You may have seen the recent discussion about breastfeeding and television host Jamie Oliver on Twitter or Facebook.
So what does Jamie Oliver, British celebrity chef, restaurateur, and media personality (known for his food-focused television shows, cookbooks and more recently his global campaign for better food education) know about breastfeeding? And just what did he say that ignited so many strong responses?
He is the father to four children and one on the way. Oliver, a Member of the Order of the
British Empire and Honorary Fellowship by the Royal College of General Practitioners for his
work in tackling childhood obesity, commented last week that Britain's low breastfeeding rate is a cause for concern. He was criticized because never having breastfed himself, women felt he had no right to "be the face" of a breastfeeding campaign. However, as journalist Charlotte Gill of the Independent UK pointed out, "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, then so be it".
This is all symptomatic of the push back that breastfeeding advocates are experiencing in social media - when those what choose not to breastfeed or cannot breastfeed feel threatened and subsequently speak out. There is one fact that no one can dispute: breastmilk is the best food for babies as it is made by the mother herself. Breastmilk is specifically designed for babies and that milk changes over time to adjust to the needs of the baby.
Granted, Oliver probably should not have made that statement that breastfeeding is easy. There is a population of mothers and babies who find breastfeeding a challenge. Conversely, however, there is another population of mothers and babies who do find breastfeeding easy. Oliver only sees his experience with breastfeeding (watching his wife breastfeed) to all back on. He could have said it differently, but he was not incorrect!
Breastfeeding needs champions. If a celebrity, who also a man, chooses to speak out on behalf of the health of babies and empower women to breastfeed, let him!