Thursday, January 07, 2010

Big Bird Learns About Breastfeeding


This is a 1977 Sesame Street clip in which Buffy nurses her older baby and explains breastfeeding to Big Bird.

Big Bird starts off by saying, "Well, that's a funny way to feed a baby!" In 1977 about 70% of babies born in the United States NEVER received even one ounce of human milk (1). It was small media pieces like this that spurred a rise in breastfeeding awareness so that by the 1980s about 50% of babies started out life at the breast (although few stayed there).

Today we find that about 62% of babies receive some breastmilk (however, this was defined by the 2008 CDC statistics as at least one time nursing, which hardly constitutes for a 'breastfed baby'). Maybe we need to inject more natural baby feeding clips like this into our television programming and squash the nipplephobia that is out there. Breast isn't just 'best' - it is normal.



(1) Hirschman C., Butler M. Trends and differentials in breast feeding: an update. Demography 1981;18:39-54


Here is a later (1980s) clip of breastfeeding on Sesame Street. Maria is nursing her baby. Too bad the writers had to emphasize that she 'also uses a bottle to feed' and her baby will 'soon be eating real food' such as 'mashed up bits of fruit and chicken'... So much for baby-led weaning and encouragement of meeting the AAP and WHO recommendation for a minimum of 2 years breastfeeding.

And LOOK at that cover to hide any potential nipple! Phew. Baby could drown in that blanket.

From what I understand the 1990s Sesame Street clips through the present day only show babies being fed by bottle. If this is not accurate, please fill me in.




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If you would like to read research on brain development and neuro science as it relates to breastfeeding and other parenting choices, see the excellent books, Why Love Matters, The Science of Parenting, and The Baby Bond.


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18 comments:

  1. All I see on Sesame Street these days are bottles. My daughter has the "Elmo's World - Babies, Dogs & More" dvd, and I swear there is a bottle in every scene of the baby half. My dd who is 28 months and nursing, knows how babies are fed... at the breast. Yet since watching the dvd, she has picked up a habit of no longer nursing her babies, but giving them bottles. Shows what an impact television has on our little ones. Needless to say, I no longer turn the movie on for her.

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  2. Whenever there is a bottle in children's book, I always skip over it or say, "boobie" instead. My son was breastfeed until he was 2 years, one month, and one week. He really doesn't know what a bottle is. I am looking forward to nursing my baby girl, and will go as long as I did with Andrew, if not longer.

    It is sad that you don't see breastfeeding as part of children's programming. For how progressive PBS tends to be on some things, you would think they'd have at least some breastfeeding coverage.

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  3. That baby in the second clip doesn't look like it should be EATING anything SOON... Oh and they probably threw in the whole "Some times I feed like this and sometimes I feed with a bottle" just to make Sesame street look better to FFs

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  4. i am in total agreement with wendy.

    ♥ ac

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  5. Interesting that it was basically the same script both times, with a few little changes (like the bottle and the blanket).

    I can't blame them too much for the 'cereal and mashed up real food' instead of baby-led weaning, since that was the way even the most natural-leaning mamas introduced solids at that time. BLW is a relatively recent trend (long overdue, of course).

    But the blanket is annoying. At least with Buffy's clip, you could SEE that baby. With Maria's clip, I didn't even think there was a real baby there at all, until it started kicking. I have a suspicion that it wasn't even actually nursing at the time, which is part of why the blanket is there (to hide the fact, as well as hide the boobie)

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  6. I totally agree that we need to see more press like this one.So often, breastfeeding is see as un-natural and weird when it's actually bottle feeding that is un-natural. We are on the right track but we still have a long way to go.

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  7. Not sure about the first one, but I agree with motherbynature - I don't think she's actually feeding her in this clip, unless her baby was OK with being rocked that hard while feeding!

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  8. I have been watching sesame street with my kids since '04, and I have only EVER seen bottles portrayed. :(
    It saddens me that the two clips here would be met with outrage today because of not being politically correct.

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  9. My toddler thinks boobies are for big girls, and bottles are for babies. I hate media and society.

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  10. I did see a a Mr. Rogers episode one time where he showed an actual baby nursing from an actual breast! I thought it was wonderful, but wondered how long it would take for people to freaked out about it. I love the clips here, especially the first one. When my son who is 12 sees someone feeding a baby a bottle, he says things like, "Look mom, they're feeding their baby artificial baby miilk." Which is what we should really call formula.

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  11. I love the first video, and the second as well...this was done in the 80s and I think it's kind of unfair to judge it with a 2010 perspective. If they wanted to appeal to the bottle-feeding crowd, they wouldn't have included the clip at all. The blanket doesn't even bother me, as I've known many women dedicated to BF who simply didn't feel comfortable exposing themselves, do we blame them for that or the society they live in? Let's not forget that many in the US have limited maternity leaves and not all women can or desire to pump.

    I still do wish we could see more positive BF images on tv and in print.

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  12. Here is a link to the mister Roger's video on youtube, it is funny how the person posted this said it was bad??? How is it bad when it is natural??

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  13. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fv8lIE2veoQ

    I forgot to put the link:)

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  14. Thanks, Delilah - I have seen that video before - too bad it is poor quality. I am REALLY hoping someone can someday direct me to where I can access the actual video footage (from Mister Rogers).

    If anyone is able to, I am willing to buy the DVD (or a copy) in any form it is available to borrow or purchase.

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  15. Hi, I linked to this post in my own blog.
    http://mommacrafty.wordpress.com/2010/08/29/breastfeeding-on-sesame-street/

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  16. At least they showed babies being breastfed and talked about it positively, better than nothing. And if I'm out in public I hide under a blanket or a shawl too, I'm not ashamed, but I'd still rather not be gawked at. It's entirely possible to be informative and tasteful and not upset the fragile little censors too much. It's sad though that there is so much violence on tv but any natural human body parts make people squeamish.

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  17. The original "You're My Baby" video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r501NT3NYw4&feature=related) showed a mom breastfeeding, then they updated it and changed it to a bottle feeding scene (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfrdpfJet40&feature=related).

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  18. I'm actually glad for the "sometimes I feed her from a bottle" comment. For one thing, she could be giving the baby breast milk in that bottle. For another, too many moms think it has to be all at the breast or all formula. I'd be happy if more mothers nursed even part time.

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