It's been quite a year in news about breastfeeding. Here are my picks for the top ten events in breastfeeding this year.
Top 10 breastfeeding stories of 2006:
1) Nursing in public incidents and the birth of the national nurse-in. It was a year of highly publicized run-ins for breastfeeding mothers who tried to nurse in public. First it was Victoria's Secret in Massachusetts and Wisconsin, then a Texas movie theater, and of course the story of Emily Gillette, who was removed from a Freedom Airlines flight in Vermont after trying to nurse her daughter on board. The latter sparked the first ever national nurse-in, organized with lightening speed via the web. The nurse-in was held at 39 airports with over 800 participants (picture at left is from the Columbus, Ohio nurse-in, courtesy of Jen at The Lactivist). A controversy also erupted over the cover of Baby Talk magazine this year, which featured a nursing baby on its cover.
2) Researcher faked studies on infant formula. I put this one near the top because it's an amazing story which, as far as I can tell, was wholly ignored by the U.S. media. In January the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (the Canadian equivalent of PBS) aired a three-part investigation on its program "The National," of Dr. Ranjit Kumar Chandra, a Canadian researcher who was found to have knowlingly falsified studies on "allergy reducing" formulas made by Nestle and Mead Johnson in the 1980's. In at least two cases he released his findings before babies were even recruited for the studies. The program is available here, and I highly recommend taking a look at it.
3) List of benefits of breastfeeding keeps getting longer. I compiled a summary (see post for December 22, below) of the incredible research published in 2006 on the benefits of breastfeeding. The evidence that breastfeeding protects against a huge range of physical and mental health problems continues to build.
5) Breastfeeding promotion campaign raises strong feelings, awareness. The national breastfeeding awareness campaign posed the question: Are we ready to stop talking about the benefits of breastfeeding and instead talk about the risks of not breastfeeding? The campaign's ads approached the issue this way, with images of pregnant women riding mechanical bulls and log rolling. The result was lots of discussion and strong feelings, as the New York Times article, "Breastfeed or Else" demonstrated.
6) A new symbol for breastfeeding is chosen. Mothering Magazine held a contest to design a new symbol to represent breastfeeding. The winner is to the left, and you can see the other nominees and information about the artist here.
7) Breast milk donation goes international. As I wrote about here, a mother in Missouri established the International Breastmilk Project, which ships donor breastmilk to AIDS orphans in South Africa. The project also gives priority in donation to families grieving the loss of baby. In a related story, exclusive breastfeeding, even when HIV can be transmitted through the milk, continues to be the safest way of keeping babies alive when the alternative isn't safe, affordable, sustainable, and available. Trials for a vaccine to prevent transmission through breastfeeding got underway this year.
8) New legal protections for breastfeeding in six states, federal protections held up again. New laws protecting breastfeeding went into effect in Arizona, Alabama, Kentucky, Misssissippi, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. The federal bill on breastfeeding, H.R. 2122, failed again this year, but hopes are high for next year.
9) Bringing breastmilk on board gets very complicated. As I discussed here and here, new TSA policies restricting fluids on board airplanes meant that many women discarded their pumped milk, packaged it to be checked with baggage, or tried to figure out cram it into 3 oz. shampoo bottles. You can still sign an e-petition urging the TSA to change this policy.
10) Nursing with the stars. That one conjures quite an image, huh? What I'm trying to point out is that many of the celebrities who had babies this year - and there seemed to be a real boom this year - chose to breastfeed their babies. I wrote a bit about this here. For celebrity breastfeeding role model I nominate Gwen Stefani, who has said that she feels that breastfeeding has given her superhuman powers. For weirdest celebrity breastfeeding story the award has to go to Marie Claire magazine, which faked a photo (not very well, either) of Elizabeth Vargas breastfeeding at her news anchor desk.