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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Symbol of Breastfeeding: Golden Bow

When Stan and I were brainstorming about the poster for his photo exhibit, he asked me what the symbol of breastfeeding was.  I was stumped.  The "pink ribbon" was the widely known symbol for breast cancer however, I couldn't remember what was the symbol of breastfeeding.

A quick internet search brought me to this UNICEF page on the golden bow, which I immediately shared on Facebook.
see the golden bow?

Here is a description of the Golden Bow according to UNICEF:

Why do we use The Golden Bow as the symbol for breastfeeding protection, promotion and support?

It's Meaning and Purpose:
Many social change efforts have used ribbons and pins to create a sense of belonging to a social movement. While The Golden Bow serves this purpose, but it is unique in that it is not simply a symbol for social change, but carries many meanings within its own design. The Golden Bow is, in and of itself, a lesson in the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding.
Gold: The use of the gold colour for the bow symbolises that breastfeeding is the gold standard for infant feeding, against which any other alternative should be compared and judged.
A Bow: Why do we use a bow, rather than the looped ribbon of most campaigns? Each part of the bow carries a special message:
One loop represents the mother.
The other loop represents the child.
The ribbon is symmetrical, telling us the mother and child are both vital to successful breastfeeding - neither is to the left nor to the right, signifying neither is precedent, both are needed.
The knot is the father, the family and the society. Without the knot, there would be no bow; without the support, breastfeeding cannot succeed. The ribbons are the future: the exclusive breastfeeding for six months,and continued breastfeeding for 2 years or more with appropriate complementary feeding, and the delay of the next birth, preferably for 3 years or more, to give the mother and child time together to recover and to grow, respectively, and to five the mother the time she needs to provide active care for the health, growth and development of this child.
Origins: While we have not been able to identify the origins of this symbolism, it has been in scattered use for about 8-10 years.

We are lucky to have Ines Avellana-Fernandez, Executive Director of Arugaan who shared first hand account of the herstory of the golden bow as the gold standard in breastfeeding promotion, protection and support came about and on how the icon was stolen by milk companies.  
It started with WABA - World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action which is a coalition of international NGOs around the world ex. IBFAN, ILCA, LLLI (La Leche League International), Wellstart etc.  When it started in 1992, BFHI - Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative was the first theme. 
I had the privileged of joining the global experts group in a yearly meeting called Global Breastfeeding Partners Meeting because I was appointed as the co-coordinator on Women and Work Task Force of WABA for two decades. My co-Coordinator was Prof Penny van Esterik (Phd. Anthropology Dept. York University, Toronto,Canada author of a feminist breastfeeding book).  Other co-coordinators were the late Chris Mulford (musician-nurse and Lactation Consultant Examiner based in Philadelphia and the Carolina Breastfeeding Institute of MCH, North Carolina University, spearheaded by Prof-Dr. Miriam Labbok (Prof-Dr. of Georgetown University, Washington DC who is an expert on LAM - lactation amenorrhea method). 
The golden bow was hatched in the yearly meeting of the Global Breastfeeding Experts in Penang, Malaysia where the WABA secretariat is located. The golden bow symbol propels the WHO new comprehensive study on the global growth standard should be based on breastfeeding babies because many doctors around the world had been using the growth standard based on bottlefeeding babies study who are obese or heavy weight. 
Obviously, the multinational milk companies are stealers. For instance, Mead Johnson would steal the image of love from breastfeeding and carried the slogan in their posters Give Love, Give Enfamil. It used to be displayed in many hospital nurseries around the world. Many moms and doctors were duped. Likewise, Wyeth (now owned by Nestle) has the S-26 Gold. Nestle claims go, grow, glow in their baby food products but that traits are actually the outcome of sustained breastfeeding.   
Nestle had the audacity to file for trademark ownership of Busog Lusog at the Intellectual Property Rights Office, when in fact with was a staff of the Nutrition section of DOH creatively hatched the slogan in the government campaign. Then Nestle used the slogan in their baby food products and advertised it widely.
True enough - the golden bow has also been stolen by milk companies and used in their product.  Mead Johnson was the most brazen company - and used the bow in their brand labels.

However, other milk companies likewise adopted some form of the golden bow, the golden color and even the term "GOLD" in their milk products.

Nestle's NAN and the gold can

Different brands using some form of "GOLD"

Abbot and its use of a golden ribbon
The golden bow is the breastfeeding symbol and a purpose.  Different breastfeeding organizations have adopted the golden bow.  I do believe that we should continue using this and focus on emphasizing its links with breastfeeding, rather substituted milk.

WABA emphasized that breastmilk is the "Gold Standard" and shares some tips on how to promote the use of the golden bow. You can even order lapel pins and bookmarks here.

Let's keep on using the golden bow to emphasize its connection to breastfeeding and make it as popular as the pink ribbon symbol for breastfeeding cancer.

What do you think? Should the use of the golden bow for breastfeeding be abandoned? 

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