I am thrilled to feature the following guest post from Avital Norman Nathman, author of the anthology The Good Mother Myth coming out in January.
A few days ago, supermodel and mom Gisele Bundchen posted a picture of herself nursing her 1-year-old daughter. The photo, which Gisele captioned “What would I do without this beauty squad after the 15 hours flying and only 3 hours of sleep #multitasking#gettingready.” showed her sitting in a chair being made up by a team of stylists while donning a white robe and breastfeeding her daughter.
It’s no surprise, that the picture drummed up quite the reaction. Someone from TheMoms.com showed up on Good Morning America, stating that breastfeeding is “a very personal choice” and that the photo is “obnoxious” and “a little outrageous.” Fortunately, not everyone felt the same way. Most people championed Gisele for normalizing breastfeeding, especially of an older baby and I have to agree. There is something incredibly powerful about seeing women going about their day to day lives while engaging in normal tasks of motherhood, like breastfeeding. It’s one reason that I appreciate seeing pictures of Italian MP Licia Ronzulli wearing her baby to parliamentary proceedings.
However, while I love the picture Gisele posted to her Instagram, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated that the average nursing mother does not have the same support or financial ability to make breastfeeding as easy or carefree. The reality is that most women head back to work due to the lack of paid maternity leave and are faced with jobs where there is little support when it comes to pumping or breastfeeding, despite legislation.
While our society can tout “breast is best” all it wants, the reality is that we lack the policies needed to ensure every mother who wants to breastfeed can. The reason this is so disheartening is that breastfeeding quickly falls into one of the battles in the so-called “Mommy Wars.” Women pit themselves against each other over who is the better mom. Did you breastfeed or bottle-feed? I have seen Facebook postings devolve into messy, heated arguments over this, and have heard of more than one real life friendship coming to a head over this debate.
Unfortunately, in these types of battles, nobody wins, especially mothers. Instead of fighting each other, we should be fighting the system that holds us back and does not allow for equal access to the support needed to succeed.
Avital Norman Nathman, is a freelance writer whose work places a feminist lens on a variety of topics, including motherhood, maternal health, gender, and reproductive rights. Her work has been featured in Bitch magazine, Every Mother Counts, The New York Times, xoJane, CNN, and more. In addition to her blog, The Mamafesto, Avital has a regular series for Ms. Magazine’s site, and a regular feminist parenting column for The Frisky. Her first book: The Good Mother Myth (Seal Press) will be out January 1st and is currently available for pre-order.
About Brian Leaf
Brian Leaf is author of forthcoming parenting memoir, Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi: Cloth Diapers, Cosleeping, and My (Sometimes Successful) Quest for Conscious Parenting as well as the yoga memoir Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi: My Humble Quest to Heal My Colitis, Calm My ADD, and Find the Key to Happiness. You can find him online at www.misadventures-of-a-yogi.com.