Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Baby care signs

People have been contacting us about promotional materials for the forthcoming European Parliamentary elections taking place in June.

It's one of those cases showing that bottle feeding is so deeply lodged in the culture that it is used to signify babies. One of the postcards states: "How should we help balance family and career?"

Family is symbolised by a feeding bottle.

We raised these concerns with the media. The Observer reported on the controversy last Sunday:

Too often the same approach is used with baby care rooms in pubic places, when it does not take very much imagination to use an alternative symbol.

A straightforward approach is to show a baby. This example includes braille for when it is used on a door, available at:

The Australian Breastfeeding Association is promoting this image along with minimum criteria for baby care rooms:

It is important to remember, of course, that providing a room for mothers to go with their babies is no justification for prohibiting them feeding their child elsewhere, whether bottle feeding or breastfeeding.

The International Breastfeeding Symbol organisation is promoting a logo for breastfeeding-friendly organisations. You can also place it on your site with a link back to:

The International Breastfeeding Symbol

Using a botle in the European Parliament campaign or for baby care rooms is sending a strong message about what is considered to be the norm for infant feeding, whether intentional or not. I'd be surprised if the Australian baby care symbol or even the International Breasfeeding Symbol have the same negative impact as the breastfeeding position is a nurturing position. I'm interested in feedback on this.

Of course, formula companies use similar images to link their products with the idea of breastfeeding. As with the SMA logo, subvertised in this short clip I put together:

Wyeth introduced this logo for its SMA formula after being required to remove its 'closer to breastmilk claim' from labels. However, enforcement authorities have taken no action on the grounds that the breastfeeding logo could just be a letter 'M'. My response is, if Wyeth wanted it to be a letter 'M' it would have used a letter 'M'.

Nestle uses a similar approach on its Bear Brand products - I highly irresponsible marketing approach as these are unsuitable for infant feeding. The example below is from coffee creamer:

After the impact of this logo in promoting misuse of the product as a breastmilk substitute was highlighted in research in the British Medical Journal Nestle eventually agreed to change it:

Which just goes to show the impact of images and why those behind the European Parliament campaign should re-think.

For more on the use of images to convey meaning and the feeding bottle in particular, see this blog from Morgan Gallagher:

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