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Sunday, 13 May, 2001, 23:05 GMT 00:05 UK
TV 'deters breast feeding'
Breast feeding mother
Soaps criticised for failing to show breast feeding
Too few soaps show breast feeding mothers which discourages ordinary mums from doing it themselves, say experts.

The National Childbirth Trust (NCT) has called for TV and in particular soaps to give the image of breastfeeding a positive boost.

Recent research has shown that TV tends to show mothers bottle feeding rather than breastfeeding.

Belinda Phipps, chief executive of the NCT, said that if TV challenged the negative perceptions of breastfeeding, more mothers might do it and protect the health of their babies.

It's a shame that soaps and TV dramas aren't showing how important breastfeeding is for both mums and babies

Patsy Palmer
"We need to make breastfeeding socially and culturally unremarkable so that more women consider it common sense and 'the norm' rather than 'alternative'.

"At the moment, far too few women are starting to breastfeed - just one in two young mothers - and fewer still - one in eight - are breast feeding at four months.

"The medical evidence in favour of breastfeeding is overwhelming, with the benefits lasting a lifetime."

The campaign has already received high profile support from the soap opera world.

Patsy Palmer
Patsy Palmer calls for more soaps to show breast feeding mums

Former EastEnder Patsy Palmer, who played young mum Bianca, said soaps and dramas played an important role in shaping views.

"It's a shame that soaps and TV dramas aren't showing how important breastfeeding is for both mums and babies - it is after all, the most normal way to feed a baby.

"As a mum, I decided that breastfeeding was the natural choice for me to give my children the best start in life."

Soaps' coverage

Alison Sinclair, from the Coronation Street press office, said it was often quite difficult for actresses to act breastfeeding with a baby that was not their own.

She said giving babies bottles on soaps was often the quickest and easiest way to film.

Tina O'Brien
Tina O'Brien who plays Sarah-Louise "too young" for on-screen breast feeding

She said the only mother with a young baby on the soap at the moment was Sarah-Louise Platt and that because she is supposed to be a 13-year-old in the show it would have been inappropriate to show her breastfeeding.

But Ms Sinclair said breast feeding had been discussed on the soap.

"I think Judy Mallett did breast feed her twins, because they were commenting about it in the pub," she said.

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See also:

16 Mar 01 | Health
Prolonged breast feeding warning
18 May 00 | Medical notes
Breast vs bottle
08 Feb 01 | Health
Breast milk 'reduces heart risk'
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