When even your dad is asking, "What's up with breastfeeding?" you know there's something in the air (or is it in the milk?). From that Time magazine cover to the nursing military moms to nurse-ins at Target to celebrity breastfeeding news (Alanis and Snooki and Pink … oh my!), breastfeeding, it seems, is suddenly all we're talking about.
Why? And why now?
Nursing mom Laurel Manor, 32, of Boxford, Massachusetts, thinks she has the answer. "We're at a crossroads right now," she says. "As more women in the US breastfeed and nurse in public, especially when it's not just a tiny infant they're feeding, these women are doing their part to bring breastfeeding into the mainstream, to make nursing normal and not a big deal to see. Unfortunately, not everyone is on board with this yet, so controversy erupts."
More moms are breastfeeding. In the United States, breastfeeding rates have jumped almost 20 percent since the early 1990s, with approximately 75 percent of moms now initiating breastfeeding at birth, according to 2011 CDC statistics. But by 6 months—the recommended minimum for exclusive breastfeeding—the same statistics show nursing rates still below 50 percent. A more recent study confirms that most moms want to continue nursing until 6 months, but for various reasons, don't reach their goal.
To boost rates, breastfeeding advocacy groups say the key is to "normalize" breastfeeding in the US. In other words, when moms aren't forced to nurse in restaurant bathrooms, when they have an established space (and time) to pump at work, and when no one bats an eye when a mom plops down on a park bench to nurse her hungry toddler, it will be easier for moms to breastfeed anywhere, any time.
But then there's the backlash. "If the majority of society's attitudes is still one of discomfort, if most people still find the sight of a breastfeeding pair stare-worthy instead of commonplace ... then we still have work to do to normalize breastfeeding," writes mom-blogger and breastfeeding advocate Dionna Ford.
Ford and others say creating a "new normal" can be as easy as breastfeeding moms continuing to nurse—and continuing to be a part of this important conversation. The California Coalition for Breastfeeding is even calling on Google to help normalize breastfeeding by creating a Google Doodle in honor of this summer's World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7). (A sample doodle one mom posted on HuffPo is actually pretty cool).
This isn't to say that every mom has to breastfeed—or breastfeed for a particular length of time, be it six months or six years. It's a simple call for support for any woman who does. Says Manor, "I love it when photos of celebrity moms nursing in public hit the gossip blogs. I always notice that for every comment that says 'Eww!', there are at least three that say 'Beautiful!' We've got a ways to go, but in my book, this is progress."