Almost everything surrounding Beyonce and Jay-Z’s union has been overblown, so when the pop star was spotted breastfeeding her 7-week-old daughter, Blue Ivy, while dining at NYC’s Sant Ambroeus restaurant Saturday, it seemed like the Houston-native was the first woman ever to lactate in the public realm.
Breastfeeding advocates are rejoicing and praising Beyonce after her decision, claiming that her courageous move helped take the stigma off nursing in public.
According to Dr. Ruth Lawrence, a professor of pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, Beyonce should be a role model for prospective and new mothers, [R]ole models are needed to help young women see the value and the beauty of breastfeeding,” she told CBS News.
“Beyonce appears as a beautiful, loving new mother,” said Lawrence. “She has dressed to carry and feed her baby when needed. She makes a model image.”
Beyonce’s public breastfeeding comes on the heels of a grassroots-organized “nurse-in” at Facebook offices around the world. The social network had flagged or disabled the accounts of some moms who had uploaded breastfeeding pictures, which sparked the February nurse-in where mothers went to Facebook offices around the world to protest.
“I think Beyonce has a huge impact on being able to re-normalize breastfeeding and give women confidence to do the same,” said Emma Kwasnica, a childbirth and breastfeeding educator who helped spearhead the Facebook nurse-in. “Images of pop stars and celebrities giving their babies nourishment will never harm our cause.”
Meanwhile, Beyonce breastfeeding in public holds special significance for black breastfeeding advocates who maintain that black female bodies carry unfair negative connotations, which advocates say might explain why the mainstream media, by in large, doesn’t ask black celebrity mothers how they intimately care and feed their children.
“So many young black women look up to Beyonce and emulate her and want to be her that this will for sure promote breastfeeding in the black community,” asserts Elita Kalma, a certified lactation consultant and librarian who promotes breastfeeding among black women at her blog Blacktating.
While breastfeeding is natural, the act has been marginalized and stigmatized in American culture, said Dr. Alison Stuebe, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at University of North Carolina Health Care.
“[And] at the expense of the health and well-being of mothers and babies,” said Stuebe. “By bringing breastfeeding into the mainstream, Beyonce can help break down barriers so that mothers and babies can breastfeed in peace.”
Stuebe said the stigma likely goes back to America’s Puritan roots, along with marketing ploys created to sexualize women’s breasts as toys for men rather than a way to feed their children. She noted that, in 2006, a breastfeeding mother was kicked out of a Victoria’s Secret store because the staff found the act indecent, “in the middle of a commercial display with larger-than-life miracle bra models.”
“I am sure there was much more mammary tissue visible at the other tables in the restaurant [where Beyonce was], as women tend to display plenty of cleavage in public these days,” said Lawrence. “Breastfeeding is not pornography as little or no breast is visible when a woman breastfeeds in public.”
How do feel about breastfeeding in public? Is it mild pornography or a natural and healthy way to nourish an infant?