Sometimes it feels like the world revolves around me.
I get pregnant and all of a sudden, it seems like all of the celebs want to be moms! Coincidence? No way. This trend is coast to coast with B-list celebrities, from the original 90210’s Tori Spelling to Jersey Shore’s Snooki, all tapping into the business of being moms (see NYTimes’ recent Baby Bump article). Notice that even the classic pregnancy book, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” (uhm… NOT a narrative by the way) is coming out as a movie the year that I had a baby! Even A-list names like Beyonce are getting into my baby-sphere by having a baby girl (Blue Ivy Carter) who is the same age as cogscibaby (Blue was born just 2 months earlier).
What is behind this worldwide phenomenon? Is it simply a boring cognitive explanation like “having a baby tunes attention to other baby-related information”? Or is it actually that the celebrity world is synching with my experience of motherhood? Perhaps I’ll never know.
Either way, it has been nice having Beyonce as a fellow sister in recent motherhood. Because when I was trying to figure out what to wear while ginormously pregnant, there would be fashion news regarding Beyonce’s maternity fashion. When my family was batting around baby names, Beyonce and Jay-z were (reportedly) having very similar conversations. And now, as I enter the exciting phase of breastfeeding, guess what — so has Beyonce.
Now to share a bit of personal information. Cogscibaby and I are terrible at breastfeeding. We’re messy and inefficient. In fact, cogscibaby had a tongue-tie and tons of trouble latching in the first weeks. We went to see a lactation consultant EVERY SINGLE WEEK for his first month of life. Eventually, the emotional and physical exhaustion got to us and we just decided to exclusively pump and bottle feed breast milk. So now, we’re both happy campers and cogsci baby is growing chubbier by the day, never without his milk-muffin top protruding above the diaper.
But now I’m reading everything I can about breastfeeding because it has been such a dramatic part of my nascent motherhood experience. Recently, I read a Time Magazine commentary about Beyonce whipping out the breastfeeding in a restaurant! (I’m sure she had some sort of cover because I firmly believe Beyonce to be a classy diva.)
Why is Time Magazine covering a story that might seem more suited for People or Us Weekly? Well, Beyonce’s breastfeeding behaviors may actually have public health implications! Enter cognitive science!
Here’s the background:
- Breastfeeding is the healthiest option for babies (having a whole host of nourishing and disease preventing qualities). So much so that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusively breastfeeding an infant for the first 6 months of life.
- African-American women are less likely to breastfeed than their white counterparts. (Who knows about Asian-Americans…)
So how might women (of color in the case of the article, and in general in the case of the AAP) be persuaded to breastfeed more? One option is to throw facts at the public on how breastfed babies have less risk of this and greater health in that… blah blah blah. But as cogsci baby and I have experienced firsthand, breastfeeding is HARD. And breastfeeding in public is even HARDER. So how do we overcome this hurdle and persuade mothers to pursue breastfeeding?
Social cognitive research by Jim Sherman (of my alma mater, Indiana University) showed that attention is more focused and intense for individuals and becomes more diffuse for groups. Additionally a whole host of cognitive research has shown that the narrative of an individual prompts people to action more so than statistics about a large group of people (e.g., Kogut & Ritov, 2005; Jenni & Loewenstein, 1997, Small, Loewenstein, & Slovic, 2007). To give you an idea of this, the story of Anne Frank moves people more than any statistics about the victims of the Holocaust. Beyonce may well be the Anne Frank of breastfeeding (I know that’s a terrible comparison… breastfeeding vs. Holocaust but I’m just trying to make an analogy here).
Perhaps this compelling story of an identifiable mother and child, the beautiful/talented Beyonce with her highly anticipated baby Blue Ivy, might persuade folks to take on the challenges of breastfeeding in public more powerfully than any facts or figures about public health outcomes. And when a black mother sees another black mother modeling such behavior, the influence may be even greater.
In any case, I am slowly figuring out the best places to pump/feed/change cogscibaby in and around the Los Angeles area. Places like Target and Trader Joe’s are great because they have clean bathrooms with changing tables… but they aren’t great places to pump/breastfeed. However, fancy department stores like Nordstroms always have elegant bathrooms with a ladies lounge… very handy for pumping/breastfeeding.
But hands down, the best baby bathroom is at (drumroll please)… the Americana (Glendale)! OH MY GOSH! This place is Shangrila for new moms! There are little rooms for breastfeeding complete with towels, sinks, and rocking chairs! ROCKING CHAIRS MY FRIENDS! They’ve got changing rooms with cushy changing pads and free wipes! Tiny chairs, tables, and toys for tots! A flatscreen TV playing Disney cartoons! Couches! I could hang out there for hours! So if you have a baby and are in the greater Los Angeles area, let’s have a play date… at the Americana!!!