Every so often something happens to reignite the debate over nursing in public and this time the breast-feeding controversy takes a turn down Sesame Street.
More than 7,000 people have signed a petition at www. thepetitionsite.com to "Bring breast-feeding back to Sesame Street," the popular children's television show.
The push started after blogger Lani Michelle posted links to videos from the 1970s and 1980s showing babies being openly breast-fed by their mothers juxtaposed by a video from the 1990s that had been edited to include only bottle-fed babies.
"I don't see why 'Sesame Street' wouldn't show these images," said Kim Opitz, a St. Louis Park mother of three. Opitz plans to share the old "Sesame Street" videos with her 4- and 6-year-old daughters, who are often curious when she's breast-feeding her 6-month-old. "Their exposure to breast-feeding is going to make them stronger women when they grow up and more confident with their own bodies."
The petition encourages "Sesame Street" to portray both bottle feeding and breast-feeding as normal ways of feeding a baby.
In one clip from 1977, Canadian musician Buffy Sainte-Marie breast-fed her baby while Big Bird curiously watched. "See? He's drinking milk from my breast," she explained. "Lots of mothers feed their babies this way ... and he likes it because it's nice and warm and sweet and natural. And it's good for him."
The show released a statement to the Star Tribune that said: "Sesame Street is a research-based educational program designed to teach our preschool audience. Each new season is intended to deliver on a specific curriculum; this year the curriculum is science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). We have depicted breast-feeding in the past when it was a natural part of the storyline."
Many breast-feeding mothers and their supporters are baffled that public breast-feeding still creates such controversy.
Facebook has a history of categorizing photos of breast-feeding as "obscene content" and removing them. Recently, the social media site apologized for removing an entire group page after a photo was posted of a 7-year-old girl pretending to nurse a doll.
In 2010, a couple were told to leave a Maplewood Old Country Buffet after the woman was asked to cover up while nursing her 6-month-old. The restaurant claims the couple were asked to leave after the dad became "verbally aggressive," which the couple disputes.
Just last month, mothers held "nurse-ins" at more than 250 Target stores nationwide to assert their right to breast-feed in public after a Houston woman was asked to relocate to a dressing room to feed her 5-month-old son.
Minnesota is a leader in legally protecting and supporting breast-feeding mothers. More than 80 percent of Minnesota children are given breast milk at some point in their lives, according to the Centers for Disease Control's 2011 Breast-feeding Report Card.
"Children learn by observation, and seeing others breast-feeding helps children learn how infants are fed," said Mary Johnson, breast-feeding coordinator for the Minnesota Women, Infants and Children program. "It would be great if we could create a culture in which breast-feeding is fully accepted and a normal part of day-to-day life. We've been working in Minnesota for a long time to help reduce those barriers."
Aimée Tjader • 612-673-1715