For years, Sesame Street has worked hard to ensure that all types of children see themselves reflected in the characters and stories on the show. Children of different races, religions, abilities, sizes, and interests are featured on the show. Sesame Street has also played a big role in emphasizing childhood nutrition, even making changes recently like cookies becoming a “sometimes food”, planting gardens, and introducing a new food insecure muppet. Sesame Street used to show breastfeeding too. But in recent years, despite major public health campaigns promoting breastfeeding, Sesame Street has been showing nothing but bottles.
Fresh off of the nurse-in that took place at more than 100 Target stores last week, a group of moms are working on another initiative aimed at normalizing breastfeeding. They want Sesame Street to put breastfeeding back on the air.
When she was unable to attend the Target nurse-in last week, Lani Michelle, the mom of a breastfeeding toddler, wrote a post on her blog with a call to Bring Breastfeeding Back to the ‘Street’. As Ms. Michelle’s blog post points out, there were several videos of breastfeeding on Sesame Street in the 1970s and 1980s. However, in the 1990s, Sesame Street updated old videos, such as “you’re my baby” and replaced the clips of breastfeediing with bottle feeding.
In an e-mail, Ms. Michelle wrote:
Women breastfeeding are the images we want to show to our sons and daughters, so that they will view a woman’s body as more then a sexual object. That’s the only way we will see a change in future generations. My hope for this is that all moms, however they chose to feed their babies, come together and support one another.
Comments on recent posts on Care2.com about breastfeeding certainly show that the need to normalize breastfeeding is urgent. Too many people still compare it to urinating (breastmilk is food, not waste) or to sex (nursing is feeding, not sexual activity). In response to the “what if a child sees THAT?” questions from those against nursing in public, most breastfeeding advocates will argue that is exactly what needs to happen. Children, both young children and teenagers, need to see babies being breastfed. If parents take the time to explain to their children that breasts are used to nourish babies, then perhaps boys and girls will understand that breasts are not simply sexual objects.
All it takes is reinstating a few simple scenes like this one from the 1970s to help children understand how babies are fed:
In support of the call to action issued by Ms. Michelle, another breastfeeding mother, Jessica Williams created a petition asking Sesame Street to bring back breastfeeding. Ms. Williams wrote:
I would just like to say that we would like it known that we aren’t starting a breast vs bottle debate or saying Sesame Street should remove bottles. We just want both shown so that our children can learn and see all the normal ways of feeding babies. If our children are brought up in a society where nursing is the norm we will one day end up with more nursing mothers which will help our society, our children, and our mothers.
If you support the normalization of breastfeeding, please sign the petition and tell the producers of Sesame Street that all families deserve to be reflected in their programming.
Photo used with permission from Jessica Williams.