Breastfeeding photo challenges stigmas, highlights hurdles

The Facebook photo of Serah Small breastfeeding her eight-week-old in an arena change room had drawn more than 1,000 likes and 500 shares by Thursday morning.

A photo of a hockey player breastfeeding her baby between periods has riled social media, and that uproar has some lactation experts bemoaning how such a natural act continues to be sexualized and shamed.

Dr. Dan Flanders of Kindercare Pediatrics in Toronto called negative reaction to the photo ”so incredibly disappointing.”

“In a world that supports women and moms it should be a complete non-issue,” Flanders said Thursday.

“It should be like shopping at the supermarket. It should be like driving in your car to work, it should have no emotional impact but it obviously unveils a lot of hangups that we have in our society now. I guess breasts are very sexualized in our world and people have hangups about sex and sexuality.”

The Facebook photo of Serah Small breastfeeding her eight-week-old in an arena change room had drawn more than 1,000 likes and 500 shares by Thursday morning. In the photo, shared Monday by Milky Way Lactation Services, the Alberta mom is topless but still in her bulky hockey pants and skates.

The image and associated media stories have drawn strong online reaction, the vast majority of it appearing to be supportive, although some comments were not.

“Why do we have to keep going through this every few months,” one reader posts. “I don’t care where they feed their child as long as it’s not in a fine restaurant. Most of these women are just attention seekers anyways.”

Flanders says this kind of public shaming can make a difficult situation worse for some new moms, who are already at risk of feeling sad and isolated. He adds that it’s very common to feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public, partly because of public shaming and a lack of resources to support moms who struggle.

“If we lived in an environment that wasn’t quite so — dare I say — misogynistic and uninterested in supporting new moms, I think they might find it a little bit less challenging to succeed at breastfeeding.”

Stigma reaches far and wide, adds author and lactation expert Jack Newman, who says he, too, gets negative comments online — often from other women who negatively view breastfeeding in public.

“I’ve even had mothers tell me that they were afraid of breastfeeding in front of their own parents. Or the parents-in-law have said, ‘No, you can’t do that here you have to go into the bedroom, not in front of us,” says Newman, pediatrician and founder of the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic in north Toronto.

Then there is the lack of adequate information from obstetricians, who could do much more to educate new moms and head off potential breastfeeding problems as part of prenatal care, he says.

“A lot of OB’s also don’t talk about breastfeeding but they give the mothers a little party pack of (baby) formula,” says Newman.

Margaret Salopek, a clinical nurse educator and lactation consultant at the Grey Nuns Community Hospital in Edmonton, says she’d like to see the working world do more to welcome nursing moms, a move that would go a long way towards quashing lingering stigma.

“We should be looking at ways to accommodate that, like providing the same kind of space you would provide to anybody who’s going to eat their lunch. It shouldn’t be a woman having to go and hide out in a toilet with her breast pump,” says Salopek.

New moms-to-be could also benefit from a more candid conversation with caregivers about how difficult it can be to breastfeed, she adds.

“I’m surprised that they haven’t been given as real a picture as they could be,” she says of some of the women she advises.

Flanders says the media also has a “huge” role to play, blaming it for giving voice “to the radicals on both sides of this conversation … to create as much tumult as they can to sell newspapers.”

He applauded the photo for doing its part to challenge ideas about nursing moms.

“I would imagine that the vast majority of us have never imagined a hockey player breastfeeding their child during intermission.”

The Canadian Press

Just Posted

UPDATED: Island Health warns of overdose spike in Cowichan over past 48 hours

A spike in overdoses in the Cowichan Valley has Island Health officials… Continue reading

Lack of security: why Vancouver Island food production is on the decline

Big Read: agriculture a big, expensive commitment as advocates push to make us more food secure

Ladysmith printmakers hold inaugural show at gallery

Momentum Press to feature over 100 traditional and contemporary prints

Canada Summer Jobs funding creates 26 positions for Ladysmith youth

Youth employment in town is getting a boost from the federal government… Continue reading

Countdown is on to the 2018 B.C. Summer Games

Cowichan Valley hosts on July 19-22

VIDEO: Million Dollar Quartet shines spotlight on Father of Rock ‘N’ Roll

The story of an impromptu jam session that ended up being a… Continue reading

Final week for ALR input

Public consultation process closes April 30

‘When everybody leaves: Counselling key to help Humboldt move on after bus crash

Dealing with life after a tragedy can be the worst part following a loss

Half-naked shooter guns down four, runs away in Nashville Waffle House shooting

Nashville police say they are looking for Travis Reinking in connection with the shooting

Child’s body found in river downstream from where boy went missing during flood

Three-year-old Kaden Young was swept out of his mother’s arms in February

B.C. VIEWS: Eliminating efficiency for farm workers

Don’t worry, NDP says, the B.C. economy’s booming

B.C. student makes short-list for autism advocacy award

Brody Butts honoured for his role as a mentor and self-advocate

Austin Powers ‘Mini-Me’, Verne Troyer, dies at 49

Facebook page confirmed his death Saturday afternoon

Alberta man dead after snowmobile collision on B.C. mountain

The incident occurred on Boulder Mountain Friday morning

Most Read