After a slight lull following the dull roar following TIME’s now-legendary breastfeeding cover (and the endless debates it inspired over whether moms today can – or should even want to – have, or do, it all), breastfeeding controversy has, over the last several weeks, landed itself back in the news. Let’s take a look and break it down:
First, just about everyone’s caught wind, by now, of the controversy still swirling around the American University assistant professor who breastfed her sick baby during class. Adrienne Pine, the professor, brought her child to class in lieu of missing its first day herself, (she decided not to send her sick baby to daycare, where she’d have exposed other babies to fever-inducing germs.) At one point, while still teaching, Pine nursed her daughter to sleep.
My thoughts, as a mom? “Go Mama! Way to get it all done in less-than-ideal circumstances.” But one of her students’ (who happened to be a writer for the University newspaper) thoughts? “I see a story/ issue/potentially sensitive situation happening here.” I can understand the students’ perspective, too; she, as a woman who has not yet breastfed herself, and who lives in a culture in which breasts are presented almost entirely as sexual accessories (yet drum up major controversy when they make appearances feeding babies), assumed her professor was making a statement, rather than dealing with the very real kinds of decision-making and responsibility-juggling that working moms in America juggle Every. Single. Day. But this student (and other people who make similar assumptions when they see women breastfeed in public) would do well to understand that breastfeeding women not appearing on the cover of TIME magazine are, most often, also not attempting to make a point; they’re simply feeding babies.
This particular controversy arose out of a misunderstanding that takes place nearly constantly between breastfeeding women and the public-at-large. But I agree with this writer in asserting it’s also a real-world example of other issues we should all be thinking and talking about (and would be if they weren’t being totally overshadowed by our weird American brand of ambivalence around breasts): issues relating to working parents, and childcare options, for example.
It’s also worth noting that one of the reasons this controversy became a controversy at all is because Pine took immediate offense to the student’s (albeit cumbersome) inquiries regarding the breastfeeding ‘event’ in question. And sure, it sucks to be taken for a PSA billboard when you’re just trying to feed your baby… but if you’re teaching a class on gender politics and an obviously applicable situation does happen to land in your lap (slash inbox)? Teach! ... And watch the potential controversy diffuse. (Just saying.)
Do you think it was appropriate for Pine to breastfeed during class? Did this need to become a controversy at all? Comment here!
Speaking of making statements, Jamie Lynn Grumet (of said famous TIME magazine cover) has now posed for another breastfeeding cover (a la this post’s main image). I’ve seen a whole range of responses to this one, from “Now this is a tasteful breastfeeding cover,” to “Another creepy breastfeeding cover from the TIME mag mom.” Frankly, I think it’s totally fine… but I kind of liked the first one, too . (Grumet, evidently, wasn’t exactly happy about it.) Extended breastfeeding doesn’t freak me out (not at three years old, anyway), and I appreciate that this current cover features the whole family, including Grumet’s adopted son. They're a modern American family, doing their thing. Go team.
Do you like Grumet’s latest cover? Speak your mind here!
In other news, a recent study showed breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from depression as adults . Pretty cool! I’m not entirely surprised. No one debates that breastfeeding bestows a whole array of health benefits upon mom and baby alike, and it’s always intriguing to see more evidence around breastfeeding’s long-term positive effects. This is precisely why breastfeeding is considered so important and why our workplaces and public spaces alike are being asked (specifically by the AAP and policy-makers nationwide) to support mothers in successfully nursing for as long as they choose to, or can. I’m not saying all women must breastfeed or that it’s the only way (required disclaimer: I supplemented heavily with formula and I’m okay with that). I’m saying I’m in support of – and just plan interested in – the science around breastfeeding, because it fuels changing policy more than anything else does. And if the combined effect is fewer depressed Americans thirty years from now? Well hey, that’s good news, too. (It should be noted that the correlation between breastfeeding and lower depression rates is not exactly direct, and could be tied to a number of factors. Click here to read more.)