Entertainment

10 Times TV & Movies Got Breastfeeding Right

Breastfeeding is elusive in media, accurate breastfeeding even more so.

For many parents, breastfeeding is a normal part of everyday life. In fact, for some, particularly in the infant stage of parenting, it can feel like one of the only things you’re doing with your day. And yet seeing breastfeeding in the media is not terribly common. Seeing accurate breastfeeding on TV and in movies is even less common. Nursing is often something played for laughs or horror; it’s rarely depicted as matter-of-fact and does not usually show the complex emotional realities that go along with feeding a child with your body.

Of course, as our list will show, there's no one breastfeeding experience. There's often rarely one breastfeeding experience over the course of a day for one person! It can be painful or something all parties involved truly enjoy. It can be exhausting or a moment of relaxation in an otherwise chaotic day. And where you wind up on that spectrum can change hour to hour.

But, fortunately, writers and directors have taken notice of the dearth of lactation representation and in recent years have begun to remedy that. (Though, as this list shows, some creators were clearly ahead of the curve.) So we put together 10 moments TV and movies showed accurate breastfeeding, because representation matters and it's high time we normalize feeding babies however we choose to feed them.

Friends

Here we see the common trope of breastfeeding being played for laughs (see also The Hangover, Me, Myself & Irene, and Family Guy to name just a few others), but it’s still fairly accurate, from the all-too-common male discomfort around the desexualization of breasts to Susan’s description of the taste of breast milk. “Cantaloupe juice!”

Because... pretty much, yeah! (We’d also accept “the milk left in the bowl after eating Frosted Flakes.”)

Frida Mom’s “Stream of Lactation” Commercial

The advert for maternal care products for nursing moms depicted stream of consciousness monologues from two breastfeeding women. From clogged ducts to not being sure you’re making enough milk for your child to painful or improper latching, Frida Mom showed the full spectrum of the breastfeeding experience in a way rarely seen on screen.

While the full commercial seen above did not air during the Golden Globes, a 30-second edit kept the spirit of the ad in a way that made breastfeeding moms feel seen (just not the nipple part of them... those were blurred out).

Rugrats

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: Phil and Lil’s mom, Betty, is a badass. Truly, she’s got to be one of our favorite Rugrats characters and that’s saying a lot. We stan a tandem-nursing legend and this fantastic clip that shows breastfeeding is exhausting, but can also be really joyful and a beautiful way to bond with your children.

Workin’ Moms

Catherine Reitman began writing Workin’ Moms to help her work through her own return to work and postpartum depression after giving birth. While the show is full of accurate depictions of motherhood, we’re really a fan of the all-too-familiar scenario of going back to work and not having anywhere to pump and resorting to the bathroom, which is both kind of gross and also something your employers can not legally make you do.

The Office

In the two-part episode “The Delivery,” The Office delved into birth and the first few days that follow, including difficulties and stresses associated with breastfeeding. While most of us probably never breastfed the wrong baby in the hospital, there are things that the show got right: the frustration, the sense of not being treated compassionately by medical professionals, and some people’s wild misunderstandings of how breastfeeding works (“Well, you’re pushing the milk out, right?”).

A later episode, “Happy Hour,” touches on the realities of lactation when Kelly’s high-pitched whining imitates the sound of a baby crying and makes Pam spring a leak. (Yeah, it’s a thing!)

Tully

Written by Diablo Cody, Tully was praised for its raw, not always flattering portrait of parenthood. Charlize Theron plays Marlo, an already exhausted mother who has just given birth to a third, unexpected child. From dealing with her children’s problems to escapist fantasies, the whole picture is pretty accurate and breastfeeding — from late night feedings to the tragedy of spilled milk — is no exception.

Charmed

Even though breastfeeding parents have the right to nurse their children anywhere they and their children have the right to be, that doesn’t stop many from facing dirty looks or discrimination when they attempt to nurse in public. Give any news cycle a few weeks and you’ll find stories about women being asked to stop feeding their children, cover up, or even asked to leave a public place.

In an episode of Charmed, sisters Piper and Phoebe were out to lunch where Piper was breastfeeding. After judgmental looks from fellow diners, a rude waiter asks Piper to leave. Not wanting to make a scene, Piper acquiesces even as Phoebe attempts to protest the unfair treatment. It’s, sadly, too real.

Girls

In the final season of Girls, Hannah has a baby and finds herself struggling with motherhood, symbolized by her difficulty with breastfeeding in general. From pumping to not quite getting Grover to latch (yeah, her baby’s name is Grover because of course it is), the frustrations and general sense of “Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into” are true to life.

The Witch

We included this “blink and you’ll miss it” breastfeeding moment for a few reasons. For one thing, the very brief scene is part of a scene where all family members are shown doing chores and participating in everyday life. The mother, Elizabeth, is shown nursing her ill-fated baby as her daughter Mercy makes candles. As in real life, breastfeeding is something that is both all-consuming (you can’t effectively do much else while nursing a baby) and yet often requires juggling other kids. How many moms breastfeed one baby while helping another with homework or referee arguments? So The Witch gets points for showing breastfeeding as something that’s just a normal part of everyday life.

We also included this scene because it’s in a horror movie and, is in fact, juxtaposed later on with a truly disturbing “breastfeeding” scene involving a demonic crow. From Rosemary’s Baby to Season 2 of American Horror Story, breastfeeding is often used in extremely creepy ways in TV and movies. It makes sense: being another being’s food-source certainly can sound ominous and plays into the popular body horror genre. But it’s worth pointing out that in a world where breastfeeding isn’t often shown, when it is it’s often depicted as terrifying.

Sesame Street

Did we save the best for last? We think so. The now famous 57-second clip of Buffy Sainte-Marie breastfeeding her son Cody on Sesame Street first aired in 1976. The casual explanation of what she was doing was so simple even Big Bird (and all the kids watching) could understand without giggling. According to reporting from Mayukh Sen for Hazlítt, Sainte-Marie’s desire to depict breastfeeding on the show was tied to her educational mission on Sesame Street and “deeply personal.” Sen writes:

[Sainte-Marie’s] Cree family had lost two daughters in the days when churches had made breastfeeding illegal, forcing Indigenous women to drive miles in a horse-pulled buckboard to a farmer who sold them cow’s milk which could spoil before it got to the babies. The segment would be part of Sainte-Marie’s larger campaign to combat widespread popular ignorance regarding her own heritage and the practices that flourished within her community.

Fortunately, the producers leapt at the opportunity to include this very special moment on the show. They even repeated the scene, almost word for word, with Sonia Manzano as Maria in 1988. In each instance, the warm, but very matter-of-fact description is the perfect way to explain this process to kids (and maybe remind a few adults who are flustered by the sight of a boob).