My mother wasn't able to breastfeed, and I didn't witness anyone else nurse a baby until I was already pregnant with my own. Still, I knew I wanted to at least try to breastfeed. Sadly, however, I only had the media's depiction of breastfeeding to go off of and holy hell do I wish breastfeeding was like it's portrayed on TV. If it was that effortless, moms choosing (and able) to breastfeed would be living the dream, my friends.
For better or worse, breastfeeding isn't really depicted in the majority of television shows, or movies, centered around or involving motherhood. When it is, it's usually used as a way to get cheap laughs, in which nursing a baby highlights men's apparent inability to view breasts as anything other than sexual. If it's not used for comedic relief, it's used as a prop to make a particular character appear undesirable, like the now-infamous Lysa Tully breastfeeding scene in Game of Thrones.
However, when it is depicted in a way that isn't misogynistic or "gross," it's usually serene and effortless and beautiful. Now that I have breastfed my own child for more than 30 months, I look at these TV depictions with a wry smile. They just get it so very wrong. However, and even though it's fiction, there are times when I wish I could live in television land and breastfeed my son with ease.
When It Happens Immediately
When a television show does depict a mother breastfeeding, it's usually right after she has given birth and it's usually effortless. In fact, it's almost the first thing a new mom does after counting her baby's fingers and toes. While some moms are able to breastfeed their babies immediately, I, for one, needed a little instruction from a lactation consultant before I could start feeding my son.
When It Looks So Beautiful
TV programs never seem to want to show the messy side of breastfeeding. There's no leaky breasts, squirting milk, spit up, or bleeding nipples. I could have done without this sanitary version of breastfeeding, honestly.
When The Baby Doesn't Move
Babies breastfeeding on TV always seem to stay perfectly still. This makes it so much easier for their moms to use a cover, if they want to, and gives the unrealistic expectation that babies don't try to escape from these nursing capes or unlatch or just make the entire ordeal that much more difficult.
My son seemed to think these covers were an elaborate game of peek-a-boo and, well, he acted accordingly.
When There's No Stop & Start
Anyone breastfeeding a mobile kid will tell you that nursing can be an interrupted exercise.
From my experience, toddlers will start breastfeeding, then hop off your lap and play, then come back two minutes later asking for more.
When The Mom Looks So Glamorous
I get that it's television and everyone already looks photoshopped and airbrushed, but is a breastfeeding scene with a mom that looks flawless all that necessary? Why not show a mom with stained sweatpants, bags under her eyes, and baby puke in her hair? That, dear reader, would be much more realistic.
When There's No Prep & No Pumping
When a breastfeeding mom does anything related to feeding her kid, she's cradling her baby perfectly and, well, that's about it. You won't see a television mom pumping, transferring breast milk to bottles, freezing said bottles, or cleaning her supplies. You won't see her tending to her cracked nipples or dealing with engorgement. I want that life.
When It's Accepted
I really wish breastfeeding was as simple, as accepted, and as understood as it is in this 1977 episode of Sesame Street. "Lots of mothers feed their babies this way, not all mothers, but lots of mothers do." Words to live by, my friends.