Today I was catching up on a new blog I've started reading. One of the recent posts was written by a guest, and showcased 10 seriously inappropriate toys for kids. Browsing through selections number one through nine I went back and forth on whether I truly believed these were real toys, and not made up by some sick personality. They really were that bad.
Then I got to number ten: a breastfeeding doll.
Wait. Really? A breastfeeding doll is being lumped into the same category as a cigarette-rolling kit and a unicorn with a penis and balls as it's "horn"?
I checked out the linked video, which promised to be so offensive and horrible and WRONG, figuring I must be missing something. Nope. It's a doll, it comes with a halter top the girl can wear, and then the baby can suckle at her chest.
Now, I realize that since breastfeeding is still considered very taboo by large sections of our population (yes, even today-- shocking, isn't it?) the idea of a young girl pretending to breastfeed might be a little uncomfortable at first. We're just not used to it. But as I thought about this blog post (and the subsequent comments, which pretty much all agreed that a breastfeeding doll was just about the most horrible and creepy thing ever), I remembered all the stories I've heard of moms breastfeeding their younger child, and how older siblings will see this and pretend to breastfeed their dolls. Just as they pretend to do so many other tasks they see us parents do-- change a baby's diaper, sweep the floor, wear our shoes, etc.
So... why is this so disturbing? In the era of "breast is best" why do so many people have such a visceral reaction to a child imitating this natural act? And what does that say about our attitudes about breastfeeding in general?
What I came up with is that we still have this idea that breastfeeding is, at some level, a sexual act (...you know, b/c it involves boobs). Therefore, letting young kids pretend to breastfeed is wrong, icky, almost pedophilic in nature. Nevermind that the girl is fully clothed the entire time.
And I started thinking more about this, and all the other body parts that are involved in sex that are also used in completely non-sexual acts. For example, the penis. Men use their penis for sex, and also to pee. Does that mean that teaching your 2 yr old to use his penis to pee into a toilet is somehow a sexual act, or inappropriate/obscene? Clearly, no.
Another example: the mouth. Mouths and lips play big roles in sexual activity, from kissing to oral sex. Does that mean that other uses for your mouth-- like talking, or eating-- are also sexual? Is a child who sucks his thumb performing an obscene act? Again, no.
So why can we not separate the sexual vs non-sexual roles of breasts and nipples? Why can we not realize that there is NOTHING SEXUAL WHATSOEVER about breastfeeding a baby (or a toddler, or whatever age you choose to breastfeed to)?
(I could also go into the double-standards of being so disturbed by a fully-clothed child holding a baby to her chest to "breastfeed", but not batting an eyelash at an infant girl dressed in a skimpy bikini... but I'm thinking that's a whole other blog post)
The thing is, as long as people still see breastfeeding as sexual, obscene, or just plain "icky," there will be huge barriers in place for mothers who attempt to breastfeed their children. I realize some or even many of you may not agree with me on this post, and I'm taking a risk by writing it. But it's only by talking about these things and (hopefully) getting even a few people to think differently, that anything changes. And things have got to change. It is ridiculous that women are being kicked out of restaurants, airplanes, and pools for breastfeeding (sometimes even when they use a cover). It is ridiculous that moms choose to feed their babies formula bc they feel otherwise they'll be trapped in their homes for that first year, unable to feed their babies in public (this is not the only or even main reason parents choose formula, but I do think many women weigh in the barriers against breastfeeding in their decision not to breastfeed, or their efforts to do so are de-railed because of them). It is ridiculous that women can parade around in a low-cut top with no problems, while a mother can't feed her baby without being harassed or shamed. Especially considering recent findings that breastfeeding saves lives (and no, not just in 3rd world countries... here in the US, too).
I think the perfect way to end this post is by linking to another post, a beautiful piece at PhD in Parenting listing 50 Reasons for Breastfeeding Anytime, Anywhere. Read it. Save it. Pass it on. And yes, breastfeed. However it is YOU (not anyone else) feels comfortable doing so.