Breasts on a Plane


For Every Step Forward: So far this month, we’ve seen Deaf artist Matt Daigle’s wonderfully designed breastfeeding logo win a national contest (that’s the logo in blue and white). We’ve learned of new research touting the mental health benefits of breastfeeding for children. But then, for all the progress and enlightenment we’ve supposedly achieved in our so-called advanced society of 2006, we have this: A mother, nursing her child on a plane while awaiting departure, was ordered by a flight attendant to cover up her child’s head with a blanket – or get off the plane, which she and her family eventually did.

The Good and the Bad Breast: What kind of society are we living in, where flight attendants find breastfeeding offensive and a BabyTalk magazine cover gets flak for showing a baby nursing at the breast? As Marilyn Yalom, author of the fascinating read, A History of the Breast, notes, contradictions surround female breasts. They are benevolent symbols of life, nature, and nurture; they are X-rated symbols of sexuality and lust. Breasts can be displayed in skin-tight shirts or barely-there bikini tops; but a nipple should never be displayed when a woman is breastfeeding. Breasts are entertaining in MTV videos and Renaissance-era statues and paintings; breasts should be covered up and harnessed in constricting bras.

Support for Nursing Mothers: It’s time for people to stop acting squeamish and silly when it comes to breastfeeding in public or catching a glimpse of a breast. There’s no need for anyone – mothers, children, or adult onlookers – to be embarrassed or ashamed about breasts or breastfeeding. There’s no need for nursing mothers to stress themselves out by trying to construct a tent-like shield around an exposed breast and nursing child. There’s no need for prudish parents to pass on to their children shameful messages about breasts and breastfeeding. For the de-planed mother, the law is on her side, as well as 30 parents who protested the airline’s actions at a nurse-in at the airport where the incident occurred. Let’s hope that Matt’s logo helps create a healthier and more supportive breastfeeding environment.

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