Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Breastfeeding/Pumping ... in the mainstream

The farther I go along the path of working and breastfeeding, the more and more I see the disconnect between the initial pressure to breastfeed and the lack of ongoing support to continue breastfeeding until the recommended age. I feel I am VERY lucky that I have support from my partner, my friends, and even the people at my job, but I see so many other moms that do not have the support they need.

I read this quote the other day:
“Telling moms to breast-feed without full cultural, institutional and legal support is like being encouraged to run a marathon in a pair of flip-flops without any coaching,” ~ Best for Babes co-founder Danielle Rigg.

Now, as someone who loves loves loves TV, and learned most of what I know about the world from SitComs, I am very aware of how breastfeeding is portrayed in pop culture. I feel that "cultural support" can come from positive and helpful messages about breastfeeing in pop culture.

The following is a running list of breastfeeding scenes on TV.

Season 2, episode 2 is actually called "The One with the Breast Milk".

Carol, Ross's ex-wife, breastfed their son, Ben. Joey and Chandler freak out. Ross calls it "this is my son having lunch, and it's going to happen a lot now so if you have any questions, just ask, Carol is fine with it." Love it.

Later, Phoebe heats up the breast milk in the bottle, tests it on her arm, and them licks her arm.

Phoebe: "Ben, dinner!"
Ross: "Thanks Aunt Phoebes. Now you didn't microwave this right, because it's breast milk, you're not supposed to do that."
Phoebe: "I think I know how to heat breastmilk."
Ross and Rachel "Ewwww!!"
Chandler: "Aaah! What did you just do?!?!"
Phoebe: "I licked my arm! What??"
Rachel: "Phoebe, that is juice..squeezed from a person!"
Joey: "What's the big deal?" 
Chandler: "Aaah!! what did you just do?!?!"
Ross: "Will everyone please stop drinking the breast milk??

Phoebe: "So you won't even try it?"
Ross: "No."
Phoebe: "Not even if you pretended it was milk?"
Ross: "Not even if Carol's breast had a picture of a missing child on it."

"The One Where Rachel Goes Back to Work"
Gavin: "While you were on your baby vacation I was doing your job."
Rachel: "A vacation? My idea of a vacation does not involve something sucking on my nipples until they are raw"
Gavin: "Clearly you've never been to Sandals Paradise Island."

Rachel: "Can you please just take care of her for today?"

Ross: "Absolutely. Just give me your breasts and we'll be on our way."

"The One With the Blind Dates"

Joey: All of my feelings from before are totally over, okay. And even if they weren't, when you walk in on a woman using a breast pump...
Ross: Yeah, that'll do it.
Joey: Wow.

"The One With Rachel's Phone Number"
Ross: So, welcome!
Mike: I've got beer
Ross: I've got bottled breast milk.

Pam is a breastfeeding working mom! Yea!

Pam:"Oh, owe."
Jim:"What's up?"
Dwight:"Her milk is coming in. She's getting uncomfortable"
Dwight, don't be gross.
No no, he's right.
The same thing happens with my cows if I don't tend them frequently enough. You gotta milk em, or else they'll moo like crazy.
That's weird my breast pump is missing. have you seen my breast pump?
Alright, this is going to traumatize me a hell of a lot more than you, believe me.
You know what, Dwight, let me just check the bathroom first, ok?
Really? Fine, let your breasts explode. Three squeezes and I would drain you.
Pam: Meredith!
Meredith: I just like the way it feels!
Pam: What are you doing?!
Meredith: Relax.
Pam: Relax!?
Meredith: This is like the Cadillac of pumps.
Pam: Give it back to me now!
Meredith: I was just ... I was warming it up.
Pam: That's disgusting!
It's not a big deal
It's not sterile!
We're both girls, who cares?

The office actually had a breastfeeding mom before Pam too! Remember Hannah, from Stamford?

Hannah: Why don't you take a picture? It lasts longer. 
Ryan: I'm sorry, but it's a little distracting.
Creed: Ditto to that my brother.

And in a more recent episode, they even talk about how it can be harder on a working breastfeeding mom, since she is up at night with the baby.

Nellie: What you really want is a good night's sleep, working mother of two.
Pam: Woe, that's kind of condescending. Would you say something like that to Jim?
Nellie: Does Jim have to breastfeed? Did Jim carry around those babies for, what is it, 12 months? Be honest, does Jim really get up in the night?
Pam: Well, the only reason he doesn't is because I'm breastfeeding, and Phillip doesn't like a bottle.
Nellie: You must be exhausted. Fancy a nap?
Pam: No.
Nellie: Go on .... have a nap.

Bethenny was a breastfeeding mom! She was also very vocal about it, helping Ameda's "I Breastfeed Because" campaign.

Here she is with daughter Bryn, a few weeks old.

In one episode, Bethenny freaked out that she had forgotten her "Breast Friend" - a breastfeeding pillow - on a trip to the Hamptons. I think we've all been there ...

She also pumped so the nanny could give the baby a bottle. This was a great example of how mom has to pump every time baby is eating, even if she is getting a bottle from someone else.

to be continued ...

*** Updated 6/5/12.

So many celebrities are nursing and carrying their babies!

Jessica Simpson:

She is quoted saying, "It's become a full-on job. It's the worst if I have to pump and give Eric a bottle to give her. I miss holding her and having that closeness."

This is a great example of how pumping may not make things better or easier. Many anti-breastfeeing advocates may say, "Just give them a bottle! Then you won't have to worry about BFing in public!" It's not always that easy, and it's not always better for supply and for learning how to BF well.

Beyonce Knowles:


Beyonce is out and about with her baby, wearing her carriers and nursing her in public. YES!!!

Alicia Silverstone:

Alicia caused a stir when she posted a video of her chewing food and then spitting it into her son's mouth. Whatever. I think we've all chewed food for our kid. But then within days this photo was all over the place, of her carrying her son in an carrier and breastfeeding him on the go. I love it. It's so normal. (Ok, she may be a little out there, but it got people talking).

And speaking of getting people talking ...

Time Magazine:

Sigh. I won't go to much into this. I have my thoughts, but this post is not about AP and "mom wars". All I'll say is that this cover DID get people talking about extended breastfeeding. Amid the comments of "abuse" and "sexual" and "disgusting", there were plenty of "no big deal", "I do it", and "Come on people, calm the eff down". I hope new moms saw THOSE comments.


Backstage at her concert. Working mom!

Hilary Duff:

Hilary went on the Bethenny show with Alanis Morissetteto talk about breastfeeding. I love that she talked about how it was easy for her. I know it's hard for a lot of people, and those people need support, but soon-to-be moms need to hear that sometimes it goes well! I was TERRIFIED that it was going to be too difficult, that it was going to hurt, that it "just wouldn't work". All I heard was horror stories, and I was so stressed about it. Personally I needed to hear good, supportive stories. The "yeah, it was tricky at first, but then we got the hang of it and it's been great sense!" The "I thought I'd breastfeed for a few weeks, but it's a year and we're still going!" stories, instead of the "We tried once, and it just didn't work. It's not worth trying" stories that my friends thought would be helpful.

Yea Pop Culture.

to be continued ...


This past weekend at the Golden Globes Clare Danes spoke to Ryan Seacrest on the E! Red Carpet. Ryan was asking about Clare's new baby, and she had the best comments! 1) she talked about how she's seen "sequestered" in baby land, all-consumed with taking care of a newborn. 2) She said she was afraid she was going to leak milk all over her Versace dress.


  1. I have a question...If you could promote breast feeding in a legal manner using legislation, what would you propose? For clarification- In no way am I proposing making it a legal requirement; just anything to help make BF more mainstream in modern society.

    Welfare and food stamps cover formula, should they also cover costs for breast pumps and supplies? Should employers do more to aid their breast feeding employees than just provide a pumping room for one year!? What about health insurance coverage? There has been some progress with legalization of public breast feeding in several states, but is it enough?

    Thank you for your time,

    Katie aka breast pumping bottle feeding working mommy

  2. I don't know, Katie. I feel like a lot of the legislation is there. The Affordable Healthcare Act requires business to provide a room other than a bathroom, requires them to let mom take breaks to pump. Perhaps they need to be paid breaks? I was lucky that I was not docked for my pumping time, especially because in the beginning was pumping 3 times a day at work, but I'm sure there are places where that time is taken out of mom's payable time.
    Also, I think the new care act made it so you can use your flex spending account or Health Savings account for Breast pumps. I don't know about Lactation Consultants, but perhaps that's a way to improve the system. I think you can get reimbursed, just like a midwife (at least here in NY). I think people would be more likely to call an LC or IBCLC if they knew they wouldn't have to shell out the money up front. The same thing for Doulas and Midwives, both of which increase the chances of successful breastfeeding. I think if people didn't have to deal with the hassle of trying to get insurance to cover it, they'd have more success. In the beginning there are a hundred reasons to stop nursing, so if we can get rid of those reasons, more moms who WANT to continue may be more likely to actually continue.