In case you haven’t seen the news, the Internet is all in an uproar over the Olivia Wilde breastfeeding images that look “too perfect.”
Critics argue that Wilde made something that’s often far from easy, look rather perfect. But that’s kind of what Olivia Wilde does, though—she makes things look perfect because she is so perfect looking. Olivia Wilde breastfeeding should be no exception.
While breastfeeding is growing in popularity with American moms, many still resort to formula feeding from the beginning because they’re not educated enough on the benefits of breastfeeding. And many more don’t breastfeed for the full first year of a child’s life, the minimum recommendation from the World Health Organization. Some women are intimidated by fears of showing breasts in public and the backlash public feeding can have. (A friend was asked to stop breastfeeding in a museum recently, she refused.) Some don’t do it because (gasp) some men find it unsexy.
But the critics are shaming Wilde for just the opposite reason: Making it look easy and beautiful and perfect. “[C]elebrity culture makes motherhood look effortless and easy, especially when it comes to breastfeeding,” Susan Rohwer wrote in the Los Angeles Times, suggesting that Wilde’s image is a fantasy that does a disservice to the women who don’t have makeup artists and stylists on hand before a photo opp. Rowher points a finger at Wilde as if to say she should be ashamed for being beautiful—that her “effortless” breastfeeding is a slap in the face to women who have a harder time with it. That statement is a much bigger slap in the face than Wilde being a beautiful mom. Are we not women united in motherhood? If one of us has a difficult time breastfeeding should none of us look happy or beautiful doing it? How does that help us, exactly?
Rowher and other critics aren’t totally wrong; breastfeeding is incredibly difficult. I’ve personally had an extremely challenging time breastfeeding, and to me, Wilde’s image is inspiring and hopeful. From plugged ducts more painful than labor itself, to finding out I didn’t produce enough milk for my daughter, it was–and still is (we’re still breastfeeding at 11 months)–positive images like this, and a circle of successful breastfeeding moms, that keeps me motivated despite the challenges we’ve had.
Yes, breastfeeding is hard, but even at its worst, most painful, most unsuccessful moments, there is still the bond between mother and child that even if it only happens once, is incredibly powerful and meaningful for both. Breastfeeding won’t happen for every mom. And for those it does happen for, there is often discomfort, stress, pain and struggle at times. But that doesn’t mean it’s not always an act that at its core is inherently beautiful, wonderful and absolutely perfect. Whether we look like Olivia Wilde or not.
Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger
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image via Glamour