Thursday, March 21, 2013

Happy Birthday, Mister Rogers

Mister Rogers was a brilliant man.  So what would have been his take on breastfeeding?

An autographed photo of Mister Rogers,
which he sent to my husband in 1983.

Yesterday was Mr. Fred Rogers' birthday. 

It's been a decade now since the world lost this wonderful man.  A man who made children feel loved, just the way they are, and gave a crotchety Senator goosebumps.  A man who was gifted with so many insights about children and how they learn and feel and grow. 

I think most everyone recognizes that Fred Rogers was spot on with everything he said.  Always honest, always caring - he earned our trust.  He was special. 

So how would he have felt about nursing in public?

From Adam's scrapbook - Mister Rogers' letter
How do you think?  What's your best guess about how this great man, who was so in tune with children and how best to respect them and teach them - what is your guess about how he might have treated the topic of breastfeeding?

My husband, Adam, has always been a huge fan of Fred Rogers.  When he was eight years old, he wrote to him.  Mister Rogers wrote back. 

Adam even wrote a song about him when he died.

Yesterday he posted these photos to Facebook, and a friend of his commented that she liked the "Mister Rogers Talks about Food" episode, and today he found it online.

In it, Mister Rogers says that moms often find pleasure in feeding their babies - feeding their babies is a way of showing love.

In the clip below, there are different animals nursing their offspring.  As the mama cat is nursing, the camera gets a close up of a kitten, and you can see that it latches on to the mama's nipple to drink milk.  I thought as I watched it, "How wonderful!  Kids can really see it.  It takes the mystery out of it."

(You may want to watch for yourself now, to avoid my spoiler below.)

As I watched, I hoped that Mister Rogers would show women nursing on his show, even though I was happy even just to see calves and kittens.  And then - boom! - a nipple.  

A mama nursing her baby, and not even covered up.  

On TV, on a brilliant children's program.  Taking all the mystery out of breastfeeding, so that children can see and understand the primary function of breasts.  While they're young, before they've received the message broadcast so loudly by our society that breasts are sexy.  Cause how confusing must that be?  

Going from "breasts are for feeding babies" to "breasts are attractive" is as natural a progression as going from kisses on your neck tickling as a child to kisses on your neck tingling as a teen.  Starting with cleavage on pretty Disney princesses and then finally mentioning to adolescents that mammary glands are the best way to nourish a baby - that's what could be damaging to a child.

I'm still dealing with AISD so I have to say here that as the vast majority of mothers do, I will conform to society's expectations that I do not reveal any of my breast while I nurse my baby at school.  And my agenda with AISD has only ever been for mothers to feel at ease to feed their babies at schools as needed without being shamed.

But in the wider world, normalizing breastfeeding absolutely includes children seeing mothers feeding their babies as we were designed to do.  And I'm not the only one who thinks so.  The brilliant, gentle Mr. Fred Rogers thought so, too. 


  1. What a beautiful segment. How I wish the media still treated breastfeeding that way! I mentioned your words above and shared your video on my new post:

    1. Yes, if TV shows could pass up the chance at a joke and just treat breastfeeding as normal, it sure would do a lot to normalize it.

  2. This is absolutely wonderful! I followed your advice and watched before reading the rest! I was so happy to see this on a child's tv show it brought tears to my eyes! I remember loving this show as a child. I will absolutely make this one of the select shows I allow my daughter to watch in a few years. Thank you for sharing!

  3. You'll need to find the series on DVD, as most PBS stations are no longer running it or at most run one episode/week on a weekend day.

    I remember seeing this episode. It was wonderful.

  4. This episode is on DC's PBS station this morning at 6am... I had never seen it before, and it was so sweet to watch. Thanks for bringing attention to it! - Mom of 2