Lunch is just not that complicated: Sesame Street on breastfeeding

A while back and elsewhere, there was a conversation about this magazine cover.

Part of the backlash – among breastfeeding mothers of all people! – was around “explanations”. “I don’t want to come across that magazine cover in the supermarket checkout”, they said, “with my child there.” “I don’t have time while I’m shopping to give a lesson on breastfeeding.” “I don’t want to have to stop and explain what that’s about.” “It’s too complicated.”

A lesson? Is every publicly viewable sight the subject of a half-hour down-hands lecture? What do these parents do when confronted by such complex, difficult-to-explain, abnormal public spectacles as, I don’t know, someone having a cup of coffee, or someone eating a sandwich, or someone having a little sit down? How do they ever get through a normal day when their kid is allowed out of the bubble?

This just in: mammals drink milk. It comes from their mums. That’s pretty much all your preschooler needs to know right now. They don’t need a long lecture on lactogenesis II, aymmetrical latch, and the autocrine control of milk output. And if they’re living a normal life, and old enough to be talking in sentences and asking questions about magazine covers? Odds are they will have come across this simple little fact already. Don’t make a big deal about it, and neither will they.

Buffy on Sesame Street went to slightly more detail explaining breastfeeding to Big Bird. This was filmed in 1977, barely at the beginning of the resurgence in breastfeeding in the USA. In 1977, fewer than 45% of American newborns were ever breastfed, and fewer than 20% were receiving any breastmilk by the age of six months. (Lest you think things are going great guns, these days those numbers are something like 70% and 35%.) Check out this snippet, showing how complicated it’s not:

edited 19 Oct 07 to add this second Sesame Street clip – “Mammal Babies”:

Categories: education, gender & feminism, health, Life, relationships

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9 replies

  1. Wow, what a great clip. It really is that simple.

  2. That’s the lamest excuse I’ve ever heard. I bet they are not nearly as concerned as explaining WHY that lady over there is ALMOST NAKED for the MEN.
    And the video was lovely. I always liked Big Bird 😀

  3. Hahaha. I just loved this comment of yours – This just in: mammals drink milk. It comes from their mums.
    Re. the Sesame Street clip, good on them, but that is the most awkward breastfeeding moment I’ve witnessed since I breastfed at work.

  4. When firstborn was very little and breastfed I announced proudly to hubby one day “Hey, I’m a mammal!” I wonder if breastfeeding mothers ever think that perhaps there might be another baby one day that is breastfed and their child might just get the picture then. I don’t think most kids would have difficulty with the idea that mummies feed babies.

  5. Those excuses are the most pathetic, ridiculous, would-be-laughable-if-it-wasn’t-so-sad comments I have heard in a long time.
    I mean, puh-lease. It’s a darn sight less complicated than explaining, say, Zoo magazine to a young kid.
    These are clearly the same sort of people who claim that they NEED to drive a four-wheel drive to ferry the kids around, and that recycling is too complicated.

  6. Exactly. If we grown ups don’t make a big deal of it kids won’t either. The idea that breastfeeding has to be hidden away to avoid offending people’s sensibilities is bizarre and twisted. Far better that kids grow up knowing what breasts are for before they reach puberty and get bombarded with sexual imagery.

  7. They probably are the same sort of people who ‘need’ a tank as family car. I’ve started feeling more sympathetic to such people since acquiring my own carseat, nappy bag, pram, toys, books, food supplies and portacot for any trip that may take more than a coupla hours. Carseats, for example, are now designed with the assumption of a family tank, and they take up most of the backseat in a smaller car. If I hadn’t been dead set against such things before I had a kid, and clear in my reasoning against them, I’d be thinking a new Hummer was a good idea right about now. If I hadn’t been dead set against ‘gear’ I’d have more of it to tote around with the kid, and the need for a larger car would be more extreme. Because cleverly arranging all of that one handed into a seat on the tram, or the boot of a small car, is a bit more than most of us are prepared to take on a regular basis.
    In much the same way, if I hadn’t been well educated about why breastfeeding is promoted. If I hadn’t seen my younger sister and my cousins breastfed and accepted that as normal (in addition to having a really good lactation consultant make it work for us) I’d have given it up. There are a lot of people who become parents without engaging in either lactivism or the environmental movement. They’re (not necessarily) stupid though, and they know smug when they hear it, it get’s their backs up. Slagging them off without explaining why you want it to be easier to breastfeed, to get around with a baby without a car or with a small car, and why your kids will thank you later if you recycle now is pretty unproductive.

  8. Grr. Don’t get me started on Chelsea Tractors. Until our girls were 5 and 7 we drove a ’95 Rover 214Si (top one in this photograph); a small car, small (but fairly gutsy) engine; and were able to take both girls, travel cot, highchair, stuff with us. We hag great little ‘Mothercare’ car seats for when the girls were really wee, and when we went on holiday (400 mile round trip) we’d have a top box.
    There is absolutely no need for those obscene tanks. The only reason we changed cars was because someone pulled into us while we were passing them on the A1(M) at 70 mph, and we spun and rammed them. The car was an insurance writeoff and we (all 6 people in the two cars) were (physically) completely unharmed. If either (or both) vehicle had been a tank, things could have been very different.
    Oh, and I have l33t driving skllliz.

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