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Celebrity Magazines & Breastfeeding

I’ve got a bit of a problem when it comes to buying celebrity magazines. Wes is always on at me to curtail my spending habit, especially when it comes to handing over my hard earned cash on a gossip mag or 5.

I’ve been the same since I was a teenager. Being someone who has more than a slight interest with celebrity culture, I love nothing more than Tuesday rolling round and me heading out to Sainsbury’s (other major supermarkets available), picking up my weeklies and immersing myself in ‘their world’.

Often, I’ll pick 3 on a Tuesday and then once they’re read, I’ll head back to the shop on a Friday and pick up another 2. It’s been my routine for years and it’s my little bit of escapism from my sometimes otherwise dull life!  I love to read what the celebrities have been getting up to, who they’ve fallen out with and what they’re wearing (or perhaps not wearing with the latest batch of Z –listers!).

You see, that’s the thing with celeb magazines. They’re entertainment and they are escapism.  It’s a time for me and perhaps other readers to find out what’s occurring with the rich and famous.  Sadly, in the world we live in currently, you only have to turn on the news or open a newspaper to see the amount of tragedy taking place the world over.  Death and destruction is commonplace and as someone who has always liked to keep abreast of current affairs, I’m beginning to find it hard to bear at times.  Thus, I’ve found myself turning to the magazines as opposed to the newspapers recently.

Yesterday was no different with my routine. Once I’d finished work, I headed out to the shop to purchase a few groceries (and a box of Quality Street – for myself) and picked up Reveal magazine.

Full of light-hearted celeb interviews, fashion, beauty and the like, Reveal is a magazine which has become a firm favourite of mine since its conception over a decade ago. It’s cheap and cheerful.

I settled down to have a quick flick through (whilst gorging on the box of Quality Street) but something caught my eye. I rarely ever read the first page, preferring to head straight to the nitty gritty of the celeb news and interviews but on this day I did.

Staring back at me I saw a photograph of British actress Thandie Newton posing for a selfie. In the selfie she was breastfeeding her two year old.  Now, that’s not what has got my back up in this scenario.  If Ms Newton wants to breastfeed her 2 year old and take a selfie then who the hell am I to judge?  However, what left something of a nasty taste in my mouth was the headline that was captioned alongside the photo.

BREAST IS BEST was the chosen headline in big, bold letters.

Three little, some may say, inoffensive words that perhaps embodies the selfie and the blurb that accompanied it.

However, I’m concerned at the impact those three words may have.

As aforementioned, celebrity gossip magazines are just that. They’re magazines salacious in nature, full of sensation and fun.  To me, they are not a platform for a showbiz writer to wade into the ever prominent breastfeeding debate.

Allow me to set a scene.

Imagine you have a new Mum. She’s a fortnight into parenting and she’s had a REALLY tough time.  Perhaps she had a traumatic birth which has had a profound effect on her.  She’s tried her hardest to breastfeed her new-born but isn’t enjoying the experience.  Heck, it’s left her drained, both emotionally and mentally.  She’s exhausted.  She’s in a world of pain and can’t bear to continue.  She’s felt an element of pressure from community midwives to continue breastfeeding but she can’t do it anymore.  She’s decided to give up.  It’s affecting her wellbeing and she’s worried about the pain etc. having an effect on the bonding process.

Whilst the baby is asleep she glances over at a small stack of magazines a visitor had left her a few days previous and reaches out for Reveal magazine The pile doesn’t contain any parenting or housekeeping magazines, they’re purely publications of a celebrity nature.

The new Mum is looking for a few moments of me time, something she’s had nothing of since giving birth mere weeks before. Upon opening Reveal magazine the first thing that catches her attention are the words Breast Is Best.

Immediately in that moment she may experience a whole raft of emotions. Perhaps guilt may be one of them.  Resigning herself to the fact that breastfeeding isn’t working and she no longer wants to continue wasn’t easy and she’s been doing all she can to come to terms with her decision.  Throughout her pregnancy she had the expectation she would breastfeed, it might not be easy but it wouldn’t be as hard as it had been.

Of course, the set of circumstances I’ve just outlined are fiction. Although loosely based on my situation almost 3 years ago, this is a scene I’m trying to set.  The pertinent point I’m intending to make is how disappointed and quite frankly; angry I am that a magazine of its genre like Reveal have published this magazine without a thought of the potential consequences.

I’m sure many women looked at the magazine I have this week and haven’t given it a second thought. But I did.

As I’ve previously written, we know breast is best, it’s rammed down our throats often enough. But while it may be best, it often isn’t as easy as that.

In my opinion, celebrity magazines are there to report celebrity news. They’re there for the gossip, they’re not there to tell us what is best for us and our babies.  We have studies for that, we have the experts and we have endless parenting literature available.  A weekly magazine that features stories of Michelle Keegan’s purported ailing marriage or ‘Cheryl’s Revenge’ is not the platform to be informing women that breast is best.

You may think they’re just words and that I’m reading too much into it. And perhaps I am. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the point the magazine are trying to make with the viewpoint they’ve taken with regards to Thandie’s insistence to breastfeed her son in public.  However, I know what it’s like in that moment you decide to no longer breastfeed because it’s too painful/it’s not working or it’s just too damn hard and I would hate for any woman to be made to feel guilty about their decision just because a celebrity magazine declares that Breast Is Best with their chosen headline.

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This Post Has 27 Comments

  1. I breastfed all 5 of my children – first two up to a year, 3rd for about 8 months & the last two roughly 6 -8 months each. I was lucky that they did latch on pretty quickly & I was able to feed – I stopped when they started to get teeth & the blissful feeding sessions started to hurt. I am glad I could breastfeed as I didn’t really want the hassle of using bottles – it was easier to whip out a boob than sterilise a bottle etc. To be honest, what is best for the baby is whatever makes the mum & baby happy – babies thrive on breastmilk & formula; if they can’t latch on properly then babies are better off being fed formula. As long as the babies are being fed, by whatever means, & are happy then really do we really need to be told what is best.

    1. J

      I am a nurse and I did nurse my kids. But I didn’t do it because someone told me it was “best”. I don’t think we need to compare and compete in order to decide. We must do the best we can each do to parent – and sometimes that looks different for us all- and changes during different times. So yes, I guess I agree that if anything, love is best 🙂

  2. I used to devour these magazines too!! Before the children, every Sunday, my husband would go out and get takeaway Costa coffee, a high brow paper for himself, and stacks of celebrity gossip mags for me…! I know exactly what you mean about it being pure escapism!! I don’t read them nowadays though, I seem to have gravitated towards escapism through tv shows-gossip girl, pretty little liars, vampire diaries etc! I’m hoping to resume a little gossip reading when the boys are at school! I know exactly what you mean though-that was clearly a very poorly thought through headline-not meaning anything to a lot of people, but potentially devastating to some. The thing is, that’s not even the message Thandie Newton was trying to give-she was saying that if she wants to do extended breast feeding, and do it public, then she will do. So the headline is actually nothing to do with the message!! It’d be better for everyone if magazines were more educated to these sensitive issues, given the age and potential situation of their readership. Well written as always!!
    #bigpinklink

  3. This really hit a nerve with me too. I remember sitting in a room at the hospital with my husband when I was about 28 weeks pregnant and saying to him, “Thank goodness we are planning on breast feeding as it is rammed down your throat everywhere and if you didn’t want to then you would be made to feel so guilty.” I planned on breastfeeding because I knew that it was best for the baby in terms of the nutrients and the perfect amount and the immunity, plus great for mum with regards to losing the baby weight. However, when it came to it I had no milk. I mean nothing. It never appeared and I was left in tears, feeling helpless and guilty. I am a 30+ mum with a loving husband and great family and friend support. However, it was still heartbreaking and difficult. I completely agree that women who want to breastfeed in public should be able to and that is what the headline should have related to, not a headline that is a common tagline, but not relevant to the point being made. Very thoughtless. Very sad. #DreamTeam

  4. I understand the need to promote breastfeeding, and let people who do want and are able to do it feel comfortable doing so. I breastfed both of mine. but do you know what i dont give it a moments thought now and we all know healthy kids and adults who have been breastfed, bottlefed, platefed, spoonfed!! its always going to be a touchy subject but i do wish we could live and let live #bloggerclubuk

  5. There seems to be a real thing about breastfeeding selfies at the moment. I breastfed both of mine but would have felt weird posting a selfie. There are a few images of me breastfeeding floating about but mainly for the purposes of reviewing a nursing pillow and that sort of thing! #bestandworst

  6. I agree that this sort of magazine is perhaps not the right place to be featuring this sort of campaign. But it IS a fact that breastfeeding provides the best nutrition for babies (and health benefits for mum too). I think there needs to be more honesty about how painful and hard and sleep-depriving breastfeeding can be at first, though. I think the health professionals are so keen to encourage everyone to breastfeed that they just tell you all the good bits, so when it’s hard and you’re bleeding and your baby is still hungry, you think it’s not working properly when actually it is. Sorry, got a bit off topic there! But yes I think in an ‘escapism’ magazine, we don’t want to be told how to live our lives!

    1. Nikki

      Totally agree, I had moments when I almost gave up cos it was so hard and exhausting but 5 months in it couldn’t be more convenient, I do think it’s sad that women who couldn’t breastfeed for various reasons feel guilty because they know deep down it is the best thing for baby but I guess the truth is that these examples need to be shown to increase breastfeeding rates, breastfeeding needs to be promoted as it doesn’t have expensive prime time Ads and the stats are the lowest they have been in years.

  7. Claire

    I completely agree with this and would’ve felt the same as you reading. There’s too much pressure – fed is actually best! #stayclassymama

  8. What a surprise to see this here, I read it on Klout this morning & will be sharing it on my Facebook page. Thanks for a great article. ps…..as I don’t read these magazines’ Is Michelle Keegan’s marriage really in trouble ? : )

  9. I really enjoyed this post. I didn’t breastfeed my daughter, however I don’t have any issues with it or people who choose too and totally understand the benefits and positive factors it contributes to growth, it just wasn’t for me. But at the same time it’s not something I would rule out trying in the future. Anyway back to my point, I think it’s great that they are raising some awareness of it as it is very much a taboo subject isn’t it? It kind of divides everyone (I have no problems). But I totally understand where you are coming from. The wording is a little insensitive for those who didn’t/can’t/struggled breastfeeding. The pressures are so intense sometimes. I truly believe that FEEDING your child is best #sharingthebloglove

  10. There is a massive pressure on new mums to breastfeed but it doesn’t always work out. The UK’s breastfeeding rates are the worst in the world (Unicef). 81% intend to breastfeed at birth but this goes down to 17% by 3 months. I fought and struggled to feed my first for 3 months then had to switch to formula before I went insane because it was just too blooming painful, because of tongue tie. I was devastated I couldn’t feed him and felt so guilty about giving him a bottle.I am still feeding my 21mo now but it is exhausting and painful, as he also has a tongue tie, but it’s what he needs so I go with it. There shouldn’t be a terrible pressure put on new mums to breastfeed, whatever works but breastfeeding should definitely be normalised and promoted #ABloggingGoodTime

  11. This is a really interesting and thought provoking post – my first instinct was to think ‘well, breast IS best for the baby’, why do those words cause so much offence. But then you got me thinking – I don’t think it’s a magazine’s place to be pushing that agenda. I get that it makes a nice alliterative headline, but it’s the build up of all of this kind of talk that puts so much pressure on women to breastfeed. Perhaps if it was left to the health professionals to talk about then the pressure would be less (although personally I feel that the NHS are too heavy handed with their current approach in pushing breastfeeding) Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

  12. Really thought provoking read. I had an emergency c section and abandoned the idea of breastfeeding due to pain. I work in a maternity hospital that promotes breastfeeding is best because yes it is but no its not easy. I expected a lot of backlash from the staff for not breast feeding but they were so surprisingly supportive of my decision #sharingthebloglove

  13. I don’t read any of these magazines. I was never a huge fan anyway but since moving country they have completely dropped off my radar. I think you were spot on when you said that this kind of magazine filled with sensationalist journalism should not be jumping on the Breast feeding band wagon. Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime ?

  14. It’s the use of the word “best” which creates problems for me. It immediately signifies that anything else is less or no good. Celebrity magazines like this need to realise that headlines using words like these can have a huge impact.

  15. I used to be crazy about magazines before I had Emma too, and still love it if I can squeeze in the time. This is something so close to my heart and I couldn’t agree more. As you say, yes Breast Is Best ya dee ya da…but I was one of those mums who couldn’t make it work with my 6 week old baby who was screaming for more milk. I’m a soldierer and as I tried to power through the pain and not let it show to the baby that I was wincing every time she starting feeding, it was not meant to be. And if I had seen this headline at that time, I would have stared at it for ages and all that guilt would have returned in an instant. It’s not easy and sometimes these sensationalist papers need to be a bit mindful of their headlines. Thanks for linking up your fab post to #dreamteam xx

  16. I see what you mean with this! I breastfed my son till he is 2 as well but I wouldnt tell anyone to do it too as parenting and motherhood is hard enough we should be given freedom to choose what is best for us. #pocolo

  17. I don’t like celeb magazines at all, so didn’t see the article, although I did see the photo of Thandie Newton and her son on the internet, and thought it was gorgeous. Although, Booker?! Anyhow, I digress…
    I actually agree with the content of the article, I think it’s absolutely fine and balanced, however I agree that the headline is not great. I really dislike the phrase “breast is best” and never use it myself. Breastmilk is just breastmilk, i.e. normal. It’s not “best”, it’s just normal.

  18. Absolutely brilliant post – you described me right after I had Alfie and yet I battled on with breast feeding for 8 horrific weeks thinking I was a bad Mum and failing if I stopped, I struggled to bond and felt resentful towards him but once I had stopped things took a turn for the better. With Elarna I tried and failed once again, I just couldn’t get to grips with it and lasted 24 hours, I was so much happier when I decided to go with the bottle. I had a very supportive midwife though who recognised that I had made the right decision. Thanks for linking up lovely! #bestandworst

  19. This made me tear up for some reason. I fucking hate that this magazine would title this article Breast is Best. I breastfed, preservered through really hard times, and if I saw that at the time (even now) it would make me furious. Also I read the article part in the photo you included and it seems as if the article is about breastfeeding in public not about breastfeeding being the best for your child, so I can only assume they titled it Breast is Best for effect which makes me even angrier. Anyway completely agree with you on all points. Thanks for sharing with #StayClassyMama!

  20. Really interesting post to read. What annoyed me most is that the article underneath is about feeding in public and not the debate about breastfeeding being best, which is what the headline leads to believe its going to be about. That is just them going for a headline they know will grab people. But, as you say any new mum who is struggling could just read the headline and not the article and feel like crap. That is what i don’t like about it. Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove Laura x

  21. Brilliant post hun! I couldn’t agree more. I had to give up on breastfeeding the first time after just one week, neither BP or I did very well with it. BP lost a ton of weight for some reason and I decided it was better to bottle feed. Once I’d switched he gained weight and was much healthier. It was almost exactly the same with LP 5 years later, I at least managed 2 weeks with him but again he lost weight. And when he was born he was just 5lbs so losing weight was a big issue. The breastfeeding was painful and left me in tears every time. I HAD to stop. I felt guilty, like I had let them both down and having a magazine like Reveal tell me I was being rubbish too might have sent me over the edge. I think you’re completely right to be annoyed at it. 🙂
    Thanks for linking to #pocolo

  22. In a lot of publication there always the focus on breast feeding and yet I know some women who can’t breast feed. Honestly what is best for you and your baby, don’t listen to what the press are saying. xx

  23. Janet

    I’m surprised that an article like this was published in a celeb mag. The article itself is a lot about breastfeeding in public – so if the headline was different, it would have had a completely different impact. I have three children, and I didn’t even consider breast feeding for the first two. It was probably naïve of me in one sense but it was because I didn’t know how I was going to manage in public and I was young, a bit of a prude, and I wanted my husband to be able to share feeds too. His family seemed to scoff on people who breast fed and I have anxiety issues and didn’t feel confident enough. I had shaped up by the time I had my third and decided that I was breast feeding – my husband had always said he would support me either way and to take no notice of anyone else. I think at one point, there was such a stigma put onto it that now people are trying to normalise it. Maybe in this case, it was trying to hard. I actually enjoyed the bonding experience but I became really sore, and he wasn’t getting enough milk. I spent my days feeding him for him not to be full. I tried bottles and they didn’t agree with him either and continued to spend my time pacing with him, whilst being a zombie. Turns out he had an allergy and finally at four and half months, was put on special prescription milk. I remember feeling I had failed because the breast feeding hadn’t worked out because I was determined that I was going to do what I wanted this time. He was the only one who had a milk allergy and now I sort of regret not trying with the other two because it was a special bonding experience, but I can’t change that now – I have happy and healthy children and thankfully, the other one grew out of his digestive issues by the age of 1. I have friends who breast feed and have had wonderful experiences. I also have a friend who could not due to a medical condition and the tablets she had to go onto once she had given birth. She knows breast is best, but this article might have been insensitive for someone like her, because she was unable to and has tried her best to do what’s right. We love our children, we feed them and we try our best either way! I agree with the reasons behind your anger completely because you never know what a person reading has been through and when you would expect this in a parents/pregnancy magazine you wouldn’t expect it when reading about celebrities.

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