The W magazine issue with Brad Pitt’s photo of Angelina Jolie breastfeeding on the cover hit the stands today. The leaked photo kicked off a media frenzy, scored high approval ratings, and is being hailed as an inspiration to nursing mothers world-wide. The question now is, can Ms. Jolie help nursing moms overcome the cultural and institutional barriers—the booby traps—that are keeping them from succeeding at breastfeeding? Can this gorgeous photo create a cultural acceptance and appreciation of breastfeeding in the same way that Demi Moore’s Vanity Fair cover helped others appreciate the beauty of a pregnant woman’s body, and set off a booming maternity industry?
The truth is that most U.S. women throw in the breastfeeding towel in the first few weeks. Given that low breastfeeding rates have devastating health, social, economic and environmental consequences, breastfeeding desperately needs a Bono, Gates or Gore. Ms. Jolie’s leadership as a cultural icon and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador could create the tipping point needed to improve the health of millions of mothers and babies.
And yes, we are trying to contact Ms. Jolie, but it may be easier to get a date with the pope.