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A Critical Application of Branding to Promote Breastfeeding in Public in the UK

Sheffield Business School

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Dr C Hirst , Dr C Morris Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

The health benefits of breastfeeding are well established for mothers and babies alike and the World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months (Blincoe, 2005). Social marketing campaigns designed to promote breastfeeding have successfully raised awareness of the health benefits, however this knowledge has not translated into increased breastfeeding rates which remain low in the UK. Incidents widely reported in the mainstream media have highlighted that some people feel that breastfeeding in public is not acceptable (Morris et al., 2016) and although they represent a minority, this has fuelled the feeling of vulnerability women can experience when breastfeeding in public (Komminou et al., 2016; Bylaska-Davies, 2015), which in turn, may have contributed to breastfeeding discontinuation (Boyer, 2018). Morris, Schofield & Hirst (2020) have recently argued that some of the perceptions held by the members of the public who are unsupportive of breastfeeding in public are reminiscent of the strong negative views elicited by other breastfeeding practices, such as milk sharing (Tomori, Palmquist & Dowling, 2016; Tomori, et al., 2017), and reflect a broader disgust and distrust in human milk (Van Esterik, 2002). As such, the case for adopting branding as a means to improving the image of breastfeeding and as a central approach to achieving long term sustainable behavior change has been recommended (Morris, Schofield & Hirst, 2020). This recommendation is based on evidence from a number of public health campaigns targeting amongst other things, teenage smoking and drinking, diet and exercise, and drug taking, which are beginning to show that branding health behaviors and their associated lifestyles can achieve positive results and effect desirable changes amongst targeted groups (Vallone, et al., 2017). Yet up to this point in time, no systematic audit or review of breastfeeding’s image has been conducted or reported. Nor has any wide-scale review of the content and form of breastfeeding campaigns in relation to theories of advertising communication and persuasion taken place. This is despite Brown (2017) arguing that promoting breastfeeding requires significant investment and support at societal level.

Project aim:
Building on established research within the group (Morris et al., 2016; Morris, Schofield & Hirst, 2020), the aim of this project is to critically assess the image of breastfeeding and the content of breastfeeding campaigns in order to develop a social marketing and branding campaign targeting groups of people opposed to breastfeeding in public and increase acceptance.

Project objectives:
- To systematically audit the image and associations of breastfeeding held by members of the public and represented through popular culture in the UK
- To critically review extant breastfeeding campaigns in relation to theoretical models
- To develop a social marketing and branding campaign targeting members of the public opposed to breastfeeding in public
- To pilot-test its impact on acceptance of breastfeeding in public

Research methodology: A combination of methods including content and cultural analysis, questionnaires and/or in-depth interviews will be required to complete this project. Please note that this research would benefit from recruiting participants not supportive of breastfeeding in public.

To apply for a self-funded PhD, you will need to meet our entry requirements and provide:
1. fully completed Sheffield Hallam University application form
2. research proposal (4-6 sides of A4 in length).
3. transcript of marks from your highest qualification (we require a dissertation mark of 60+).
4. copy of your award certificates
5. two references, one ideally from an academic source. References must be supplied as recent letters on headed notepaper or on the reference section on the University’s application form.
6. Where English is not your first language, we require evidence of your English language ability to the following minimum level of proficiency. An IELTS score of 7.0 overall (with all component marks of 6.5 or higher), a TOEFL test with an overall score of 100 internet based (minimum component score of 23 in listening and reading, 26 in writing and 22 in speaking) or SHU TESOL English Language qualification (final overall grade of A with all components graded at B or higher) or a recognised equivalent testing system. Your test score must be within the last two years.
Information on entry requirements, tuition fees and other costs can be found here

How to apply
Please submit your application to [Email Address Removed]

Applicants wishing to be considered for:
• February 2020 entry: submit your application by 12pm November 22nd 2019
• May 2020 entry: submit your application by 12pm February 22nd 2020
• October 2020 entry: submit your application by 12pm June 22nd 2020

Funding Notes

There is no funding attached to this project. The applicant will need to fund their own tuition fees, research costs and living expenses. Information on tuition fees, research and other costs can be found at
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