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Should breastfeeding still be in the news?

American model, Mara Martin, was filmed breastfeeding her infant as she walked down the runway at Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit show. Though, after waking up to seeing her name in headlines, Martin posted an Instagram photo wondering why she was in the news at all.

On Monday, Sports Illustrated shared a video of Martin walking down the runway as she breastfed her baby, who had headphones on to drown out the amount of noise.

Soon after the video was released, the Daily Mail published a story with the headline: “Working mom! Model walks the Sports Illustrated swimsuit runway while breastfeeding five-month-old daughter.” The article was accompanied by several photos.

Martin, herself, posted an Instagram photo that first discussed how amazing it was for her to walk down the runway and how it was a lifelong dream of hers. Though, she added, “I can’t believe I am waking up to headlines with me and my daughter in them for doing something I do every day. It is truly so humbling and unreal to say the least. I’m so grateful to be able to share this message and hopefully normalize breastfeeding and also show others that women CAN DO IT ALL!

“But to be honest, the real reason I can’t believe it is a headline is because it shouldn’t be a headline!!! My story of being a mother and feeding her while walking is just that. Last night there are far more deserving headlines that our world should see,” she continued. Martin noted how there were women going to boot camp before joining the military, how Allyn Rose had a mastectomy, and how Brenna Huckaby survived cancer and is a two-time Paralympic gold medalist.

Stories like this are always a bit of a curious case because the reactions are so often very split. There are mothers everywhere who support women like Martin who do what’s natural without giving it another thought, and there are people out there who think Martin fed her child for attention (a concept I can’t wrap my head around). The comments on Martin’s photo and Sports Illustrated’s video were a pretty mixed bag of support and condemnation, though the majority of comments commended her.

Despite the need to erase the stigma surrounding breastfeeding, Martin also has a point that her feeding a child doesn’t need to outshine the other women who were there. There’s a reason to think about why this is the kind of story that seemingly trumps all others. Martin had a great point that there were other women there who were accomplishing many things, and why is her child having a meal be the talk of the day?

Of course, it’s not fair to insinuate that Sports Illustrated only published the story to gain attention or clicks. Their caption on the video was “GIRL POWER!” and even if Martin doesn’t see it as a big deal, her breastfeeding on a runway sticks it to the people who think that doing something natural needs to be done behind closed doors. But then a weird cycle starts where if stories like this are constantly made into the news, how will people adapt into thinking that it’s an everyday occurrence?

It may not be seen as a ground-breaking move by Martin, her act was bold to many people and is worth talking about. In a way, breastfeeding her child on the runway made it more natural than people may have initially thought. I agree with Martin that she doesn’t need to be in headlines, but she deserves also be commended for taking care of her baby while pointing out that it’s not newsworthy to be a working mother.

Australian politician breastfeeds newborn in Senate – and resigns

Back in May, Australian politician Larissa Waters breastfeed her newborn baby on the floor of the Senate — while she presented a motion to her colleagues!

Technically, politicians in Australia have been allowed to breastfeed in the Senate since 2003; however, no one has taken advantage of this rule, most likely due to the stigma associated with showing your breast in public. Just last year, at Waters’ urging, Parliament changed their rules to allow breastfeeding in their chamber. Parliament also altered laws that allowed mothers or fathers to enter the Senate to help take care of their children while their partners attended to their public duties.

Of course, after video of Waters presenting her motion while breastfeeding went viral (for good reason), there was plenty of criticism. Many people thought it wasn’t polite or respectful for Waters to be feeding her child while in Parliament. Someone actually compared the act to urinating in the Chambers!

Women’s Post won’t go into the different ridiculous and misogynist reasons these critics gave to try and dissuade Waters from breastfeeding while at work. Instead, our staff would like to commend this courageous politician for proving that women shouldn’t be discriminated against for simply having motherly responsibilities.

Waters, unfortunately, was forced to resign from her position earlier this week amid a discovery that she was actually a dual national. Apparently, Waters was born in Winnipeg to Australian parents and despite the fact that she has never lived in this country or applied for Canadian citizenship, she is still considered Canadian. Australia’s constitution says that a “citizen of a foreign power” cannot be voted a representative at Parliament, so she was forced to step back from her position.

Australia should lament. They are losing a great politician and champion of women’s rights.

While this is an absolute shame, I’m sure many Canadians are proud they can call this woman a sister. She is a role model for women who want to get into politics, but may share a fear surrounding the time commitment and the challenges of balancing motherhood and public service. It’s the little things like this that may persuade women to enter into politics.

Either way, let’s hope Waters’ actions encourage other female politicians to break the stigma and breastfeed on the floor of Parliament.

 

What do you think of Waters’ breastfeeding in the Senate chambers? Let us know in the comments below!

Breastfeeding in public: the new trend ?

Recently, controversial YouTube personality Spiritual Tasha Mama, a mum of two from San Diego, has come under fire and even investigation for speaking out on her breastfeeding habits for her two children, ages three and three months. Tasha Maile admitted she once had sex while breastfeeding one of her children, something many called disturbing and distasteful. While this act is questionable, many of her online viewers are even more disturbed by her willingness to display images of her  breastfeeding her children in public and even posting live feeds of the act while working out. While some support her multitasking efforts, many have criticized her choice to display these images publicly.

This isn’t the only instance of controversial breastfeeding in public. It seems breastfeeding itself becomes a topic of conversation in the news every few months, with many people offering their opinion for and against women doing it in public.

Forgetting the controversy for one moment, think of the health benefits breastfeeding has for mother and child  During the first six months of a child’s life, breastfeeding is a convenient and portable way to feed your baby, A mother’s milk is clean, often the right temperature, and packed with custom produced vitamins, minerals, fats and proteins amongst other beneficial ingredients.

The Public Health Agency of Canada often supports breastfeeding infants, as breast milk also contains antibodies to prevent diseases in newborns and it also has been shown to reduce allergies in a child’s development. Essentially, many claim that breastfed babies are even smarter! Though I beg to differ, as I am a formula baby.

Breast milk is also a cheaper option to the expenses of formula. There are many health benefits for the mom as well, as research indicates breastfeeding can lower the risk of certain cancers including breast and ovarian.  The body also releases a healthy emotionally balancing hormone, which is beneficial to the mother after birth.

Over the years, there have been numerous stories that have attracted the media’s attention. One instance includes a Starbucks in Ottawa, where a young woman complained to a male barista about a mother in the café that was breastfeeding her child without a “modesty shield.” This story, however, had a happy ending when the barista provided the mother with a free coffee for having to deal with unpleasant complains and stares. Back in 2014, the spokesperson for Starbucks, Laurel Harper stated that Starbucks does not have an official policy on customer experience or breastfeeding.

There was even a controversial health campaign in Mexico City that featured topless celebrities who were encouraging breastfeeding for new mothers. This was met with backlash from critics who argued the campaign sexualized women and placed shame on mothers who could not breastfeed for medical reasons.  There always seems to be someone that is not too pleased with the display of a woman’s bare breast, or feeding her child uncovered in public, and while people have their opinions, views, and personal preferences when it comes to where they feed their children, women should not be shamed for providing essential nutrients for their babies.

This week, Apple announced a new set of emoji’s for World Emoji Day and notable emojis include a breastfeeding emoji! Now you can add that to your next social media post proud moms. While the debate over breastfeeding may be endless, August 1-7 2017 is marked as world breastfeeding week and the movement is celebrating it’s 25th year in encouraging breastfeeding on a global scale in an aim to attract political support, media attention and participation.

For more information on breastfeeding, visit Eat Right Ontario or consult publichealth.gc.ca.

 

“Whip them out”: breastfeeding in public

“Whip them out. I will breastfeed anytime, anywhere, any place,” mother and breastfeeding advocate, Jesse Tallent said.

Despite the fact that breastfeeding is one of the most natural and beautiful acts between a mother and her new-born baby, women often feel insecure and ashamed about feeding their child in public. This is something Tallent correlates to society’s misconstrued beliefs about breasts themselves.

“Breasts are used to sell burgers or cars,” she said. “Women are often shamed for breastfeeding or for being too confident and showing too much skin.”

Too often are women reported on social media for posting pictures of themselves breastfeeding their child. These pictures are then removed for being “pornographic” or too revealing. This is something that Anne Kirkham, a spokesperson for the Le Leche League of Canada, a national organization that promotes breastfeeding and offers resources for new mothers, says is increasingly common.

“We live in a society that sexualizes breasts so much,” said Kirkham. “When you show your body in media, it is so overly sexualized. It may take awhile to come to terms with it in a new way.”

Similarly to many other women, I decided to breastfeed my daughter when she was born. At first, it was a bit painful, and it was a bit difficult to get my newborn to latch on. But, once I got past those awkward stages, breastfeeding became a time of bonding. I genuinely felt empowered, like there was a stronger connection between myself and my daughter.

At the same time, I felt like it was necessary for me to stay home to feed my daughter. Breastfeeding in public made me uncomfortable, but I was beginning to feel a bit isolated at home. I decided to start slow, by finding a community of moms who were nursing and willing to share in that experience.

“Seeing other moms’ breastfeeding is empowering,” said Kirkham. “When you start to recognize other mothers’ breastfeeding, you may feel more comfortable yourself.”

Other mother’s take this shared experience to a larger platform. Tallent regularly posts photos of herself breastfeeding on social media and hosts online support networks. The goal? to help women gain confidence when breastfeeding in public and to help break through sexualized trends attached to breasts itself.

“My advice to other moms is to take to social media and find a local support group like La Leche,” said Tallent. “Mothers being more open-minded about breastfeeding has taken to social media and has started a movement to change body image.”

Forums such as breastfeed without fear, normalize breastfeeding, and boobies are for babies provide safe spaces for mothers to proudly and openly share this new stage in their lives.

Most public areas —like malls or restaurants — offer a designated nursing station or area for mothers who want to feed their babies. But the whole idea that breastfeeding should be equated with a public washroom is questionable. Is the act considered a bodily function needing to be concealed, or are people genuinely as uncomfortable with the sight of a breast as the sight of a sexual organ?

When my daughter was a bit older and had finished breastfeeding, we were out with a friend who had a newborn baby. He needed to be fed so we went into one of the nursing stations. It was on the other side of the washroom, completely separated by a wall. The sound of the hand dryers was irritating the babies and the washroom smell as difficult to handle. The mothers looked miserable and I will never forgot how ashamed my friend felt as she kept apologizing that we had to be in that space.

Of course, there are nursing stations that are more welcoming and not exclusively attached to the washroom. A private nursing setting can even be helpful for breastfeeding mothers who are more comfortable in an isolated setting.

“I’ve used a nursing room at a mall. It is hard to get him to feed in public because he is so curious. Sometimes you run into other moms too, which is great,” said Tallent.

Another common issue is the general expectation that mothers should cover their babies with a blanket when they feed in public. Kirkham reports this is a common concern for new mothers.

“A lot of mothers complain that their babies get too hot under the blanket or swat at it which distracts the baby and makes the feeding difficult,” she said. “People should think about what it would be like for them to eat under a blanket.”

Tallent was pressured to use a blanket while breastfeeding at her own engagement dinner when her son, Rylan, was two months old. Rylan, she explained, needed to be fed often, but was struggling to latch. A woman she didn’t know approached her and tried to put Rylan’s blanket over his head.

“She was trying to help, but it was inappropriate.” said Tallent. “I had to go into a bathroom to feed him because she wouldn’t leave me alone.”

Most women are unaware that legislation exists protecting mothers and their newborn babies under the Code of Human Rights. According to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, “you have rights as a breastfeeding mother, including the right to breastfeed a child in a public area. No one should prevent you from breastfeeding your child simply because you are in a public area. They should not ask you to ‘cover up,’ disturb you, or ask you to move to another area that is more ‘discreet’.”

As a mother who previously breastfed, I am glad these rights are being protected. I can only hope that society becomes more accepting and that people can learn to view breasts less as sexualized objects and more as a means of providing for a new life. That amazing and natural phenomenon is what truly makes breasts sexy. And that is something we should all embrace.