So a couple years ago, R&B singer Eric Benet shared a photo of his wife Manuela Testolini via Instagram, breastfeeding his newborn daughter. He shot the pic because the baby was incidentally holding up her fingers in what looked like a peace sign. Benet didn’t consider the fact that his wife’s breast was exposed at the time.
Well, he got the backlash of his life from people who, apparently, believe breasts should only be shown in social media when squeezed inside teenie tiny bikinis or bursting out the side of an A-lister’s red carpet dress. When shown nourishing a baby it elicits all sorts of queasiness and uneasiness among audiences.
For too many people, breasts are sexual and should only be shown or used as sexual objects. The idea of a baby nursing makes them uncomfortable and they simply cannot handle it.
Two years later, it’s 2014 and Miami Dolphins
linebacker Philip Wheeler
‘s girlfriend model Ashley Nicole
decided to take to her Instagram page to share a photo of herself breastfeeding her baby on the run.
“Was on the way out the door but then mommy duty called,” she captioned the above photo “…Everything stops for him! #breastisbest #natureisbeaufitul”
Not so fast, you nursing advocates.
In no time, the image went viral and all sorts of folks who apparently grew up learning to be ashamed of something as natural as nursing went to town, cursing out the mom, calling her all sorts of names on her own Instagram page which many of them had never ever before frequented. Yeah, going all out of their way to leave whatever website they were trolling or stalking to go to this woman’s page and berate her.
I could blame sites like TMZ
and Bossip which posted
about the story asking “Is it inappropriate” and certainly siccing their legions of followers on the poor woman.
I hate people sometimes.
Some said the photo and words were not shared to advocate for breastfeeding but to draw attention to mom who is a Ford model and was well-dressed and in shades. Why stop to get a third person to take a photo for Instagram, if it was just natural and incidental, they ask? Only, she was dressed to go out at the time as she mentioned in the photo and she probably figured while stopping to breastfeed, she might as well share the moment with her followers and promote breastfeeding at the same time. Kill two birds with one stone.
The bullying was so intense Wheeler told TMZ Sport
that people should back off .
“”I wish everybody would just leave it alone,” Wheeler said. “She’s a model. She takes pictures for a living.”a
Nicole eventually deleted her Instagram account altogether!
According to the Center for Disease Control, 26% of babies are never breastfed.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics research, human milk-feeding decreases the incidence and/or severity of a wide range of infectious diseases including bacterial meningitis, bacteremia, diarrhea, respiratory tract infection, necrotizing enterocolitis, otitis media, urinary tract infection, and late-onset sepsis in preterm infants.
In addition, post-neonatal infant mortality rates in the United States are reduced by 21% in breastfed infants.
It should come as no surprise that much of the “hate” came from the black and African American community which seemingly has a less than supporting appreciation for breastfeeding and especially for breastfeeding in public. The CDC
also reports that African Americans
are less likely to breastfeed their children.
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies report
s that Blacks stop breastfeeding sooner than other races, setting up their children for higher incidences of illnesses and diseases that non-breastfed children succumb to at a higher rate than those who were nursed.
The report also links higher rates of infant mortality and low birth weight to lack of breastfeeding.
There is a taboo about it among the black community, perhaps, and those who nurse for too long are not encouraged or supported and are sometimes egged on to stop breastfeeding after a few weeks or months. Although to be fair, shorter breastfeeding times are also linked to low income mothers who have to report to work earlier and have shorter maternity leave and/or work in settings where they do not have a private place to pump and store their milk for their babies.
Kim Durdin-James, national president of the African-American Breastfeeding Alliance (AABA), summed it up well in saying, “In the best of times, breastfeeding is the optimal feeding choice for young children because it provides babies with all vital nutrients for growth and development, but in times of disaster, breastfeeding can mean the difference between life and death.”
Then there are those who bashed Nicole specifically because she was not wed to her baby’s father. Some said that Gisele Bunchen didn’t get the same amount of backlash because she was married when she shared a similar photo last November.
But Bundchen wasn’t the first.
Xena the Warrior Princess actress and model Lucy Lawless who was photographed (above) for World Breastfeeding Week in 2002.
Singer P!nk shared a photo of herself breastfeeding via her Instagram account, although she has since deleted the image.
Australian Model Miranda Kerr tweeted a photo of herself in 2011 breastfeeding her daughter in between costume changes during a photo shoot on her personal blog, which is currently taking a hiatus.
It shouldn’t matter if she’s married or not, a model or an actress, sharing a natural act shouldn’t be shamed or shunned. Whether it is considered oversharing or too private for Instagram or not is up for debate and up to the individual person sharing.
We say kudos to them if destigmatizing it will eventually make it less unpopular among some groups.
Keep on brave women.