding, and as of yet the Army does not have a policy.

    Kudos to the Mom2Mom Breastfeeding Support Group and to Sgt. Luna and McCabe for showing all military personnel, men and women alike, that serving ones country is not a barrier to breastfeeding!!

    Robyn Roche-Paull, IBCLC, LLLL, USN Veteran

    Author & Founder, Breastfeeding in Combat Boots

  8. What a great article. Thank you so much for lending your support and for being a champion yourself. This year truly has been a great year for bringing recognition to just how normal and wonderful breastfeeding is. Labeling Christina and myself as breastfeeding champions is extremely flattering, thank you!

  9. Excellent post, Peggy, it’s impressive to see it all together in place.

    I really appreciate that you took the time to highlight the work being done by Renee Hefti and Maria Pariapiano on the Newark/Booker/Nestl̩ collaboration – Nestl̩ wants the Newark project to be a trial for a roll-out across the US.

    I also want to note the work done by hundreds of women around the world who joined Emma Kwasnica in holding Facebook accountable for its discrimination against women who share breastfeeding images. Facebook is still removing images and sanctioning users for sharing breastfeeding photos, but the have made some policy improves thanks to the work done by these women. Best for Babes just added this campaign to their http://www.bestforbabes.org/facebook-vs-breastfeeding-by-jodine-chase

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