By Cake Staff:
In a surprisingly progressive move, a print ad (and a government-sponsored one, that too) about breastfeeding has finally featured a picture of actual breastfeeding.
The ad is meant to be for the launch of the National Health Commission’s nationwide breastfeeding programme (which is aimed at promoting better health for both mothers and their children) called “Mother’s Absolute Affection” (or MAA) and shows a woman breastfeeding her child.
This is pretty revolutionary for a culture like ours which is still unwilling to have open conversation about sex and the body, and where for the longest time, even kissing in popular media was simulated by flowers brushing against each other (and other such ridiculous euphemisms).
While our visual media is slowly but surely trying to break the silence about such issues, with quite a few ads trying to subtly talk about feminism and women’s rights — breastfeeding is a topic that has still been shrouded in taboo.
Internationally, this issue came to the forefront last year with the #FreeTheNipple campaign — which focused on breaking the silence and stigma around women’s bodies, and also campaigned for normalizing conversations about breastfeeding. In India, breastfeeding comes associated with a large number of regressive myths and superstitions — the most ridiculous amongst them being that ‘mother’s milk’ is not ‘easily digestible’ for the baby, who is fed cow’s milk instead (because the cow is sacred in Hinduism). The Colostrum (or milk) secreted by the breasts actually has vaccination properties and protects the baby from diseases.
Even online, the #BreastFedIsTheBest hashtag is spreading awareness about the health benefits of breastfeeding:
Protecting your baby from type I diabetes, childhood leukemia, obesity & high blood pressure? all that & more simply by #BreastFedIsTheBest
— nikunj shah (@niku1630) August 5, 2016
Ppl who moral police abt breastfeeding in public hv frgttn that they wudnt hv bn alive, hd thr mothers bn moral policed. #BreastFedIsTheBest
— Nibedita (@Nibedita51) August 5, 2016
Similarly, the government in India has also taken up the cause and is challenging regressive beliefs about breastfeeding.
Putting a breastfeeding woman on the print ad is a step in the right direction as it gives breastfeeding women much-needed visibility and support. Because even today, a breastfeeding woman on the metro or in any other public space seems to make everyone around uncomfortable (including women who will rush to give her cover!). Feeding time requires women to rush to public toilets even in snazzy places like malls because breastfeeding, a completely natural thing, is apparently something to be practised in hiding!
However, all is not hunky dory with this ad. While it is progressive in many ways, it also features a slogan which says ‘Breastfeeding — a commitment, not an option’ – essentially shaming women who don’t breastfeed. While breastfeeding is indeed a healthy and natural option, many women might consciously choose not to breastfeed due to physical difficulties, or a personal choice. So, to stigmatise that choice by saying something as blatant like not breastfeeding is ‘not an option’, is is not being very inclusive.
That said, it’s still a significant positive step, and paves the way for more awareness surrounding the issue, and encourages many women who have been shamed into not breastfeeding or not doing so in public to oppose such taboos and engage in this extremely natural and healthy process.