Long before formula existed, breastfeeding was how we kept babies alive. It’s a totally normal and natural practice that’s been in place as long as human beings have existed, which is why it makes absolutely no sense that women in 2016 are still being shamed for nursing. This week, breastfeeding-shaming hit a new low when a mom was berated and called a “prostitute” for nursing her baby… in a hospital.
The incident took place in the southwestern town of Makhachkala in Russia. In a now-viral video, doctor Aminat T can be seen yelling at a mom and calling her names before refusing to treat her baby. She reportedly accuses the mom of doing a “striptease show” by breastfeeding her child. The mom then explains that she’s been waiting for the doctor for an absurdly long time and that her baby got hungry, but the doctor doesn’t care.
Rather than apologizing for the delay, the doctor responds by saying she doesn’t “give a damn” about the baby and won’t be treating it. Later in the video, she calls the mom a “prostitute” and a “stripper” and yells for the mom and baby to be removed from the hospital. The conversation takes place entirely in Russian and was mostly translated by local media, but the doctor’s rage is palpable in any language.
Luckily the doctor has been suspended indefinitely, but the shocking video is a reminder that breastfeeding-shaming can happen almost anywhere. You’d expect a doctor, of all people, to understand the benefits of breastfeeding and that it’s totally natural and not at all inappropriate. Unfortunately in this case, it seems the doctor’s personal views on women, privacy and sexuality took precedence over her professional commitment to do no harm.
There’s absolutely nothing sexual or scandalous about a woman breastfeeding her child, but clearly not everyone is on the same page. Breastfeeding moms still face an overwhelming amount of shaming and hostility, especially if they breastfeed uncovered or they happen to be feeding an older child. It seems everyone has an opinion about how moms should be able to use their own breasts and bodies — apparently even medical professionals, who should know better than to shame a woman for feeding her baby.
Unfortunately we can’t don our superhero capes and stop every breastfeeding shamer in their tracks. The best thing we can possibly do for breastfeeding moms is just keep loudly and unabashedly supporting their right to nurse wherever and however they choose. We may not be able to change everyone’s mind, but we can at least work to normalize breastfeeding and show others that shaming moms is never OK. Most important, we can let moms know we have their backs, even when that anti-breastfeeding family member, stranger at the mall or doctor in the hospital tries to make them feel bad for their choices.