Breastfeeding promotion during soap operas

I used to watch General Hospital with my mom when I came home from morning kindergarten back in 1994. Even though I was started on the show at such a young age, I can’t say I’m an enduring fan. To be completely honest, I think soaps are obnoxious. That was until I learned that GH recently aired a positive storyline about nursing in public! You can watch a short clip here. And another one here.

Hardcore GH fan and Healthy Children faculty Donna Walls exclaims: “My dreams have all come true. So proud to be a General Hospital fan!”

Healthy Children’s Elyse Blair, also a hardcore GH fan, exclaims, “I loved that GH brought breastfeeding to the forefront!”

Walls describes the scene when GH character Olivia “was about to nurse [in public] and the mayor pitched a fit and had her arrested.”

The episode continues with “a lively conversation” about breastfeeding being legal and how important it is for mothers to be able to breastfeed whenever their babies need to, Walls goes on.

While at the police station, Olivia’s baby cues that he needs to nurse, so she demands that the officer help her because she is handcuffed. Ultimately, the baby begins to breastfeed (although covered) and Olivia’s lawyer takes a picture of them. Lovely! Of course, the scene would have been even more wonderful if the baby hadn’t been covered with a blanket.

Blair comments that the NIP situation was “very realistic.”

“Unfortunately, this occurs all too often,” she comments on the discrimination of mothers NIP. She also points out one great example of support for mothers discriminated against: Jill Miller’s The Milk Truck.

The use of soap operas to promote breastfeeding is not a new idea. Healthy Children’s Cindy Turner-Maffei points out that “promotional pieces during soap operas was part of Brazil’s breastfeeding campaign in the 1980s.”

Through its National Breastfeeding Promotion Program launched in 1980, Brazil increased the median length of breastfeeding from 2.5 to 10 months over a period of 25 years.

The second phase (1982-83) of Brazil’s National Breastfeeding Promotion Program included a popular soap opera that aired “pro-breastfeeding messages and celebrities appeared in TV PSAs in further attempts to reach the intended audience.” [Retrieved from: Updating the USDA National Breastfeeding Campaign: Workshop Summary]

Commercials with breastfeeding content were then added, Turner-Maffei continues.

The book Nutrition and an Active Life: From Knowledge to Action includes more information about Brazil’s 1980s breastfeeding campaign.

Brazil continues to feature pro-breastfeeding and pro-human milk messages on soap operas.

For example, a 2014 article, Brazil’s Maternal Milk Banks A Global Model, reports that “public awareness campaigns feature the stars of prime-time soap operas urging new mothers to give milk.”

Back in America, Walls reports that there’s more breastfeeding to come on GH.

“The magazine owner (Nina) got an idea to write an article about nursing in public,” she says.
Brazil as our model, soap operas seem to be an effective avenue to promote breastfeeding and human milk. Although the National Breastfeeding Promotion Program took over two decades to see significant progress in breastfeeding duration rates, imagine the impact strong women breastfeeding on television (and breastfeeding support) might make for all of the kindergarteners coming home to watch soaps with their moms!

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