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Are Natural Birthing Supermodels Miranda Kerr & Gisele Bündchen Inspiring Or Smug?

Miranda Kerr, who gave birth to a nearly 10 pound baby just two months ago, wowed the crowds when she hit the runway for Balenciaga in Paris this week. She looks fabulous and, according to one observer, as if she’d never given birth.

Kerr has been vocal about her enthusiasm for non-medicated birth and breastfeeding, though she hasn’t claimed these are the reasons for her quick turnaround.

“I gave birth to him naturally; without any pain medication and it was a long, arduous and difficult labour but Orlando was with me the whole time supporting and guiding me through it,” she has said. She has also mentioned that she, “intend[s] to breastfeed for as long as I can. My breast milk will give our little Flynn the nutrition he needs for his continued healthy development and to all mums out there I am sure you will make the right choice for you and your baby.”

The genetically blessed have been doing a lot for natural birth and breastfeeding lately. Gisele Bündchen spoke highly of her son’s water birth and even put forth the idea that breastfeeding should become a law. It all feels like good PR for the naturally inclined, but I wonder if the magnificent examples set by these impossibly gorgeous women might do more alienating than good. These extraordinary modeling, birthing, breastfeeding women might just make most regular, mostly overweight, American women feel like failures by comparison. We are talking about bodies when we’re talking about birth and breastfeeding. To have the abnormally perfect ones be the role models, could make all this stuff seem out of reach. You’re not thin enough. Or natural enough. Or milky enough. Snarl! And then there’s the backlash. Regular women don’t need that kind of pressure! It’s all pressure! Enough guilt! I am writing to defend my medicated birth! I’m speaking out!

But the problem is: Medicated birth doesn’t technically need defending. It’s the status quo. I support “natural” childbirth and breastfeeding, not because I think they are superior to the alternatives, but because I think these choices are not supported enough by the mainstream US maternity care system. If I had been alive 100 years ago I’d have been fighting for decent pain relief in labor, as the Suffragists did. But these days, we’re good on that count.  Now we need to tilt the balance back a little bit so that women have some other options, too.

Let’s get back to the supermodels. Two equally gorgeous women elicited two totally different responses. Bündchenspoke highly of her “natural” choices, but then she made a fatal error: She told women what to do. Even breastfeeding advocates were put off by Bündchen’s pushiness. Sure, she said later that she was just trying to make a point, but clealry no one should joke about mandating how women feed their babies. Kerr seems to have learned from Bündchen’s P.R. gaff. She has thus far been careful to speak honestly– her birth was un-medicated and really hard and painful – and to give other mothers her vote of confidence that they’ll make the choice that works for them when it comes to breastfeeding. I think this plays out in the civilian population as well. As long as you don’t start telling women what to do with their bodies, you have a good shot at making your point.

What do you think? Does the gorgeous image of Miranda Kerr inspire you to breastfeed? Or just make you worried that there’s another ideal up to which you can’t possible live.


This is the second post in my week-long series exploring themes of “natural” birth.

Read “10 Home Birth Lessons For Hospital Births” here.

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