During her appearance on The Wendy Williams Show on Wednesday, Milano, 43, found herself right in the middle of a new mother’s most common dilemma. Williams told Milano, who is currently breastfeeding her 16-month-old daughter Elizabella and posts multiple pictures to social media, “I don’t need to see that.” When Milano replied by asking Williams why it was OK to show a provocative picture of Miley Cyrus and not of a breastfeeding mom, Williams explained that breasts are most often seen as sexual. If it was her, Williams said, she would breastfeed in the car:
If you just heard the sound of every breastfeeding mother’s head snapping to attention, it wasn’t your imagination — intentional or not, Williams dropped the biggest breastfeeding bomb that moms are sick of hearing: Why can’t you go in another room, or at the very least, cover up?
And if you’re wondering why we still have breastfeeding campaigns and Breastfeeding Awareness Week that rolls around every August, this is the reason. By now, most people are privy to the fact that “Breast Is Best,” thanks to a long-running government campaign that started back in 1999. But evidenced by Williams’ response with the tired argument that breasts are sexual objects that should be kept private, our nation’s breastfeeding campaigns still have a long way to go.
There’s an even bigger elephant in the room that makes Williams’ comment so explosive. Williams might have said what everyone is thinking, but she isn’t just one unassuming member of the public. Williams is also a fellow mom, who said she tried to breastfeed her now 15-year-old son for a few weeks.
You’d think she would understand.
But in reality, Williams is voicing a common concern that plenty of people have about public breastfeeding, fellow moms included. For the many women who are trying their hardest to overcome the breastfeeding hurdles and make it to even the six-month mark, this lack of support from other mothers comes as a slap in the face. Now we know that it’s not just the non-parents who are feeling uncomfortable when a woman whips out a boob to feed her baby at a restaurant or at the park. Many moms who may have breastfed their own babies are feeling squeamish too.
Williams may have accidentally started yet another Internet parenting controversy, but we can look at her argument as a blessing in disguise. As the saying goes, the first step is admitting you have a problem. And Williams has highlighted a big problem — even fellow mothers aren’t supporting a new mom’s right to breastfeed wherever she wants.
And if mothers aren’t on the same page, how can we expect the rest of the world to treat these women any different? Breastfeeding judgment that includes moms with young children getting kicked out of public places will only continue until moms start backing each other up.
This systemic problem among mothers may seem like it’s hard to fix — because, after all, how are you going to force the mothers who have breastfed before to change their minds? But really, the answer is quite easy, and it’s staring us right in the face: The next time a breastfeeding campaign meme comes through your Facebook feed, fight your urge to scroll on by. Instead, consider sharing a photo or a post about breastfeeding awareness with other mothers in your Facebook circle. Even a small act of support like this can mean the world to a mom who is not only struggling to breastfeed but struggling to find a place to do it.
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