A Teachable Moment Missed (Real Housewives of Atlanta)

Anyone who knows me or followed my old blog on What to Expect should know that I’m a wee bit of a lactivist. I fully support a woman exercising her right to breastfeed in public or private, her baby’s right to eat, and companies making it easier for women to breastfeed and/or pump. I also know when to choose my battles. For example, as much as I loathe the idea of nursing in a sweaty locker room or bathroom, I sucked it up and did so voluntarily when at my in law’s country club over the holidays. I also would not nurse sans cover in someone else’s house without their permission.

I love breastfeeding. I think every mother should at least try it. But I understand why some don’t or can’t. This doesn’t change the fact that it is what is best for baby. And it doesn’t change the fact that, for some inexplicable reason, some people still don’t understand the concept that breastfeeding has been around for centuries and that formula is a new construct. Yes, breast milk is the default. It has always been here. Yet for some reason, we still need to “normalize” breastfeeding.

This is why an episode of Real Housewives of Atlanta I recently watched disturbed me so much.

Okay. Let’s be honest, many episodes of RHOA are disturbing for many reasons. MANY. (Um… Ridickulous, anyone? << WARNING: NSFW) But it's not often that I find on that show an actual opportunity for a teachable moment. It's sad that the one time I found it, I was let down. I guess that's what I get for actually having hopes and standards for anything that comes out of the Real Housewives franchise.

On this particular episode, a very pregnant Kim Zolciak is talking to her daughter Brielle about breastfeeding the new baby after he is born. Kim, a former L&D nurse, starts out really well by telling her daughter how she’s going to feed the baby breast milk because that’s what’s best for babies. Then her daughter, a typical ignorant teenager who hasn’t had to be exposed to babies and nursing, gives a pretty classic and expected response, “Ew, gross.” Now this would have been the perfect time for Kim to explain to her daughter that there’s nothing gross about breastfeeding at all. Instead, how does Kim react? “Yeah, I know. Right?”. Kim does make a little bit of recovery by telling her daughter how she was breastfed and so was her little sister. However, I just can’t get past the “Yeah, I know. Right?”.

Kim talks to her daughter, Brielle, about breastfeeding

That is the wrong response by any person, let alone a former nurse, in relation to breastfeeding. There is nothing gross about it. It is simply feeding your child the way nature intended. Period. I have read ignorant comments before where people have associated breastfeeding with other natural bodily functions, such as defecating, or horrible things like child molestation. It is none of these things. In reference to the comparisons of breast milk and toilet functions, would you allow someone to put a Ziploc bag of urine or BM on your dinner table? Of course not. Yet, breast milk in a bottle sitting on your table is perfectly acceptable to everyone. This alone underscores (for those too stupid or dim to see it any other way) the difference between the two functions. With respect to the disgusting and idiotic child abuse allegations, breastfeeding is not child molestation any more than changing your baby’s diaper is.

For those who have issues about nursing in public, those are truly their own issues. The primary function of breasts are to feed children. Yes, they have a secondary function related to sex; but guess what? So does your mouth. Until there’s a big push for people covering up their mouths while eating in public, lest some man conjure up inappropriate images of the things a woman could do to him with her mouth, I don’t want to hear any complaint about mothers breastfeeding in public. And until we revert to Victorian culture where women are covered up from the neck down, don’t even try to feed me lines about breastfeeding women with their breasts “hanging out” [something, BTW, I have never seen].

The bottom line is, Kim messed up big time by missing this teachable moment. As a former L&D nurse and someone who knows the importance of breast milk enough to have nursed three children [and risk the lives of her two oldest trying to pump while driving], she was in a perfect position to teach her oldest daughter that breastfeeding is not in any way, shape or form, gross. Instead, she acted pretty much how I should expect a Real Housewife. Shame.

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