Should "Sesame Street" Teach Kids About Breastfeeding?
No doubt about it: Breastfeeding still causes controversy. In 2011 alone, a judge ruled that a woman couldn't do it in "his court" and under "his law," and Facebook deleted thousands of photos of mothers with babies at their breasts. Stores have thrown women out for discreetly nursing their infants, angry moms protested at places like Target, and any magazine that shows a nursing mother on their cover still sparks outrage, even if the woman is showing less of her breast than a bikini-clad model on the front of a typical fitness magazine.
Now, some parents are pushing to bring breastfeeding back to public television. Specifically, on "Sesame Street."
Related: What I really think about breastfeeding -- 8 moms share their stories and opinions
In the 1970s and 1980s, the landmark show routinely talked about nursing as a normal and natural part of childhood. In this clip from 1977, guest star Buffy St. Marie breastfeeds her baby while Big Bird watches. "See? He's drinking milk from my breast," she explains to the curious bird. "At first, when he was just born and very tiny, this was all that he wanted and all that he needed. But now that he's getting bigger, see, I mash up fruit and vegetables and sometimes a little meat, and as he gets older he'll need more and more different kinds of food to eat."
A decade or so later, Sonia Manzano, who played Maria, nursed her real-life daughter, Gabi -- so bundled up in a blanket that only her tiny hand was showing -- while an older child asked questions. "Is that the only way you can feed her?" the child asks. "Oh no, sometimes I feed her this way, and sometimes I feed her with a bottle," Maria replies. "But you know? I like this way best. It's natural, it's good for her, and I get to hug her more."
In both segments, the women are completely covered up. In fact, if it weren't for the fact that little Gabi was kicking and stretching, one might think Maria was pretending to nurse a doll. But by the 1990s, "Sesame Street" had stopped airing those clips, and had edited a breastfeeding shot out of the montage for their popular song, "You're My Baby."
Now, some parents are asking the show to promote breastfeeding again. As of January 10, more than 2,600 people had signed a petition asking the public television program to do so. But others are offended that the long-running children's show -- which routinely features story lines on potty training, younger siblings, and meal times -- would consider showing a baby being fed from a breast instead of a bottle.
"There are a LOT of things people might consider 'normal' and 'natural', but many of them do not belong on TV or in public, including this," "Steve68112" commented at The Huffington Post. "This does not belong on TV or in public, it is gross."
Over at Sheknows.com, other commenters felt that the public television icon was overstepping its bounds, even though it had touched on the topic in the past without a problem. "While I agree breastfeeding is important, I don't think Sesame Street is the place to have it," "Ula from Michigan" wrote. An anonymous poster added her two cents: "I wouldn't stand behind bringing it to 'Sesame Street'. I do not feel it is their place to educate a small child on nursing."
And yet… it wasn't that long ago that some of the toddlers watching "Sesame Street" were being breastfed themselves. And many of those young Elmo fans probably see their own moms nursing younger siblings at home, so the visual is more likely to be familiar to them than awkward.
What do you think? Is it appropriate for a show like "Sesame Street" to talk about breastfeeding?
Also on Shine:
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Breastfeeding moms protest at mall after woman is kicked out of store
Surgeon General wants to improve breastfeeding conditions at work
7 things no one told me about breastfeeding
Breastfeeding my toddler: This wasn't my plan!