March 19, 2012
By Ann Seacrest, Executive Director, MilkWorks
Traveling back to Lincoln from a college tour with my daughter, I read a commentary in USA Today about Beyonce openly nursing her baby in public. The author, Joyce King, poses two questions. Should Beyonce have considered other people’s discomfort, and, should people be responsible for looking the other way if they don’t want to see a mother breastfeeding?
King also raises the “larger debate” of whether breastfeeding makes for smarter and healthier kids and mentions two British studies. One found that breastfed kids have higher test scores throughout childhood and the other suggested that six months of only breastmilk is too long and opens the door for allergies and iron deficiencies. This larger debate was really put to rest in 2007 when the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality published their meta analysis of 9,000 research studies and concluded there are significant health benefits when a baby is breastfed.
Ultimately King mentions that our country can save a lot of money and reduce infant deaths if moms breastfeed and she understands that Beyonce’s high profile breastfeeding may increase the very low breastfeeding rates among African American mothers.
The question becomes: how do we get breastfeeding out of the closet? Images of adult food are everywhere. Billboards, magazine ads, vending machines. Where are the images of babies feeding? While traveling, I saw numerous babies being fed from a baby bottle. Did I see a single baby breastfeeding? No.
The real debate may be that our culture has great difficulty accepting that human babies are fed from human breasts. If we never see babies breastfeeding, it makes it much harder for breastfeeding to enter into the realm of acceptable behavior. Cultures that do not question how babies get milk do not squirm over public breastfeeding. Now that Beyonce has opened her shirt for her baby in public, maybe we can move beyond Beyonce. Don’t all babies deserve star treatment?