Thursday, March 6, 2014

5 Awesome Breastfeeding Posters

One of the consequences of becoming a "Lactivist" is that I now occasionally have to face accusations of promoting propaganda. It's one of the primary critiques that is most frequently leveled at the breastfeeding community: we like to make breastfeeding seem like it's all sunshine and daises, that it's easy and that the alternative (formula) is inferior.

Well.... yeah. I mean, we obviously chose to breastfeed because there was a compelling case for it, and we like to share that knowledge and enthusiasm with others. In fact, organizations and governments have been promoting breastfeeding to the masses for centuries, producing imagery to inform and inspire (and offend, sometimes). Here are a few of my favorite breastfeeding posters:

WPA Federal Arts Project Poster, 1938 - You may have seen this one floating around the internet for a while. I love it for how direct the message is, and how the art is so clearly grounded in the time period. I can't help but wonder to what "trouble" the text refers (there were just SO many troubles to choose from in 1938), but the almost wartime-phrasing is somewhat surprising in such a tender context. I would love to see an updated version of this poster for today.

Vintage breastfeeding poster located at the WWII / National Uprising Museum in Slovakia - I chose this one because it's contemporary with and thematically similar to the American version above. Unfortunately, I can't read the language and I've been unable to find a translation online, but the imagery is fascinating: firstly, there's the overt religious tones, with Mary and the infant Christ up in the corner, the heavenly rays and the cross opposite. There is a clear suggestion here that nursing the baby is a spiritual duty, but it looks like it may also be a civic one.... see the map behind the figures? And whereas the previous example cuts off the figure so that you can't see much of the nursing infant, this one shows both the baby and much of the bare breast, and even the hold the mother is using to assist his latch. This was clearly a poster for an audience who did NOT find breastfeeding scandalous.

New York City Department of Health Poster, 2012 - This poster is one in a series from the Latch On NYC campaign, which placed them in subways and hospitals, to inform mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding. The text reads "Breast Milk is best for your baby." You can see English versions here, but I selected the Spanish one to make the point that this campaign targeted everyone, not just the affluent white women who continue to disproportionately represent the breastfeeding community. While the images themselves drew fire for being too condescending and heavy-handed, the real controversy was over the accompanying initiative to discourage hospitals from handing out free formula. Read more here.

Unknown Breastfeeding Ad - I cannot find any information about this ad, which popped up on an Australian homebirth site. I have only one thing to say about it, anyway: BALLSY.

Or boobsy?

I have to be honest: if I were the art director on this campaign, I would never have chosen that image. Still, it's an attention-grabber, which I guess is a plus?

World Breastfeeding Week Poster, 2002 - This is my favorite breastfeeding image of all time and forever, because COME ON, FOLKS: IT'S FREAKIN' XENA! The incomparable Lucy Lawless, or Xena/Cylon #3/Lucretia breastfeeding a baby and looking smoking hot while doing it. What's not to love? And the tagline is sheer brilliance, as well.

To see MANY more posters, check out this incredible gallery over at's blog.

And for more breastfeeding in art, both modern and historical, check out my first post on Adventures in Breastfeeding. And let me know what artsy topic you would like me to cover next!

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