How can social media improve breastfeeding rates in USA?

Breastfeeding is important for both mom and baby. Breastfeeding has many benefits that are well known. For baby, the benefits are clear. Breast milk provides the ideal nutrition for baby – an ideal combination of  vitamins, protein, and fat necessary for growth. Further, breast milk is more digestible by baby than formula. Breast milk leads to healthier babies, healthier kids, and healthier individuals. Breast milk contains antibodies and so breastfeeding lowers baby’s risk of having asthma or allergies. Babies who are breastfed exclusively for the first 6 months have fewer ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and diarrhea, fewer hospitalizations and fewer trips to the doctor. Breastfeeding is alo thought to reduce rates of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and the risk of diabetes, obesity, and certain cancers. Aside from health benefits, breastfeeding is also crucial for baby’s mental and emotional development as the the physical closeness, skin-to-skin touching, and eye contact increase bonding and development.

Social media is a powerful tool – it has dramatically changed how marketing is done. Because of social media, the speed at which trends develop, circulate, and subside has markedly increased. In the digital age, a new phrase was coined – “gone viral” – and despite what many of us thought when we first heard the term, it is not a bad, but it is actually a great phenomenon for content.  News can travel fast. And content can spread like wildfire. In an almost exponential way, the total reach of content can quickly explode. What this means is that content has the ability to reach a vast number of people very quickly. Overnight a certain brand, content, video, or meme can be known by a substantial portion of a target population.

Social media can increase breastfeeding rates in the US because it has the power to reach a lot of people. Social media connects us across oceans and across the world – with social media, individuals are connected – virtually even if they are half a world away. Social media is especially useful to reach young and new moms in the 20’s who have the highest rates of social media usage, and who may have the most questions about breastfeeding or have the most barriers to successful breastfeeding (time constraints due to busy schedules, unable to pump at work to to being earlier in their career or working in sectors that do not provide accommodations [such as service sector as opposed to office jobs], being self conscious, etc).

Social media can increase breastfeeding rates because it has the power to reaffirm the subjective norm that breastfeeding is good and is something that all moms should do if possible. It can further normalize breastfeeding. When moms see other moms online sharing their experiences with breastfeeding – both the positive aspects and the challenges – it encourages moms to start or keep breastfeeding. This is based on the concept of social proofing – which is a psychological phenomenon where people take on or perform the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation. Its well know that people give more validity or weight to ideas that are stated by multiple sources – so when women or parents see that multiple friends or social media accounts either have / are breastfeeding or are posting about the benefits of breastfeeding, they will be influenced and encouraged to breastfeed also. Seeing your friends and social contacts engaging in a behavior or talking about the benefits of that behavior is also powerful because as it has been studied, people are more susceptible to peer influence from horizontal than vertical sources. This means that people are more influenced by friends than superiors. This is because when a person perceives themselves as similar to the people around them, they are more likely to adopt and perceive as correct the observed behavior of these people. One way that social media can do this is if, for example, Electric Breast Pump Reviews or another organization or company, starts a social media campaign encouraging moms to share their breastfeeding experiences online – such why they breastfeed, why they enjoy it, why baby enjoy it, and now they have overcome any challenges. Mom can share using a hashtag such as #BreatisBest #MommaMilk #WhyIBreastfeed – which allows moms across the country to join the conversation.

Social media can increase breastfeeding rates because it provides new moms with a support network. Breastfeeding is worth it, but as any woman who has breastfed knows, it’s also hard. It takes time, it controls your schedule, it’s painful, there’s definitely a learning curve to it, and many times, try as you might, your baby has difficulty latching on. These obstacles can make many moms feel demoralized or like they are failing as moms. Many moms may not have someone they ask for help or advice. Or more likely, many new moms may feel embarrassed about asking for help because they feel they should be having no issues in breastfeeding and if they are having issues it reflects on them as a mother. Which of course, is not true, as many new moms face difficulties. Social media in this sense is useful in two ways. First, moms can use social media – such as facebook groups or other social networks – to ask for help or advice in a way that feels safe and non judgemental. Second, through social media, they can see that they are not the only ones who are facing challenges and it normalizes these challenges that many moms may face.

Speaking as a student pursuing a degree in public health – I know that health communication is a proven way to promote healthy behaviors in people. Social media is a powerful communication channel that can be used to promote health messages. Health communication is the use of communication strategies to influence individual and community decisions that enhance health. These communication strategies must be based on health behavior theories – which  illustrate the motivations and factors that lead  individuals to perform or not perform certain health behaviors. A health behavior theory called the Health Belief Model is very illustrative in showing how social media can increase breastfeeding rates. the Health Belief model says that health behaviors are controlled by of perceived severity of not performing the behavior, perceived susceptibility of not performing the behavior, perceived benefits of  performing the behavior, perceived barriers or costs to performing the behavior, self-efficacy (confidence in one’s ability to successfully perform the health actions), and cues to action (external influences that can activate the readiness to act). Social media can effectively address 3 portions of this health behavior theory. First, it can increase perceived benefits by having mom’s see and read about the positive experiences that other moms had with breastfeeding, how they enjoy the experience of bonding, and how they had healthy, happy babies. Second, it can reduce perceived barriers by providing a support network for advice and by showing how it’s normal to have challenges, and how if you don’t give up, it will be worth it. Third, it can increased self-efficacy if social networks such as health organizations and other non profit entities have social media campaigns where they share tips for breastfeeding – so that moms feel more equipped to handle any challenges. Forth, it provide cues to action. These cues to action can be tweets, facebook graphics, etc that encourage mom to breastfeed, share benefits to breastfeeding, share tips, and share real stories of moms that are breastfeeding while working, going to school, taking care of their other children, etc.

In conclusion, social media can increase rates of breastfeeding in US thought several ways, including by providing a support network, building community among nursing moms, increasing acceptance of breastfeeding through social proofing, communicating the benefits of breastfeeding, and by providing cues to action.

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The War on Drugs and The Criminal Justice System

The criminal justice system is the US is not perfect. However, it is a very well developed system, and its goal at the end of the day is to ensure that justice is served. It is a complicated system and those who navigate its murky waters must know their way and be well trained.

One area of the criminal justice system which has gotten very murky in recent history is drug enforcement policy.  The modern “War on Drugs” began in the 1970’s when President Nixon declared drugs to be “public enemy number one”. The War on Drugs refers to a set of policies, including enforcement, prohibition, and military intervention, to curb the use and distribution of psychoactive drugs.   The focus on enforcement of drug policy, to the exclusion of prevention and treatment, has had lasting effects on the American justice system and on the social and economic well being of American communities.

One of the lasting impacts of the War on Drugs is the racial injustice it has created and perpetuated. This injustice has many implications and strains police and community relations. White and blacks have about the same rate of drug use, however, African-American men are arrested at 13 times the rate of white men on drug charges. African Americans and Latinos make up 29 percent of the total U.S. population, but make up over 75% of those in prison for drug related charges . African Americans accounted for 35% of drug arrests, 55% of drug convictions, and 74% drug incarcerations. The most well-known example of racial disparities in drug sentencing is the 100 to 1 sentencing disparity for trafficking of crack cocaine vs trafficking of powder cocaine. Until 2010, it took 500 grams of powder cocaine to receive the same sentence as someone with 5 grams of crack cocaine – which triggered a mandatory 5 year sentence. This policy is biased against racial minorities because crack is cheaper than cocaine and is more prevalent in inner cities, while cocaine is more prevalent in suburbia  Couple these racial disparities in the how law Is carried out with the violent and disruptive tactics of the drug war, and it’s easy to see how community and police relations become strained.

The drug war has resulted in an increasing militarization of our police – with drug raids carried out by police in paramilitary gear, spreading fear in communities and a distrust of police officers. Further destroying police / community relations are policies such as “Stop and Frisk” in New York – which substantially affect more black and brown bodies. The consequences to these policies are long lasting. When a community does not trust the police, public safety suffers. Crimes go unreported. As crime increases, police may use more violent tactics when interacting with community members.  Implicit Bias within the police force also becomes a problem.

The most lasting effect of the War on Drugs is how it tears at the fabric of the affected communities. During the height of the War on Drugs, one million American were being incarnated every year . Mandatory minimum sentences land thousands of individuals who made one mistake in jail. In 1989, the Anti-Drug Abuse Act created 29 new, mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses. As a result, from 1980 to today, the number of people incarcerated for drug offences has increased from 50,000 to half a million That’s half a million families with a father, a mother, a son, a daughter behind bars. If the breadwinner or head of household is jailed for years, the family suffers, kids grow up without a father or mother. Generations of able-bodies adults are in prison. And when these individuals return, they are not rehabilitated and not given the tools to succeed in the outside world. For millions of families, dreams of upward mobility – the American dream – are dashed. Convicted felons are stripped of voting rights. A drug conviction will cause federal financial aid to be denied or delayed, make you ineligible for public housing, and 32 states will prohibit you from accessing food stamps . This causes the recidivism rate to be very high.

The Drug War frames drug use as a moral issue that must be curbed by punitive measures. This results in a war on drug users – criminalizing their existence, often disproportionately affecting marginalized communities and communities of color. U.S. federal, state, and local governments now spend $50 billion per year on enforcement tactics. Targeting to reduce the supply and punish the users has not been effective. Alternative policies should seek to reduce demand by treatment and prevention programs, which is more cost effective .  The criminal justice system should be reformed. Mandatory sentences for possession should be eliminated. Sentencing first time offenders should be based around the goal of restorative, not punitive justice.

*“This article is a submission for entry to the 2016 Monder Law San Diego Scholarship

1) Drug War Statistics”. Drug Policy Alliance. Retrieved February 25, 2014.


 3) “I. SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS”. Punishment and Prejudice: Racial Disparities in the War on Drugs. Human Rights Watch. 2000. Retrieved February 3,2010.

4) A Public Health Approach to Mitigating the Negative Consequences of Illicit Drug Abuse; National Association for Public Health Policy,  Journal of Public Health Policy, Vol. 20, No. 3 (1999), pp. 268-281, Palgrave Macmillan Journals,

5) Spencer, K. B., Charbonneau, A. K., & Glaser, J. (2016). Implicit Bias and Policing. Social and Personality Psychology Compass10(1), 50-63.

6) Lester Grinspoon, M.D.& James B. Bakalar, J.D. (February 3, 1994). “The War on Drugs—A Peace Proposal”330 (5). New England Journal of Medicine: 357–360.

7) Jesse Ventura. American Conspiracies (New York: Skyshore Publishing, 2010), 117.



10) ^^ National Association for Public Health Policy, 1999

11) ^^ National Association for Public Health Policy, 1999