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”: