The Breastfeeding Wall

A friend recently returned from a trip to Iceland and emailed me a few photos she’d taken in Reykjavik.  Knowing my natural approach to child-raising, and possibly remembering the post I’d written on breastfeeding a few months back, she thought of me when she saw this unusual sight.

A building in Reykjavik, Iceland

A building in Reykjavik, Iceland

I couldn’t believe it when I opened the file and saw an entire exterior wall covered with big photos of breastfeeding women.  What a change from the usual use of breasts for outdoor advertising, where they’re displayed provocatively and sexually on big billboards along roadways to sell products.  I’m guessing these are usually aimed at male buyers, though I’ll reluctantly admit that women do tend to check out other women’s boobs, more out of competitive comparison than anything else!

What I liked about this picture is the background scenery.  Though it does look as if the breastfeeding mamas were superimposed onto the gorgeous landscapes (thanks, photo editing), the message is clear: that women should feel comfortable nursing babies anywhere and anytime, not just within the confines and privacy of home.

From what I know about Scandinavian parenting styles, babies do spend a lot of time outdoors.  In an article called “Forget Tiger Mom, here comes the Scandi Dad,” there was a description of numerous Danish babies sleeping in their strollers outside the local café while parents drank coffee and visited in the frigid winter weather.  Babies were snug little bundles, warm under their mountains of quilts, and breathing fresh air, which is considered very beneficial.  (A Danish mother was arrested for doing this in New York City.)  I mention this because the outdoor nursing images are not all that farfetched, if Icelandic mothers believe in the importance of the being outside from a young age.

Although the so-called ‘mommy wars’ can get downright vicious, I believe that women, if choosing to breastfeed, must be allowed to do it wherever necessary.  The expectation, of course, is that they’ll be discreet about it, not flaunt it.  In a world where women are still asked to leave stores for nursing babies, there need to be more murals like this one in Reykjavik to normalize the perfectly healthy image of a mother breastfeeding her child.