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No Surprise. Breastfeeding Image Evokes Strong Opinions

I have written before about the pointless competitions women love to find themselves in when it comes to labor and birth. Another quick way to achieve a very heated debate can be done by simply posting a statement or sharing a photo — of a woman breastfeeding.

Last week Babble shared an image that was featured in Italian ELLE Magazine and asked their Facebook community, “How amazing is this breastfeeding photo from Elle magazine?“. The responses this harmless question received shocked me, but did not surprise me.

Bringing up ‘breastfeeding’ in any capacity seems to open the doors for the debates over what should and should not be seen and how the image of a woman breastfeeding somehow puts down those who could not or did not breastfeed. It also brings out the individuals who have strong opinions on either end of the spectrum — from the idea that breastfeeding is ‘disgusting’ to the other end of the hardcore ‘breast is best’ messages. I expect those comments now anytime ‘breastfeeding’ is mentioned.

What made this particular discussion unique from the typical noise that’s brought up with ‘breastfeeding’ was this image featured a naked (but covered) “older baby” and the Mom — is “sexy”.

When I look at this fashion image I see beauty. I breastfed my youngest until she was just over 2-and-a-half years old and remember (and miss) breastfeeding her in this position (she also preferred to wear little or no clothes). I see a beautiful Mom gazing into her baby’s eyes as she is dressed for a  fashion shoot. Many readers agreed with what I saw but there were quite a few who had very strong reactions on the other end.

  • Nothing is sacred anymore. Way to sexualize feeding a baby to promote sales.” – Allison
  • I’m all for breastfeeding but why did they have to strip the innocence from it and turn it into something kinda sexy?” – Brittany
  • Ok I breastfed my kids but this doesn’t look right to me. No one holds their kid like that and nude. Too much!” – Wendy
  • That nightie is for baiting grown men, and, I feel sure every child molester around will post it on their refrigerator, just because it will give them the rise they need. EVERYDAY breastfeeding doesn’t involve lace see-throughs” – Delores
  • Okay….the look on her face makes this picture a little creepy……” – Brooke

I don’t see anything sexual about this image. That is my perception — my ‘normal’. I think many people in our society are too hung up on breasts being sexual. They can be both! I do think that sharing these images helps normalize. Women come in all different shapes, sizes, clothing and backgrounds and just because someone looks different then what you define as ‘normal‘ does not mean there is something wrong with it. Especially when it comes from something as natural as breastfeeding.

This photo was featured in a European magazine where I bet it was met with much less controversy because the culture appears to be more comfortable with sexuality apart from nursing in public. Based on the people in the Babble Facebook community who took the time to comment on this image with very strong opinions on what is “wrong” with it — I don’t think it would fly in a magazine here. Yet (I hope).

One comment summed it all up for me and I couldn’t have said it better myself:

Well, I never wore anything like that to breastfeed! I’m sure it’s just to make for a beautiful fashion shot. The photo isn’t sexy like some people are saying…..it’s just a sexy mom. They do exist! – Victoria

:: What are your thoughts? Is it possible to share an image without debate? Is there such a thing as “Too Sexy to Breastfeed”? ::

Read more from Devan on Accustomed ChaosUnspoken Grief
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More on Being Pregnant:
Normalizing Breastfeeding With Glamorous Photos
Images of Breastfeeding in Mainstream Magazines
25 Hysterically Funny and Sarcastic Pregnancy ECards

image credit: Amanda de Cadenet/Italian ELLE (title captions added)

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