In April, Instagram lifted its ban on breastfeeding selfies, allowing mothers all over the world to share photos of their most intimate moments with their children. Despite the removal of this ban, certain followers of nursing mothers responded outrageously, flagging the photos as “inappropriate” and leaving long and offensive comments.
On September 4, actress Alyssa Milano posted a breastfeeding photo on Instagram to celebrate her daughter’s birthday. The photo’s sole purpose was to communicate how thankful she is for her daughter but the message was largely ignored by an audience that badgered the actress with hateful comments. However, this did not stop Milano, who continues to post various photos of breastfeeding her children in hopes to normalize the act.
“I think people are more comfortable sexualizing breasts than relating them to what they were made for, which is feeding another human,” Milano said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight.
Milano is not the first to experience the unjustified backlash of commenters after posting a breastfeeding photo. In fact, the comments don’t stop on social media. Regardless of breastfeeding laws that were passed in all states except Idaho, women continue to face disgust and threats when they choose to provide nourishment to their children in public.
In Missouri, mother Tiffany Morgan was given two options at a Denny’s restaurant when she was spotted breastfeeding her hungry daughter. Morgan was asked to either cover her breast, or stop the action altogether. When Morgan refused, she was forced to leave the restaurant.
When mothers are told to “cover-up” or “go somewhere private,” we send them the message that nursing their child is disturbing. Society forces them to relocate to an isolated setting, as if the necessary action is dirty or personal. Most upsetting about these incidents is the complete disregard for how natural of an act breastfeeding is. We seem to forget that we were once all dependent on our mothers for nourishment, crying in their arms until we were given milk.
We must learn to accept the human body for what it is, especially in regards to a nursing mother. People often sexualize breasts to the point where they are offensive to show in public unless they are showcased in sexual situations. However, if more mothers were seen breastfeeding in public, people wouldn’t be so squeamish about it.
Movements like World Breastfeeding Week work to empower women and their right to feed their children whenever and wherever. According to the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, the movement calls upon “global action to support women to combine breastfeeding and work…ratification and implementation of maternity protection laws and regulations by governments…[and the] inclusion of breastfeeding target indicators…”
Movements like these are necessary to illuminate the importance of breastfeeding acceptance to create a safer environment for expecting mothers.
Instead of turning our heads in outrage, we should contemplate what makes us feel that breastfeeding is an action of privacy and work to prevent further generations of becoming subject to this ignorance.