It’s probably not surprising that the topic of breastfeeding would come up in a show entitled The Mummy Diaries, a UK reality program featuring celebrity sisters Sam Faiers and Billie Faiers and their families. What may be alarming is the reaction one sister’s spouse had when the subject was brought up. Shepard, Billie Faiers fiance, told her not to breastfeed on social media, citing that her “boobs are famous enough.” You can see the full clip here, in which Billie responds that “it’s empowering” to post pictures that help destigmatize breastfeeding and can help other mothers feel more comfortable about it, too.
Shepard’s comment came partly in response to Sam Faiers, Billie’s sister, who is an outspoken proponent of breastfeeding. Sam has Instagrammed herself breastfeeding her son Paul, now 16 months old, as well as shared breastfeeding selfies on Snapchat. She even breastfed on live TV after traffic caused the interview to take place during Paul’s feeding time.
In an interview with HuffPost, Sam spoke about breastfeeding stigma and the importance of letting moms feed as they see fit. “In a way, I like posting pictures when I do because it’s more to encourage new mums,” Sam said in regard to her breastfeeding selfies. “I do want to normalize it but I don’t know why people don’t think it’s normal. That’s what our boobs are for,” she continued, also adding, “Millions of mums do it, it’s the most natural thing to do as a woman. I don’t see the big fuss.”
Unfortunately, comments like Shepard’s “Your boobs are famous enough” fall into the greater category of all-too-common societal shame associated with breastfeeding. Do a quick Google search of “woman told to cover up while breastfeeding,” and you will be met with an abundance of stories of women being asked not to breastfeed everywhere from airplanes to the gym to church, and even a local branch of H&R Block. Companies like Target have implemented breastfeeding-friendly policy to help combat the stigma. However, we’ve arguably still got a long way to go as a culture before everyone is completely cool with it.
Women’s bodies are constantly policed. We’re too sexual. We’re not sexual enough. We’re treated as sexual while doing something as nonsexual as feeding a child. A recent social experiment in London highlighted these myths about breastfeeding in public by showing people’s reaction when met with a women breastfeeding in places like public transit. Unfortunately, some people still don’t understand that breastfeeding is meant to feed a child, not the male gaze.
As a culture, we have people like Sam and Billie Faiers to thank for helping fight the stigma associated with breastfeeding. Something as simple as a selfie while feeding a newborn may seem insignificant on its own. However, it’s these small, individual actions paired with greater, institutional policy change (like at Target) that help create a culture that sees breastfeeding for what it is: Literally just feeding a baby.