CBS Tackles Breastfeeding Etiquette and Ends Up With Milk on Its Face

7 years ago

CBS released an interesting article and slideshow on Monday, just a week after World Breastfeeding Week ended. Perhaps attempting to be tongue-in-cheek about the hotly debated subject of breastfeeding, specifically breastfeeding in public, they managed to confused and offend readers.

The article starts out with talk of how doctors and research state that “breast is best” and then moves on to a discussion of “breast etiquette.” The lead in to the slideshow reads, “9 Places “They” Say You Should Not Breastfeed.” The “they” in quotes refers to... society? Your grandma? Who?

Clicking through to the slideshow, the title then becomes “9 Most Awkward Breastfeeding Situations.” I wasn’t sure what to expect from a slideshow about breastfeeding. I figured maybe we’d see some celebrities nursing in public as they have been a big topic of discussion in the past. Instead, of the 10 slides, only two are actual nursing shots. The rest are stock images of men with bulging eyes, nuns wielding Crucifixes and a woman in a restaurant who is visibly distraught. You know, by your boob.

The advice accompanying the slides is equally confusing. If men are uncomfortable while you’re nursing, they should leave, not you. We are told to be discreet in public, but not told what that means. The picture accompanying that advice shows a mother at the lake, nursing her baby under a blanket while her nipple is pixelated out of the shot. Apparently skimpy bikinis are okay whereas a baby under a blanket is not. Their wording about nursing in a restaurant prime example of the confusion factor:

The law in many states says moms have the right to breast-feed their children at the dinner table, but is a public restaurant really the best place for mother's milk?

Advocates say serve it up, but some doctors worry that if a mom has an infectious illness like HIV, her breast milk can spread the infection to others. So, moms should be careful to keep breast milk off surfaces.

Whatever you do, remember to tip your waiter well.

PHOENIX, AZ - NOVEMBER 21:  Christia Bridges-Jones, of Chandler, Arizona, wears buttons on her chest in front of the Delta Airlines ticket counter during a Nurse In protest at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport November 21, 2006 in Phoenix, Arizona. The mothers were protesting as a result of a prior incident in which Emily Gillette was breast feeding her child on a Delta Airlines flight prior to take off when the flight attendant told her to cover her breast feeding child with a blanket. The flight attendant had Gillette and her family removed from the plane when the mother declined to cover her baby.  (Photo by Jeff Topping/Getty Images)

True, they mention that most states protect a mother's right. But the HIV info? According to the CDC, "Occupational exposure to human breast milk has not been shown to lead to transmission of HIV or HBV infection." More over, like in other forms of bodily fluid, the air and your own stomach acids will likely kill the virus. So, unless the waiter runs up and laps the sprayed breastmilk off the table the instant that it lands there, and he happens to have poor gastric acid, the worry should be minimal. Confusing "information" followed up with an attempt at humor doesn't really help moms seeking advice on the topic.

Perhaps CBS was trying to help mothers who are trying to figure out the ins and outs of public breastfeeding realize that they can nurse in public. Their message, however, got lost somewhere deep in translation. If the pictures matched the word -- a woman at a restaurant sitting across from a nursing mom without batting an eyelash, a man asleep on a plane next to a breastfeeding mother and child -- maybe their intention would be heard loud and clear. Instead, commenters were riled up while shares on twitter and Facebook were quick to point out information while still being offended.

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CBS News and Breastfeeding Situations: The Only Awkward Thing Here Is Bad Information and Demeaning Undertones than a minute ago via twitterfeedThe Stir: Baby

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Purely puerile. I am disgusted with CBS's little display on breastfeeding. via @HygeiaKateless than a minute ago via webAdrienne Uphoff

The good news is that the poll they attached to their "coverage" shows that the majority of respondents support a mother's right to feed her child whenever, wherever. Maybe CBS should take a look at those numbers and reevaluate how they approach the topic next time.

If CBS had the intention of informing mothers about nursing in public and helping them find the most comfortable ways to go about it, they failed. If they merely wanted to achieve traffic from breastfeeding supporters and Internet rubberneckers, they achieved their goal.

What are your thoughts on this confusing article and slideshow? Have you ever been asked not to nurse in public? Do you have advice for other moms?

Jenna Hatfield (@FireMom), from Stop, Drop and Blog and The Chronicles of Munchkin Land, is a freelance writer and newspaper photographer.

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