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There was once a time when you could see instances of breastfeeding on television, including on Sesame Street.
When it first aired, Sesame Street’s educational approach appealed to parents and children alike. One of the subjects it educated children on was breastfeeding. In one episode from the 70s, guest star Buffy St. Marie breastfed her baby onscreen explaining “I’m feeding the baby. See? He’s drinking milk from my breast?” Other shows with similar scenes played out over the years as well saying that the milk was “warm and natural” and that “lots of mothers feed their babies this way.”
In the 1990s, that stopped, says one woman who wants the famed children’s show to ‘bring breastfeeding back to Sesame Street.’ Lani Michele wrote a blog post calling for normalizing breastfeeding by re-televising it. A petition soon followed, garnering nearly 33,000 signatures thus far. Lani, and the rest of the petition’s authors say that Sesame Street stopped airing clips showing breastfeeding, and instead showing only bottle-feeding.
What has changed culturally over the last few decades that makes breastfeeding suddenly unsuitable for television audiences, and especially young ones? How has showing women’s breasts changed on television over time? Why has it become normal to show a woman’s cleavage onscreen, but not in the context of nursing?
Lani Michele, wrote the original blog post that started the petition to bring breastfeeding back to Sesame Street
Alison Trope, Associate Professor, USC’s Annenberg School of Communication; lectures on media and gender