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Breastfeeding Toddler Causes Stir

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Ronda Kaysen: It's not every day that a poster hanging in a hospital children's ward generates international outcry. Especially when the poster is of a toddler breastfeeding.

breastfeeding toddler poster

But what makes this breastfeeding tot different from all the others is that she's not nestled at her mommy's breast, she's nestling her dolly at her own breast. The picture, hanging in a Manchester hospital, is coupled with the text, "It's Normal -- Children Copy Their Mothers."

The homemade poster was hung as part of a campaign for National Breastfeeding Week. And boy has it caused a stir.

To say hospital visitors were outraged would be an understatement.

"The picture is shocking and it isn't normal," Deborah Winter told a reporter when she saw the poster. "Children copy their parents but I don't think any little girls should be breastfeeding their dolls."

Blogger Hoyden About Town took the time to string together some of the less enlightened comments people made online. They called it "highly offensive," "depraved," "exploitation," and "the sort of picture that a paedophile would show a kid." Readers fretted that it condoned the "sexualizing of children" and would "poison their minds."

I beg to differ. If it is perfectly normal for a toddler to give her doll a toy bottle, it would also be normal for her to pretend to nurse her. After all, that is how breastfed babies eat. They sell toy baby bottles in the store. So, if a toddler nurses or sees her mom nursing her younger sibling, she would clearly emulate her mother.

Last time I checked, nursing a baby didn't have much to do with sex or sexuality. The toddler isn't dressed provocatively; she is merely feeding her pretend baby. But that is not how the vast majority of readers saw it.

One reader went so far as to say, "I have never seen a child mimic breastfeeding in this way. There are of course children who mimic sex acts, swear and use violence. What next, a child posing unrolling a condom."

I hate to break it to all the outraged readers out there, but nursing is not a sexual act. Nor is it a violent one. I realize that many people can't help but think about sex when they look at a woman's breast, even if there's a baby attached to it. Nursing a baby isn't a sexual act. It's a mothering act. And the little girl in the poster is merely pretending to mother and nurture, two traits that should be encouraged in small children.

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35 comments so far | Post a comment now
RachelAZ May 29, 2009, 1:38 AM

It’s normal for kids to copy what they see. It’s NOT normal to advertise it on a poster…WTF??? I’m not even sure how this is an advertisement for breastfeeding?! It’s just stupid!

clanmaurice May 29, 2009, 2:59 AM

we’re just abusing the word sex too much! And to those who think the breastfeeding is sexual, are you malicious minded people? F-K off you malicious minded people. The kid is just playing pretend for pete’s sake and she’s not naked or wearing Bratz clothes. Toddlers love playing pretend in case you don’t know. Girls without breasts are abnormal, grow up you malicious minded people, if one of you is a woman, you have breasts too. Breasts are to distinguish a man from a woman, not a sexual object.

Shannon May 29, 2009, 11:18 AM

When I was little girl I would pretend to nurse my baby dolls too. There is absolutley nothing wrong with it! As a first time mother I’m nursing my son who is almost 10 months old and plan to continue until he is 1 year old. Breastfeeding is beautiful! Not sexual!

stephanie May 29, 2009, 2:51 PM

My DD nurses her doll…I hope nobody thinks that I’m a bad mom or a pedophile because of that. It never occured to me that anyone would until I read this article.

Suellen Williams May 29, 2009, 4:06 PM

How sweet that this little girl wants to “feed” her baby in the most normal way possible…and how wise she is to know the normal food for her “baby.” Maybe she can help some of us to rethink what we think we know.

Amanda June 1, 2009, 12:11 PM

Seriously? Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Bottles are unnatural, nursing is not. That child has it right!

Karen June 1, 2009, 12:25 PM

Breastfeeding is NORMAL feeding for human infants! Of course, female and male toddlers and preschoolers are going to mimic breastfeeding for their dolls, stuffed animals, etc. when that is what they’ve seen. What’s the big deal? And it’s completely appropriate on a breastfeeding promotion poster in any setting, especially a healthcare setting.

Personally, I’m offended by all the dolls that come with an artificial infant feeding bottle. I’m offended by all the “congratulations on your new baby” balloons, products (unrelated to feeding), ads, etc. that unnecessarily include an infant feeding bottle as a symbol of infancy when bottle-feeding is the abnormal infant feeding of human infants…

If we all grew up seeing breastfeeding, it would be expected and, therefore, accepted and we’d get rid of the ridiculous notions of it being some sort of sexual act vs. the simple, normal feeding of a human infant/young child.

Alyssa June 25, 2009, 10:02 AM

My daughter is 28 months and she breastfeeds her babies. I had my son when she was 19months and she has seen me breastfeed him. She knows that its the best thing to keep babies healthy. Shes even tried to breastfeed her brother when he was crying a couple times. I find it totally adorable and i feel great that i am raising a future nursing advocate.

tenahc June 30, 2009, 8:27 AM

the people that are reading something sexual into this poster are the ones who should be watched.what kind of pervert would look at this poster and see something sexual in it.if you see sexual content when you see this poster you should seek professional help.

Melissa June 30, 2009, 8:49 AM

I am a mother of 3 little girls and i breast feed all three. the two older girls 4, and 2 pretend to breast feed there baby doll all the time . and for anyone to think it is a sexual to feed your child is crazy it a natural normal way and how women were intended to feed there children.i’m happy the poster was put up cause there is nothing wrong with breast feeding it very healty and i hope my girls breast feed thier children too.

RebeccaLee June 30, 2009, 9:05 AM

WOW! I am stunned that this poster would cause a stir! I breastfed my babies and they both did the same with their dolls. Our CULTURE is what is twisted and perverted. NewsFLASH…BREASTS ARE HERE TO FEED OUR YOUNG!!! Time to get over it! Jeesh!

T Nichols June 30, 2009, 9:54 AM

My mom, born in 1939, always told the story of playing with her baby doll as a young girl and pulling down the top of her dress to “feed her.” She still remembers her mother noticing and spanking her for doing it, and how she felt hurt and wondered why. She still remembers it! She was just “being a mommy,” the only thing bad was someone else’s reaction!! Just like real breastfeeding moms face today!

rd June 30, 2009, 10:58 AM

I agree with Ms. Kaysen. If it okay for toddlers to give bottles to baby dolls, it is okay for them to pretend to breastfeed baby dolls. One is natural (breast feeding) and the other us unnatural(bottle feeding), yet people in this country cannot tell the difference because they were fed the hospital/corporate line for long enough to forget what is right and natural from what is abnormal.

snsq June 30, 2009, 11:14 AM

I can;t believe that this picture would cause such a stir! Not to mention that if you are visiting at a children’s ward you should have more important things to focus your attention on then a picture. I agree with previous comments that a toddler nursing her doll is much more natural that giving it a toy bottle. Shame on the people so ignorant to complain. If you see anything sexual about it then you are the one with the problem

amanda August 25, 2009, 8:06 AM

I’m a bit late to this article but really I just don’t get the problem. People who sexulize breastfeeding need to get themeslves some therapy for whatever issues they have that are causing them to feel that way. What kind of a pervert would seed that poster in an even remotely sexual way???
That’s what sick about the whole thing

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