Breastfeeding On Sesame Street Ruffles Big Bird’s Feathers
Boston, January 19, 2012
Bring Breastfeeding Back to Sesame Street (BBBSS) is a group of mothers who want to see Sesame Street bring breastfeeding back to their program. Breastfeeding mother and blogger, Lani Michelle of Boobie Time Blog, posted a call to action via Facebook that asked for mothers to help bring breastfeeding back to Sesame Street. Fellow mom Jessica Williams joined in and started the Care2 petition, together with a team of moms they have garnished over 30,000 signatures since January 2nd, and have received an outpouring of support and media attention, and it is creating a movement for social change. Time: Healthland reports a response from Executive Vice President of Sesame Workshop Sherrie Westin: “There has never been any edict to remove breast-feeding from the show,” says Westin. “We have included it and absolutely would include it again if it were a natural part of the storyline.”
BBBSS states that thirty years ago, nursing was regularly shown on the show, but has since been replaced with bottle feeding. In the 1990’s, Sesame Street updated videos including “You’re My Baby,” and replaced all portions that included breastfeeding with bottle feeding. Decades ago, Sesame Street aired several videos that included guest stars breastfeeding their babies. In a 1977 episode, guest star Buffy St. Marie is shown breast feeding while she explains to Big Bird that breastfeeding is a natural way of providing nourishment for her child.
BBBSS asks that Sesame Street include breastfeeding equally in their programming. The group believes that in order to ensure the health of future generations, children need to see breastfeeding as a natural way to feed a baby. This in turn will make for healthier children, and reduce the risk of breast cancer for many nursing mothers. BBBSS states that the United States has the lowest breastfeeding rates of all western cultures. According the the CDC, in 2011, 74.6% of women in the US attempted to breastfeed, and by age six months only 14.8% of mothers were exclusively breastfeeding.
BBBSS believes there is a lack of social support for breastfeeding mothers. Their goal is social normalcy for breastfeeding through inclusion in media and education. BBBSS believes that exposing young children to breastfeeding in every day situations will help teach them that breastfeeding is normal, and therefore help remove any stigmas associated with it. BBBSS concludes, “Sesame Street has the unique opportunity to take the lead in addressing this issue. Sesame Street has always been devoted to the portrayal of important issues in a positive, age appropriate manner, and BBBSS is confident breastfeeding will be shown the same care.”