Lucy Lawless Breastfeeding Awareness Week
Women's Health Update Magazine
Volume 6, Number 3
Warrior princess in stunning new role
Cordelia Lockett reports on the New Zealand campaign during World Breastfeeding Week.
When Women's Health Action¹s breastfeeding advocate Sian Burgess decided on Lucy Lawless to front the World Breastfeeding Week campaign in August, she was in for a bit of a shock. "I wanted a high-profile poster, so I thought, who¹s famous and is breastfeeding? I came up with a few names with Lucy¹s as the biggest. But I didn¹t realise quite how big! The response has been huge - from around New Zealand but also from Australia, the States, even Europe.¹
The classic madonna and child pose of Lucy Lawless breastfeeding her baby on the edge of a chair, exudes a Renaissance painterly beauty. But read the tagline below, "Breastfeeding - my best role ever¹ and it¹s utterly contemporary- bang in the middle of twenty-first century celebrity stardom.
The poster was distributed widely to maternity providers and other health professionals, secondary schools, DHBs, childcare centres and community groups.
While the response was largely positive, it provoked some controversy. A few people questioned the combination of breastfeeding and sexy sophistication.
"It challenges the dominant media imagery of the breast¹, explains Sian. "We are saturated with sexual images of the breast on billboards, TV, in magazines, but here we have an image of a breast being used as nature intended it. Even just seeing a photo of breastfeeding is unusual in our culture and for every one breastfeeding image, there are 250 images of bottles and artificial feeding. In this environment a photo of a well-dressed woman breastfeeding her healthy, well-fed baby (and Xena the warrior princess what¹s more), is a political act.¹
During its development, the poster was pretested with members of the target audience (young women aged 15-35 years). Sian was delighted that the group had picked up on the intended messages, demonstrated in responses like - "she makes breastfeeding fashionable¹, "she makes you think you don¹t have to stay home to do it¹ and ¹she looks like she¹s enjoying it.¹ Another part of the World Breast-feeding Week campaign infiltrated cafes and other public places young women go. Free postcards promoted the superiority of human milk for human babies and challenged the acceptance that cows¹ milk formula is equivalent to breast milk.
But surely everyone knows breast is best these days?
"Yes and no¹ says Sian. "The benefits of breastfeeding are indisputable. But while 98% of pregnant women say they want to breastfeed, by the time the baby is six months old, only seven percent are exclusively or fully breastfeeding. The social deterrents are overwhelming. Currently there is insufficient support for women to continue to breastfeed.¹
Sian advocates a range of affirmative actions to change social attitudes towards breastfeeding including:
- Extending Paid Parental Leave to at least six months to enable exclusive breastfeeding for that period.
- Encouraging family friendly workplace practices, such as paid breastfeeding breaks, to enable women to continue breastfeeding when they return to work.
- Promoting positive social attitudes towards women who breastfeed in public.
- Creating a community where mothers are supported and encouraged to continue breastfeeding their infants beyond the first few weeks.
I asked Sian if she thought she might do something a bit more low-key for next year¹s campaign. "I want to do something even bigger and better next year - something really extraordinary. I just haven¹t thought of it yet.¹
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