The small blue-eyed girl sucks a breast close up – Shutterstock
There’s a new extended breastfeeding¬†reality TV show coming to your living room soon. According to the New York Post, Collins Avenue, the production company behind ‚ÄúDance Moms‚ÄĚ and ‚ÄúAmerican Stuffers,‚ÄĚ newest reality series (currently in the works) takes a look at mothers who breastfeed older children. Now, although I’m all for breastfeeding education and promotion, I’m not down with reality TV giving their spin on the already controversial¬†topic of¬†extended¬†breastfeeding.¬†I haven’t had cable TV in my house for years, but I remember how¬†negative, unflattering¬†and fake reality TV shows seemed when I did have cable. ¬†In my wildest happy dreams, I can’t imagine that a reality TV show will portray extended breastfeeding in a¬†positive¬†light or further parents education on breastfeeding. What I think will happen is that the show will find the least average, most controversial-minded breastfeeding moms out there and make them look horrid, thus sparking a slew of uneducated, rude viewer comments and unproductive media coverage. That’s not breastfeeding promotion, that’s breastfeeding exploitation.Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.
Consider¬†the recent, and extremely¬†controversial, Time Magazine cover, showing a mom breastfeeding a four-year-old. Was the magazine cover productive and helpful for breastfeeding¬†moms? not so much. While the magazine piece did garner some breastfeeding support, it also encouraged a massive Tweet/blog-fest that included a slew of negative breastfeeding comments. In fact, Jamie Lynne Grumet, Time’s cover model for the breastfeeding story, was even discouraged by the breastfeeding image Time used. Grumet told KellyMom that during the Time photo shoot, they got an excellent shot of her holding and breastfeeding her sleeping son, which was more¬†representative¬†of real¬†breastfeeding¬†experiences, but the news magazine¬†decided to go with the standing up breastfeeding image instead. Grumet notes, “A better tagline with a better picture (one that didn‚Äôt reinforce breastfeeding myths) might have been more embraced.” In most cases, mass media, like magazine covers and reality TV aren’t here to promote normalcy but controversy, which doesn’t help when it comes to¬†promoting¬†breastfeeding education efforts.
I’m also against this show idea because we’re not a country that can maturely handle breastfeeding on the small (or large) screen. Seriously, we’re talking about a country (and¬†culture) where only 1/3 of moms meet exclusive breastfeeding goals. Current CDC reports show that just 22.4% of U.S. babies are still being breastfed at 12 months. We’re a country that freaks when Michelle Obama tries to promote breastfeeding as an important health issue, where women are fired for breastfeeding¬†and we have to hold breastfeeding sit-ins just to make a point that it’s a-okay to feed babies in public. In fact, we’re so¬†negative¬†about breastfeeding in the USA that some are even pushing to make breastfeeding a civil right. Obviously American parents and non-parents alike are uncomfortable with even the simple issue of breastfeeding infants, let alone breastfeeding toddlers and beyond.¬†We for sure need better breastfeeding support and education offered via health care professionals, peers and carefully planned public service¬†announcements. What we don’t need are kooky reality¬†television shows that are sure to exploit breastfeeding myths and add more discomfort to the subject.
If you think any coverage of breastfeeding is good coverage, I’d encourage you to take a look at Support with Integrity, a pledge that encourages, among other things, for people¬†to, “Use their energy to help defuse dogmatic battles about what technique, position, frequency, equipment, duration or organization a woman chooses for breastfeeding.”¬†This pledge also notes, rightly, that our time is best spent directing our energy towards positive, encouraging support for mothers who want to successfully breastfeed. Reality TV just doesn’t fit into Support with Integrity at all.