Stop Crying Over Breast Milk

A woman nursing a child at an training on breastfeeding in Eastern Ukraine in 2015./Photo by: Andrey Krepkih, UNICEF via Wikimedia Commons

Andrey Krepkih

A woman nursing a child at an training on breastfeeding in Eastern Ukraine in 2015./Photo by: Andrey Krepkih, UNICEF via Wikimedia Commons

Pablo Medina, Editor

If breasts are out during sex, it’s fine; god forbid one should decide to feed a baby with them.

That is the view of talk show host Wendy Williams and apparently, she’s not alone.

On Jan. 6, actress Alyssa Milano was a guest on “The Wendy Williams Show” and commented on her rationale of documenting her breastfeeding experiences on social media.

“I don’t need to see that,” Williams said in regards to Milano’s posts.

“You’re lucky the baby’s not here,” Milano replied. “I’d whip ’em out right here and feed him on your show.”

Milano’s strong and dignified defense garnered a large applause from Williams’ audience.

It is powerful moments such as this a mother standing up for the natural nourishment of her child that highlight mothers as proud caretakers of the next generation. However, some people feel the act of breastfeeding is an act of indecent exposure and, therefore, shame the mothers in public view.

Nourishing a child with one’s own breast milk is not indecent. The milk from a mother provides the necessary nutrients that build the digestive system, bones and immune system of the baby. According to the National Resources Defense Council, the health benefits that come from breastfeeding in infancy include resistance to disease and infection and decreased likeliness to contract diseases like juvenile diabetes and cancer before age 15. Benefits for mothers include decreased likelihood of developing osteoporosis in the future, loss of pregnancy weight, and lowered risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.

Yet, the act of breastfeeding is something that can be especially hard on working mothers.

According to a Boston Globe article by Sanjena Sathian, working mom Kate Abra Frederick was forced to make the choice between going to work or losing her job to feed her child. Her employer would not extend her break from 15 to 30 minutes so she could get to a local daycare center minutes from her office, breastfeed her child (who wouldn’t take a bottle) and get back to her work day. Undoubtedly, this is an issue for more than just Frederick.    

People who think of the act as indecent have to understand that the breast is not, by design, a sexual object.

“Biologically, they’re not made for sexual things,” Milano said in her interview with Williams. “That’s what we have done to them.”

It is not hard to understand where Williams’ views are coming from. When someone sees nudity, a general response is to look away. Yet, it may not always be in disgust, instead sometimes out of perceived decency. Ironically, in a country where Miley Cyrus is allowed to expose as much of her body as she wants, the simple act of naturally feeding a child is more shocking.

Some would argue alternatives such as feeding in a private area, using formula instead of breast milk or even waiting until a mother goes home are more decent ways to feed a child. Though these may be options for some moms, they’re not always feasible. Some public places don’t have private areas to pump. Some babies don’t like breast covers and take them off their nursing mother. No mother wants to starve their child. Discomfort is only felt by those who don’t want to see it, to which I would say look away. No one is forcing you to watch.

Women have a right to breastfeed wherever they please, free from the negativity of others. There is no such thing as a breastfeeding crime because even the government understands that a baby must be nourished and attended to, however uncomfortable that might make someone else.

As a society, we should find more ways to be supporting mothers who breastfeed, rather than shaming them.