Bethenny is a mixed bag when it comes to breastfeeding. On the one hand, we love that she has been outspoken about how rewarding (though challenging) breastfeeding was for her, and were glad that she brought her star power to Ameda’s I Breastfeed Because . . . campaign for World Breastfeeding Week last year. She also stood up for a lot of moms when she commented that Gisele Bundchen’s statement that “breastfeeding should be a law” was “absurd“; and we couldn’t agree more, since moms don’t need more pressure. What should be illegal are the booby traps, like poor healthcare practices that keep moms from breastfeeding!
Yesterday, however, we saw the flip side of Bethenny during her appearance on the Rachael Ray Show, and it makes us think that Bethenny isn’t really an advocate for moms. An audience member was invited to ask a question.
Shea: “I’m expecting my second child and strongly thinking of breastfeeding. What are your rules for public breastfeeding, like where is it appropriate?”
Bethenny: “I think, unless you are Pamela Anderson, you shouldn’t be showing anyone your breasts besides your husband and your baby.”
Rachael Ray: “Exactly.”
Bethenny: “I really do. I think you should find a corner, or there is always a back room, I just think it makes other people uncomfortable. When you are a mother you think everyone is ‘in on’ what you’re ‘in on’, [. . .] but they’re not. Because I didn’t know anything about [breastfeeding] until I was pregnant and I was sensitive to the fact that it would have flipped me out. So I think, just keep it private. But definitely breastfeed and do things your own way, but in that one way, I would keep it a little bit private. Whipping out your boob at the dinner table is a good diet tip for everyone else.
On some level I understand where Bethenny is coming from. I’ve shared openly that when I was pregnant, I was freaked out by breastfeeding, and probably at that point seeing someone breastfeed in public would have made me uncomfortable too. (And I’m sure, living in New York City, I did see people breastfeeding, I just didn’t notice it.)
But what Bethenny doesn’t realize is that the reason breastfeeding makes people uncomfortable is because they don’t see it enough. In coming around to the other side of this issue, as a woman who once thought breastfeeding was gross, I have come to realize that the best thing for the health of our children, ourselves and our society would be to see MORE breastfeeding. Seeing breastfeeding in public normalizes it (see PhdinParenting’s 50 reasons for breastfeeding anytime, anywhere). Not only that, but it is extremely instructive for women, because we all learn by watching; and if we want to change behavior, the most powerful thing we can do is NOT TELL other moms what to do, but to be role models for other moms. It’s like learning to ride a bike: if you’ve never seen someone do it, you can’t imagine doing it yourself. But if you’ve watched your friends go whizzing by on their shiny two-wheelers, you’re going to be motivated to get through the fear and the occasional skinned knee, especially if you have someone who has already mastered bike-riding by your side, cheering you on and coaching you. Breastfeeding is exactly the same. If young women see other women nursing in public, going about their normal lives, enjoying dinner with friends AND enjoying their baby, they will be motivated to get through the learning curve and the first few challenging weeks to reap the rewards. If they have role models cheering them on and coaching them, they will succeed faster and be able to achieve their personal breastfeeding goals.
ALL moms deserve to make a truly informed feeding decision and to be cheered on, coached and celebrated without pressure, judgment or guilt. ALL breastfeeding moms deserve to achieve their personal breastfeeding goals without being undermined.
What advice do you have for Bethenny on how to be a better role model and advocate for moms?