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Health Commun. 2013;28(4):329-40. doi: 10.1080/10410236.2012.685692. Epub 2012 Jul 2.

"That's not a beer bong, it's a breast pump!" representations of breastfeeding in prime-time fictional television.

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  • 1School of Journalism Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro, TN 37132, USA.


Breastfeeding has been recognized as one of the key determinant in one's future health. Yet although most people are aware of the benefits, many women do not breastfeed their babies past the first few months. These low rates can be partially explained by negative cultural attitudes toward breastfeeding, which have been reinforced by media messages. This research explored representations of breastfeeding in entertainment media-an area that has been overlooked. A textual analysis was conducted on 53 fictional television breastfeeding representations, ranging in genre and audience, from Beavis and Butthead to Criminal Minds. Findings indicate that breastfeeding depictions are generally positive, but limited in scope to educated, older, Caucasian women breastfeeding newborns, with little discussion about how to overcome problems. Extended breastfeeding and nursing in public were conveyed as socially unacceptable, making other characters uncomfortable, often within the same storylines that sexualized breasts. While the frequency of representations in recent years was encouraging, the narrow definition of the "normal" nursing experience excluded many types of women and breastfeeding experiences. And, by failing to address breastfeeding challenges and conveying that extended breastfeeding or nursing in public is abnormal or obscene, these depictions reinforce myths about the ease of breastfeeding and may discourage women from breastfeeding past the newborn phase, and outside the privacy of their homes. These portrayals may help explain why breastfeeding has not been "normalized," despite an international consensus that it is the best health choice for babies.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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