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Posted by Dr. Claire McCarthy December 11, 2013 07:46 AM
I never expected to say this, but I'm grateful to Gisele Bundchen.
I'm grateful because of a picture of her--not a fashion picture, but a picture of her breastfeeding her daughter while getting her hair done that she sent out on Instagram. As she described it herself, she's multitasking: getting ready for a shoot, and feeding her baby. She makes it seem totally ordinary. Well, it's hard for anything to seem entirely ordinary when it's Gisele Bundchen, and most of us don't have "beauty squads." But in the picture, it's totally no big deal that her breast is exposed and her baby is on it. She's just feeding her baby.
That's exactly what we need.
This picture wouldn't cause a stir at all if she'd been feeding Vivian with a bottle. But because there is an exposed breast involved, well, it has caused a stir. That's the part that is a problem in our society. Seeing the picture made me feel like part of a sisterhood with Gisele. ( I never expected to say that, either.)
I breastfed all my children--and sometimes, I would be out and about or simply just not alone one of them needed to be fed. So I would pull up my shirt and feed my baby. And while there weren't many times that anybody actually said anything to me, there were lots of times when people gave me funny looks or made it clear that having me expose a breast was not so okay with them (especially when the baby was distracted and pulled off from time to time, leaving my nipple exposed). I would always try to do things discreetly, but it kind of bugged me that I had to rush to cover exposed skin. After all, I was just feeding my baby.
I persevered and breastfed in public (my youngest daughter refused to take bottles, so I had no choice). But many women don't persevere--or just feel too self-conscious and uncomfortable about breastfeeding in front of others. So they pump breast milk and give it through a bottle, or give formula. From a breastfeeding standpoint, neither is as good as feeding a baby directly from the breast--that's the best way to ensure a good milk supply, and ensure that the baby doesn't get lazy and start preferring a bottle nipple. Our societal discomfort with public nursing is a real reason many women breastfeed less, or stop, or never start at all.
Women shouldn't have to feel that way when they are just feeding their baby.
I think we should start a movement. I think we should join Gisele in her social media endeavors. I think breastfeeding women everywhere should post pictures of themselves breastfeeding their babies while doing their ordinary, day-to-day stuff (their equivalent of being made up by a beauty squad.) We could use the hashtag #justfeedingmybaby. I don't think I have any of myself from those days, but I'll happily retweet and like and otherwise promote other moms' pictures--as I hope other people will do as well.
Let's say loud and clear that breastfeeding is just that: feeding. Not every woman chooses to breastfeed, or can breastfeed, but if they do, they should be able to do it anywhere without feeling any discomfort or judgment. It's not a political thing. It's not about sex. It's just feeding a baby. It's wonderfully ordinary.
Go for it: #justfeedingmybaby.
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About MD MamaClaire McCarthy, M.D., is a pediatrician and Medical Communications Editor at Boston Children's Hospital . An assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and a senior editor for Harvard More »
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