Breastfeeding is cool as well as healthy, according to the message behind an exhibition that opens in London this week.
"Get Britain Breastfeeding" – a collection of adverts designed by students at Central St Martins School of Art and Design – is the result of a competition run by the charity Best Beginnings, which aims to improve the country's dismal breastfeeding record.
The winning poster, designed by Sophie Barker and Kayleigh Brooks, shows four pictures of a topless woman and carries slogans including "Tailor-made for him and tailor-made for you" and "Bond with your baby and bond with your man". Visitors to hospitals and health centres across Britain will see the arresting image shown on this page as it is rolled out this summer.
"The key thing about these pictures is that they acknowledge that although breasts are sexual, they have another purpose besides," said Alison Baum, founder of Best Beginnings. "What these images are saying is, breastfeeding can be good for your relationship with your partner as well as your relationship with your child."
Ms Baum said she set up her charity to tackle inequalities around maternal and child health, and quickly realised that improving breastfeeding rates was the way forward. "It's the single most important thing that can make a difference," she said.
The government and World Health Organisation recommend breastfeeding exclusively to six months, but only 35 per cent of UK babies are fully breastfed at one week, and 21 per cent at six weeks. Less than 2 per cent of babies are exclusively breastfed at six months.
The younger the mums were, the less likely they were to breastfeed, said Baum. "We wanted to reach young people with this competition – boys as well as girls, because they're the dads of tomorrow and their support matters hugely. The students who took part represented our target group."
More than 100 images are being shown in the exhibition, which runs from this Friday to 11 May at the Dray Walk Gallery in east London.
Best Beginnings is also working with the Department of Health to distribute a DVD about breastfeeding that will be given to all mothers-to-be at their mid-pregnancy scan (it can be seen on YouTube).
"What we're interested in doing is changing the bottle-feeding culture we live in," said Ms Baum, "and that means challenging it across a number of fronts. I really believe things are going to change in breastfeeding."
Below, one of the films the students saw before they created their artwork
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