Hide that breast!

Parenting mag takes flak for putting nursing infant on the cover.

Published July 27, 2006 10:39PM (EDT)

Some readers of Babytalk magazine threw a hissy fit when the parenting magazine ran an image on its cover of -- horrors! -- a baby nursing. In a photo, an infant suckles on a breast, shown in profile, without even any nipple exposed. (Click here to see the picture.)

Even though the readership of the magazine is overwhelmingly the mothers of new babies, fully a quarter of 4,000 readers surveyed thought that it was "inappropriate," according to the Associated Press. Some of those reader responses: "I was SHOCKED to see a giant breast on the cover of your magazine." "I immediately turned the magazine face down," wrote another. "Gross," said a third. Babytalk editor Susan Kane told the AP that the mixed reaction reflects the larger ambivalence about public breast-feeding: "There's a huge Puritanical streak in Americans," she said, "and there's a squeamishness about seeing a body part -- even part of a body part."

The great irony of this little contretemps is that the cover image illustrates a feature titled "Why Women Don't Nurse Longer." The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that women breast-feed infants for one year, writer Katherine Kam reports. In 2004, 70 percent of American mothers said that they'd tried breast-feeding, yet only 36 percent of them were still doing it six months later, and only 17 percent a full year later. One of the big barriers to moms and babies making it to the one-year breast-feeding milestone? "Negative public attitudes," Kam writes.

Gee, you think? If not even a magazine for parents of babies can show a nursing infant on the cover without taking flak, the lactivists sure have their work cut out for them.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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