The Story of the International Breastfeeding Symbol
In the early 2000s, I heard a lecture by Dr. Jack Newman, who has been helping breastfeeding mothers and babies for nearly 40 years. He was dismayed by the ubiquity with which the bottle is used as a cultural symbol for baby, feeding, and parenthood. Images of baby bottles abound in our culture. We see them on shower gifts, wrapping paper, gift bags, decorated streamers, balloons, cards and clothing. Children’s books are full of images of baby bottles. Baby dolls usually come with tiny baby bottles. And, baby bottle images have often been used in public places like airports and convention centers, to designate child and/or family friendly facilities or services.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this imagery undermines breastfeeding and promotes the use of breast-milk substitutes.
Babies who are exclusively breastfed are 14 times less likely to die than babies who are not breastfed. However, today, only 41% of infants 0–6 months old are exclusively breastfed, a rate WHO Member States have committed to increasing to at least 50% by 2025. Inappropriate marketing of breast-milk substitutes continues to undermine efforts to improve breastfeeding rates and the COVID-19 crisis is intensifying the threat.
In 2006, we wanted to do something about this, so we held a contest at Mothering magazine to find a design for an International Breastfeeding Symbol. The International Breastfeeding Symbol was intended to:
- increase public awareness of breastfeeding
- designate breastfeeding and family friendly facilities in public
- provide an alternative to the use of the image of a baby bottle
A symbol sign
The International Breastfeeding Symbol was meant to be compatible with the Symbol Signs created by US Department of Transportation and the American Institute of Graphic Artists (AIGA) and it may one day be adopted by AIGA. The final design was selected based on the following…