August 25, 2016
Written by Aletha Maybank, The Huffington Post
This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.
“Who am I?” I’ve asked myself lately to tell women that they should breastfeed. I don’t have children yet, but as a pediatrician, I know, based on research, evidence, and witnessed experience, that breastfeeding is good for babies, mothers and communities. And for the month of August advocates from across the globe are calling for action to build a better “landscape of breastfeeding support” through efforts such as World Breastfeeding Week, National Breastfeeding Month, and Black Breastfeeding Week. Yet, the fact that we have to dedicate a month to advocate for women to be allowed to use a part of our body for what it was intended for – to feed our babies – baffles me.
Sadly, women continue to be denied the right to breastfeed in many public places, and are shamed for fulfilling the basic need of feeding their hungry babies. Could you imagine being hungry and being told you couldn’t eat your hot dog while sitting at Yankee Stadium watching the game? Even recently Mila Kunis, a Hollywood actress usually provided privileges linked with fame, was not supported in her choice to publicly feed her baby. Imagine what it is like for less privileged moms who are not able to amplify their voices or whose voices may fall upon deaf, unconcerned ears.
In addition to the shaming, formula companies, the health system, and even our own families and peers keep telling us that breastfeeding isn’t healthy, that mothers don’t make enough milk, and that breastmilk isn’t good enough. These messages, often dehumanizing, sexualized, and deflating, are backed up by unsupportive policies and practices in the workplace and society at large. All of this underscores the message that women, especially women of color, are just not good enough, and our bodies are not good enough. Many women don’t feel they have the freedom to determine how to use our own bodies.