Did you follow the recent Oscar nominations and the consequent backlash that for a second year running only caucasian actors had been nominated? Lots of fingers have been pointed, both at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, but also the industry in general for the decisions that lead to white actors being cast in 73% of speaking roles in Hollywood films.
This may not seem like a big deal, but Gene Rodenberry made a stand back in the 60’s and made Star Trek an ethinically diverse TV show. He believed (at a time when the parts of the US were deeply segregated) that this would normal in the future. This not only inspired Whoopi Goldberg to become an actress, but a generation of women into science.
So what on earth has this got to do with a breastfeeding fashion blog? Well, CIBII repeatedly talks about how little fashion there is out there that suits our needs. But that is just a symptom of a bigger problem. Breastfeeding mothers are often thought of as such a tiny minority of women which are not worth bothering with, or even worse, easy to depict as strange. If you think this is a little paranoid it has been researched by the British Medical Journal with the concern that the media’s portrayal of breastfeeding putting off mothers from trying. Imagine this happening during an episode of Newsnight or even Loose Women.
An often repeated adage is that when you support breastfeeding or warn of the potential dangers of using formula, you are being hurtful to the women who tried to breastfeed and weren’t successful. This was certainly the response from The Sun when I complained about an article and asked for evidence of other articles showing balanced coverage of the subject. The article in question stated a significant number of breastfeeding women were sexually aroused or even experienced orgasms whilst feeding their children.
Who exactly benefits from keeping breastfeeding hidden? Not the new mum, scared to go out because of the fear of a bad experience while nursing in public. Nor the next generation of children who will be at a higher risk of infections, allergies, obesity and diabetes, or the NHS which will have to find the funds to treat them. Certainly not the women who want to feed but are struggling and cannot get the support they need. And finally, not even the parents who formula feed out of choice or necessity, and are told a product is almost as good breastmilk when it isn’t even close.
You are probably reading this because you are interested in breastfeeding, or support those who do. But chances are you aren’t an opinionated loudmouth who regularly gets into fights with people in the media. And that is probably a good thing. Then again, I do not have the self confidence to post ‘brelfies’, let alone one of me in a bikini, rocking sunglasses and a hat.
But there are hundreds of ways you can make a difference. If you are or were a breastfeeder it’s ok to share your experiences, please just focus on your successes and tips, rather than your horror stories. If you come across a mum feeding her baby a smile, a word of encouragement or a drink (water rather than alcoholic on most occasions) goes a long way. One of our members, Sarah, said:
Had my first comment from someone about bf in public today, an older lady looked at my son and said ‘ooh you look like you’re enjoying that! I miss when mine were little like that!’ made my day!
Every time you spend money you are telling companies what is important to you. I make choices every day from drinking Fairtrade coffee and choosing not to spend money with organisations that avoid paying tax or have poor human rights records. You might consider boycotting Nestle.
Even a very supportive companies such as Aldi occasionally need a nudge. Last year they were advertising a nursing pillow during one of their numerous baby events. A perfect opportunity for a picture a nursing mum (the clue is in the name). But instead they used a mother bottle feeding a baby. I was one of many people who contacted Aldi to express my disappointment. This year they have a another pillow and instead of it being a nursing pillow with a nursing mum, it’s a dad feeding baby with a bottle on a v-shaped pillow. I remind myself that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Before you mention it, there are plenty of models who breastfeed and there is an agency in New York called Expecting Models who specialise in supplying mum and baby for photoshoots.
Not everyone can stand up in front of the local council and make a speech like this amazing mum, but modern communications and social media make it much easier to get in touch with policy makers, both political, commercial and the world of TV. I recently used Twitter to encourage MEP to vote to tighten the laws regarding the food we feed our babies and at Westminster it looks as though an All Party Parliamentary Group on infant feeding is being formed. Please join me in keeping abreast (sorry couldn’t resist) of their activities and making sure that they work to the benefit of our children and not for the multinational corporations.
Finally, it is my ambition to get nursing mums onto TV as much as possible So the next time Gogglebox start auditioning, you know what to do ladies.