It’s no wonder babies in Britain aren’t being breastfed: their mothers are too busy waving pitchforks at Jamie Oliver. He’s been criticised this week after offering a fairly uncontroversial opinion. On LBC radio, the no-longer naked chef said the country’s low rates of breastfeeding were cause for concern – and he would campaign to improve them.
Unfortunately for Oliver, women are feeling more sensitive than ever about any claim ‘breast is best’. Over the last decade, the non-breastfeeding community has developed a faux-sense that society is ganging up on them; judging them for choosing alternative methods of feeding their babies. On learning of Oliver’s interview, many told him promptly to get back in the kitchen.
“As somebody who has never done [breastfeeding], I don’t think he should be the face of this campaign," said one grumpy listener. Others have accused him of ‘mansplaining’ – a strange, not particularly sexy-sounding term used to describe when men explain women’s issues to the rest of the world. The general consensus across the internet is that because Oliver cannot breastfeed, he has no right to comment on the subject.
I’ve never breastfed either, but I certainly see this as no reason to shut up. And the same goes for Oliver. For starters, as the father of four children – with another on the way – he’s hardly removed from the trials and tribulations of caring for babies.
Breastfeeding in public controversies
Breastfeeding in public controversies
A woman has sparked a heated debate among parents after she revealed that she breastfeeds both her and her friend's son. Jessica Colletti, from Pennsylvania, said nursing Charlie Interrante's son “seemed like the natural thing to do” because she was already breastfeeding her son. Colletti told the Mama Bean parenting blog that she asked permission to nurse Interrante’s son when she began looking after him, after they met at a photoshoot for new mothers. Interrante agreed as her son had not taken to formula milk
New Hampshire State Rep. Josh Moore said on Facebook that men should be allowed to grab the nipples of breastfeeding mothers if the law banning women exposing their breasts did not pass
When Gemma Colley's photo of her son with fake tan on his fake after she breastfeed him went viral, she also saw that no parent is alone when they make a silly mistake. Over 100,000 people liked and 40,000 people shared Ms Colley’s photo of her son’s sleepy face with fake tan encircling his mouth and nose, after she posted it to the Unmumsy Mum Facebook page
A candid image of a mother breastfeeding her young child while using the toilet has divided parents online, as some argue it’s an honest depiction of parenthood, while others have labelled it “disgusting”
The exclusive Claridge’s hotel has been widely criticised for asking a woman to cover herself with a “ridiculous shroud” while breastfeeding her three-month-old daughter. Lousie Burns said she burst into tears when staff members at the five-star venue asked her to cover herself and her baby with an oversized napkin in order to avoid “causing offence” to other guests
An Australian café has been praised for sticking up for a breastfeeding mother after a customer told her to cover up. Jessica-Anne Allen, owner of Cheese and Biscuits Café in Queensland, Australia, has described how she was approached by a male customer in the café to complain that he was upset by a woman in the coffee shop breastfeeding her child nearby. The customer asked the café owner, 29, to tell the mother to cover up. When Mrs Allen refused to do so, he took matters into his own hands and challenged the woman himself. Staff at the café then asked the man to leave
A woman who claimed a Primark security guard had forcibly removed her child while she was breastfeeding has admitted to perverting the course of justice. Caroline Starmer sparked a series of headlines after claiming on Facebook that a store guard had taken her nine-month-old daughter Paige away from her. The mother from Leicester then repeated her claims in a number of interviews, before Primark denied the incident and handed CCTV over to the police to show there was no evidence to support the allegations. Appearing in Leicester Crown Court, she admitted the charge of perverting the course of justice by not telling the truth
Pope Francis has become an unlikely advocate for public breastfeeding, by encouraging mothers to feed their babies in the Sistine Chapel. During a ceremony in Vatican City on Sunday, the Pope baptised 32 babies and told their mothers: “If they are hungry, mothers, feed them, without thinking twice, because they are the most important people here”
Facebook has changed its community guidelines to allow users to post photos of breastfeeding. The change comes as the wide-ranging #FreeTheNipple online campaign has built pace in its attack against guidelines used by social media websites to regulate nudity – from photos of breastfeeding to topless photos post by singer Rihanna’s on her now defunct Instagram account. Facebook’s Community Standards, which outline what users are allowed to post, never included a outright ban on photos of breastfeeding
The manager of a public swimming pool at the Lux Park centre in Liskeardhas been forced to apologise after he told a mother to stop breastfeeding her son by the waterside. 23-year-old Rebecaa Hough of Torpoint, Cornwall, was feeding 10-month-old Max a few steps from the main pool, when the manager told her to carry on in the changing rooms in case the infant was sick into the water. She was also told that she should not to return for half an hour to ensure the milk was fully digested
A Conservative MP has claimed allowing women to breastfeed in the House of Commons chamber would expose politicians to “tabloid ridicule”. Sir Simon Burns, a former transport minister, spoke on what he called a “controversial subject” in a debate in making Westminster more family-friendly
Just because it wasn’t his breasts doing the work doesn’t stop him from empathising with the challenges of motherhood. Even more pertinently, Oliver is a chef – and we could all benefit from his opinion on dietary matters.
But even if he weren't a father or a chef, it wouldn't matter; we shouldn’t simply ban people from discussing topics because of their experiences. There are so many examples in life of people offering valuable advice on situations which they will never experience themselves. For instance, should Professor Robert Winston be stopped from discussing pregnancy because he’ll never be pregnant? Should a chameleon expert not give advice to chameleon owners because they are not a chameleon? Take it to its logical conclusion, and the argument doesn’t make sense.
We should all be entitled to make known our views on something that affects everyone in society.
What I find most depressing of all is that Oliver had something sensible to say on the topic of breastfeeding. He’d read the statistics. They tell a troubling story: that Britain has one of the world’s lowest rates of breastfeeding, with just one in every 200 children reported to be breastfed until the age of 12 months.
We have a shame culture, where mothers feel embarrassed to publicly feed their children. In some cases they have been ostracised and cast out from restaurants or other open spaces for engaging in this natural activity.
Clearly something has to change. But any sort of advocation of breastfeeding is now seen as oppressive to those who can’t do it. I understand that it’s difficult and painful for many women – but when it has some many positive health outcomes, it's for the greater good that we promote it.
It is a myth to think that the non-breastfeeding community is the silenced one; for years they have made known their difficulties. And they are wrong to assume that most people judge them for this.
But we must not be so sensitive to them as to whitewash the benefits of breastfeeding. It’s important – and if it takes a man to remind everyone of that fact, than so be it.