Boobygate! Yet Another Breastfeeding Furor

In the August 2006 issue of BabyTalk magazine, there's a cover photo of a baby breastfeeding. Nothing out of the ordinary because, well, geez, that's what babies do. It's perfectly natural.

But no, it's erupted into yet another controversy and I'm scratching my head in bemusement.

For those of you scratching your heads wondering why a deaf author in a deaf website is harping on this seemingly off-the-point subject, let me explain.

I'm a staunch advocate of breastfeeding for reasons that hit close to home. In my family, a significant number of us are absolutely plagued with allergies. Many a childhood was interrupted by repeat visits to allergy specialists who poked needles in our backs trying to figure out what was causing all the coughing, sneezing, and runny noses. On some occasions, a beloved family pet had to be given away or relegated to living outdoors when a young child became allergic. On many occasions, a beautiful spring day could not be enjoyed because --


Catch my drift?

Now here's where it gets really interesting. My wife is totally into breastfeeding. We've had three kids, and all three of them got their milk precisely the way they were meant to get their milk. Amazingly, in spite of my significant family history, not one of our kids has ever had an allergy. Coincidence? I think not. Several of our friends who also breastfed their children report similar health benefits.

Given the obvious advantages of breastfeeding (there are more that I haven't even mentioned), you'd think this is something that would be totally welcomed and accepted by our modern society.

Surprisingly, that hasn't been the case. I was shocked enough years ago when my wife and a friend of hers spoke out in favor of breastfeeding -- and garnered responses such as Yuck! That's disgusting! and You don't actually do that in public, do you?

But with the August issue of BabyTalk on the newstands, I'm dismayed that something so simple and natural as breastfeeding still elicits a ton of angry "Why, I never..." letters to the editor. I've seen enough, and it's time to get rid of this Puritanical attitude for once and for all.

First of all, breastfeeding is a natural, healthy means of providing nutrition and immune system support for a growing baby. There's nothing "gross" or "immoral" about it. It's a perfectly normal, God-given thing.

For people such as the 700 or so folks who felt compelled to criticize BabyTalk for their harmless and innocent cover, it's time for an honest self-inventory. Stay with me on this, it's going to be good.

In psychology classes all over the country, a lot of professors like to hand out a picture featuring a classic optical illusion. Depending on how your brain interprets the visual input, at first you may see either a young woman or an old lady (click here if you would like to see this drawing right now) . Once you catch on to the illusion, you can easily train your eye to focus on whichever woman you want to see.

But if I may go back for a second, let me reiterate that you see your brain's interpretation of the picture.

And now... applying this to BabyTalk magazine, we can ascertain that our brains interpret the cover photo one of two ways:

1) It's a picture of a baby breastfeeding.


If you look at breastfeeding as something dirty or obscene... Ewww!!! Get your mind out of the gutter! It's all in how your brain interprets the picture. The picture itself, I have to emphasize, is totally innocent. There's nothing dirty about it except certain people's interpretation of it.

If you've read this far and you're still with me, wonderful. Are you ready to have some more fun? There's another mindbomb I'd like to drop on you.

Sarah McDevitt, a good friend of mine, brought this up in a wacky discussion the other day. We were talking about how people in the United States (supposedly one of the most forward-thinking, open-minded and free societies in the world) tend to get remarkably uptight over something so simple as a woman's breast. (Repeat after me: it's just a mammary gland that dispenses milk.)

Sarah mentioned that if, for whatever reason, our society permitted nudity but passed a law saying we must wear skullcaps at all times, people would quickly get bored of breasts -- and then suddenly develop a perverse infatuation with scalps.

She's absolutely right. I can just see mainstream America doing that. Naked people would walk down the street and no one would bat an eye. Boobs? Yawn. Who cares? Playboy magazine would go out of business. Hugh Hefner, ever the opportunist, would quickly replace it with Playbald magazine. Top models from all over the world would shave their heads and show off their shiny domes to millions of subscribers each month.

The annoying flasher in the park? The one who runs up to you in a raincoat and then flashes his goods? Obsolete. But in his place you'd find the occasional sicko who walks up to you and doffs his cap. Oh, the audacity!

Ahh, that was fun. But seriously, if you really want to get worked up over the shameless display of breasts, stop picking on BabyTalk. Instead, check out Maxim, FHM, or any other typical mens' rag. You'll find plenty of breasts on their covers (in fact, I've poked fun at Maxim in a separate article titled Nip It, Guys! Don't bother reading it if you're easily offended).

Nonetheless, the same mental interpretation issues come into play with the aforementioned mens' magazines. Most people look at their covers and see BOOBS BOOBS BOOBS!!! SEX SEX SEX!!!. I don't. I see Horny 18-to-35 male demographic! Spend Your Money Now! Sorry, that's just my interpretation.

All right, enough of that. Obviously, I was having fun with this topic. But I'm very serious about the benefits of breastfeeding. Again, it's my honest opinion that there's absolutely nothing wrong with breastfeeding or images thereof. It's just a perfectly natural, healthy way to feed a baby. Nothing more, nothing less.

For more information on breastfeeding and it's benefits, go to:

Breastfeeding information at La Leche League International