Not everyone in corporate America is afraid of breastfeeding...
I was very pleased when I opened my new Babies R Us coupon mailer to find not only a coupon for 20% off any item (score!) but much to my surprise and joy there is a very sweet picture of a beautiful mother breastfeeding her precious baby. What is so unusual about a picture capturing a tender moment between mother and child in a Babies R Us ad, you ask? Well, this mother is lovingly breastfeeding her sweet little baby outside at the park without a cover.
Let me repeat that in case the significance of photo like this making it's way onto a print ad for a huge company might have been lost on someone. Boppy and Babies R Us have chosen to champion and promote the normalization of breastfeeding by placing a photo of a mother discretely BREASTFEEDING her baby OUTSIDE in PUBLIC WITHOUT A COVER! Kudos to Boppy and Kudos to Babies R Us! As a breastfeeding mother, I thank you for supporting the normalization of breastfeeding and for choosing this photo for your ad.
You may not realize this but an innocent photo of you breastfeeding your child in your Facebook photo album would be deleted soon after it was uploaded in order to sanitize your profile because it falls outside the boundaries of the Facebook photo guidelines. A photo of a mother breastfeeding her child is deemed too prurient for facebook. However, a photo of a woman wearing next to nothing in a very compromising pose eliciting sex is appropriate...(according to Facebook.) In addition to this double-standard a fake profile that was put up on Facebook to harass a young girl by her peers at school took over a year to take down AFTER this poor girl committed suicide due to the extreme amount of bullying she received due to this fake profile. Yet breastfeeding photos are taken down in record time and reported and flagged as "sexually explicit" and profiles are quickly suspended or shut down for having breastfeeding photos as was the case for Emma Kwasnica back in January 2012. In an interview by the Huffington Post she said, "It's such a double-standard: if you type in 'breasts' on Facebook, you can see pages with thousands of members where there are naked breasts... How is that happening when at least 30 women I know have had accounts shut down for a single breastfeeding image?" She went on to say, "Someone sent me a friend request today, and the profile photo is just an erect penis."
Sex sells advertisements.
It makes you wonder where people's priorities are when a mother breastfeeding a child is seen as something sexual or inappropriate because some skin might be exposed or because of the child's age or because a person can't think that a breast is meant for anything other than a sexual fantasy. Are we that far removed from the most basic and natural way mothers have been feeding their babies since the beginning of our existence?
Breastfeeding has been quite the hot topic lately as we've seen on TV, all over the internet on various mom's forums and blogs. Celebrities like Mayim Bialik (from the 1990's show Blossom - who holds a Ph.D. in Neuroscience by the way) are writing books "Beyond the Sling: A Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way" and speaking out in support of breastfeeding, Attachment Parenting, extended breastfeeding - which is breastfeeding beyond the first year, etc.
There were many impassioned reactions to the latest cover of the now famous Time magazine article of mother Jamie Lynn Grumet breastfeeding her 3 1/2 year old son. The article was about Dr. Sears and the Attachment Parenting community who believe in the many benefits of extended breastfeeding, however, the cover upset many breastfeeding moms as well because the title "Are You Mom Enough?" sounds like it is trying to turn motherhood into some sort of competition pitting mothers against each other for the decisions they have made for their family.
We are even seeing mothers getting harassed by employees and patrons in public places like we saw recently with Katie Jane Hamilton who was discreetly breastfeeding her overtired toddler in a quiet corner at LACMA and received a complaint via a museum security guard by a couple who was uncomfortable with her breastfeeding in public. Never mind the fact that she was sitting in an area surrounded by naked sculptures of women that were seen as works of art by the very patrons who complained about a mother nursing her child. Katie Jane and her daughter were then approached by a female security guard who walked up and said, "You need to cover up."
I wonder how "uncomfortable" the couple would have been as well as everyone else within ear shot if Hamilton had not tended to her child's needs of being fussy and overtired and had not chosen to comfort her to sleep in peace and quiet and just let her toddler run the museum halls wild with a raging temper tantrum because her mother was too ashamed, uncomfortable or embarrassed to nurse her in public?
I'm also having a serious issue with the lack of decorum and manners that seemed to be displayed by an employee of an establishment to a paying patron and supporter of the very place where she is employed. As well as the fact that a woman is demanding another woman to stop doing something she was biologically designed to do...but that is for another post.
Every good mother knows her child well enough to know their limits and when we are in public most of us try to do everything within our power to keep the peace when it comes to the earth shattering tantrums a very small child can unleash when they are cranky, overtired, overstimulated, hungry, hurt, bored, special needs or even when having too much fun. Many of us know that there are many factors that can come into play when a child is throwing a tantrum and often times it has nothing to do with them being an "unruly brat who just needs to be spanked" as is the common blanket statement made from onlookers regarding such behavior.
We all know what those glances from strangers feel like when our child is past their breaking point. We've all been somewhere where a child is going crazy and disrupting everyone with their cries and screams despite a parent's very best efforts and tantrum diffusing parenting techniques. Wouldn't it be nice if everyone had a "secret weapon" like nursing mothers do with being able to quietly breastfeed a child back to sleep or happiness that doesn't involve yelling back at them, spanking them which only exacerbates the tantrum, or giving them candy, ice cream or some expensive version of an electronic ibabysitter?
For the record, candy, ice cream and ipads can be a beautiful thing and all have their time and place and are used by both breastfeeding and bottle feeding mothers alike, but when you really think about it when a child is at their most frazzled state all they really want in most cases is the comforting and loving touch of a parent, and nursing a child can be just what they need to feel safe, secure and loved. Yet so many nursing mothers do not feel comfortable nursing in public even though deep down they know it would be the best thing for their child at that time. Despite the assumptions, not everyone has an issue with mothers breastfeeding in public. Do we really want to be making crucial parenting decisions that impact our children based on a possible stranger's judgments and their personal issues or do would we rather go with our gut and our natural mothering instinct and do what we feel is best for our child?
The LACMA story spread quickly inciting many blog posts and comments as well as a few Facebook pages started by Hamilton in an effort to spread the word about breastfeeding and educate the public about a mother's right to breastfeed in public. The story was even covered by local Los Angeles television news stations. Many were pleased to see the swift apology from LACMA regarding the incident and the promise to educate their employees about the law in California protecting a women's right to breastfeed her child in public since 1997.
California Civil Code § 43-53.
Speaking as a member of the breastfeeding community, we feel happy with the outcome of their heartfelt apology and do have every confidence that this will never happen again at their museum. We also have high hopes that other establishments will now be informed of the law and follow suit. Education is a powerful thing! Despite the opinions of some bloggers who are basing assumptions off wrong information, there are no plans for a mass nurse-in at LACMA since they have issued an apology and are making attempts to educate their employees. However, the breastfeeding support page Hamilton created Hey LA! Breastfeeding Isn't Shameful! is planning a peaceful mass nurse-in soon in Los Angeles, Ca to promote breastfeeding, educate the public regarding the breastfeeding law and to show support for breastfeeding in public. Follow the page for more details regarding time, date and location.
The more we normalize breastfeeding and stop the sexualization of breastfeeding mothers the more we will see the tides turn in favor of supporting a mother's decision to breastfeed her baby whenever and where ever a child needs to be fed. The next time you see a child happily nursing quietly in a public place you should smile and thank the mother for her courage and for tending to her child's most basic needs rather than let them cry and scream and disrupt everyone around them on the off chance of making a stranger passing by feel uncomfortable for whatever issue they might have regarding breastfeeding. Mothers should tend to their child's basic needs of nourishment, comfort, security, safety and love wherever they are regardless of how it makes other people feel. These are first and foremost our most important jobs as mothers and strangers passing by should not even be a factor in the equation.
If you want to be outraged by a choice a parent is making in regards to their child, fight the battles against the parents who are abandoning, neglecting and/or purposely harming their children and who are choosing to not take care of their basic needs. Don't pick on the ones who are doing their best to raise their child with love. A child can be loved and comforted and feel safe regardless if they are being fed by breast or by bottle, therefore, ALL mothers who are doing their best raising their children need to feel supported by family and community for the decisions they have made for their family.
Breastfeeding a baby isn't an option for every mother despite the fact that we are biologically designed to produce milk for our offspring. In many cultures before us and way before you could buy a can of formula at the grocery store down the street it was commonplace to have wet nurses to take over in the event of a mother who could not produce her own milk, or enough milk to feed her babies. A wet nurse was crucial in the survival of her babies. Deciding whether or not to breastfeed or to give formula is often times a very painful choice to make for a new mother if she is torn in either direction and does not receive the proper support by those around her to execute her decision. We don't take these decisions lightly and they are rarely made rash with no thought. Many, many factors come into play in the decisions we make that work best for our family. As a mother who has often times felt judged in the decisions I have lovingly and carefully made for the benefit of my children, I ask you to please save the judgments of other mothers and the "wars" for the issues that truly matter.
I'm encouraged by the number of women who are feeling confident enough to come out of the bathroom stalls and out from under a hot, sweaty and often times cumbersome breastfeeding cover to nurse their babies whenever and where ever the occasion arrises. Be proud of your decisions and stand by them, whatever they may be!
Are the tides finally turning? Have you seen a large corporation or company or group of people support breastfeeding? Have you felt supported while breastfeeding in a public place? Please share!