Messages to new mothers: an analysis of breast pump advertisements

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Abstract

The mass media is replete with all kinds of advice, products and ideas about ‘motherhood’ with advertising being a major source of information on the latest products and consumer trends. Advertising is a key means of promoting ideas about infant feeding, and yet, there has been little in the way of critical analyses of breast pump advertisements in order to reveal the kinds of messages they convey about this method of feeding. This article makes an important step towards addressing this gap through analysing three advertisements for breast pumps from a popular Australian magazine for mothers. We utilize a social semiotic framework to investigate not just what choices are made in the design of the ads but also what those choices mean in terms of the overall message of the ads. Our analysis identifies three core messages: ‘breastfeeding and breast pumping are the same with the purpose being to produce breast milk only’, ‘using breast pumps facilitates quality time with the baby’ and ‘mothers need outside expertise (including breast pumps) to ensure baby's development’. We believe it is important for those who provide information and support for breastfeeding women to be aware of the subtle, naturalized messages that ads convey so that they may better understand what may be underlying women's decisions regarding methods of infant feeding. © 2016 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

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