The “Breast” in Breastfeeding

Did you see this? It’s the cover of Baby Talk Magazine full of breast and feeding. To be exact, only about 1/8th of the cover is full of breast. The rest of the cover is technically the infant suckling at the breast. But whatever. It caused outrage. People are grossed out by watching someone breastfeed.

In case you are not familiar with Baby Talk magazine, it is a free magazine whose readership is mostly expecting mothers. This is one of the free information sources you get when you go to visit your obstetrician, go to have your sonogram or some other pre-natal test done. It is highly unlikely that you can go through a whole pregnancy in the United States without getting a copy of Baby Talk magazine. Once you get a free copy, if you’re expecting, you can subscribe to it and get a year free.

Despite Babytalk having chosen what seems to be an appropriate cover for an appropriate audience (after all they’re not marketing to teenage boys), about 1,000 offended readers wrote in to comment about how inappropriate the cover was: “I was SHOCKED to see a giant breast on the cover of your magazine,” one person wrote. “I immediately turned the magazine face down,” wrote another. “Gross,” said a third.

The editor is quick to point out that really, the cover is just part of a larger debate: should women have the right to breastfeed in public? Many women wrote in to point out that a breast is a sexual object and therefore inappropriate for the cover. But the editor points out that most nursing women want to be discreet, they are not, “whipping them out with tassles on them for all to see.”

Furthering the heated debate over breastfeeding in public is a recent public ad campaign that likens not breastfeeding to putting your baby at serious risk for injury and illness. It shows the image of a woman who is very pregnant, riding on a mechanical bull. “You wouldn’t put your fetus at risk, why put your baby at risk,” asks the ad.

I personally don’t have a problem with it, although I do think it’s a little insensitive. There are numerous countries where women just lift up their shirts, where breasts are seen for what they are: useful feeding tools. While I fully support breastfeeding, I doubt that advocates are going to win anyone over by the shock value of a breast. I would even point out that in most publications that promote breastfeeding (like La Leche League) breasts are only shown in the context of showing how to latch on. General promotional materials show a breastfeeding infant with the mother covered up. Maybe it’s time for change.

I have nursed my children everywhere and anywhere. If a baby is breastfed, well, you do what you have to do when you have to do it. However, I try to be discreet as possible.

For those who would say that there should be laws against breastfeeding in public. . .well, I can buy that too. As long as there are laws against women dressing in short skirts in public. Or wearing shirts and tank tops that are too skimpy. I also find boys that wear their pants down so low that there underwear are showing, to make me uncomfortable as well. If as a society we decide that we want everyone to dress modestly all the time (and that we want a law to define modesty for us) well then, by all means I’ll go hide every time I have to nurse one of my babies.

What’s your take on the cover? Does it offend you? Is it appropriate given its readership? Is it O.K. if they had maybe put it in the middle of the magazine instead of on the cover?

Related Articles:

Practices That Promote Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding Ads vs. Formula Company Lobbies

Breastfeeding: When People Just Don’t Get It

Don’t Be a Breastmilk Bully