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Feminist Artists In Kentucky Support Breastfeeding

08/07/2007 02:26 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

On August 2nd, Women's eNews reported that breastfeeding advocates are battling for stronger rights across the US. In New York, for example, Rep. Carolyn Maloney introduced the Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2007 to encourage continued breastfeeding by working mothers.

In Kentucky, feminist artists are using their creative powers to dispel silences, counter sexualized attitudes about women breasts, and promote positive and healthy images of this important practice. In Kettle, Ky, visual artist Patricia Ritter created a series of watercolors of young mothers nursing their infants. In her artist statement, Ritter wrote that she "was concerned that women are being embarrassed and forced to restrict their lives if society does not support breastfeeding in public." Equally important, she wanted to show that breastfeeding is a natural and "proven healthy start" for infants.

Ritter presented each of the mothers portrayed in her pictures and with a copy of her watercolor portraits and the quotes she created with them. Ritter's watercolors were exhibited at a regional Health and Wellness Center near her. She is also exploring placing the images in the delivery ward of a local hospital.

The Women's eNews report noted that The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, a partnership that includes the World Health Organization, UNICEF, La Leche League International and a host of lactation specialists and consultants, is sponsoring World Breastfeeding Week this month ( http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/index.htm).

Here in Louisville, KY, the Squallis Puppeteers are joining with visual artist Angela Ramsey Robinson in a week-long series of arts events proclaimed as Breast Fest. Workshops in puppet making, creating papier mache breasts and other interactive art forms will help women become more aware of the benefits of breastfeeding and developing a "Breastfeeding culture in Kentucky." As Squallis Puppeteers point out, "Women should not be in the position of having to choose whether to hide in toilet stalls or risk being put in the category of indecent exposure."

Breast Fest will culminate in an all-day party and closing performance on Saturday, August 11th. Art created in the workshops will be displayed, and there will be special puppet performances. The organizers also encourage participants to engage in inspiring conversations, shared experiences, and kind acts.

As Women's eNews reported, "Breastfeeding is not just a lifestyle choice but a significant health choice." Advocates agree that, if possible, breastfeeding is the best option for both mother and child. Breastfeeding transfers some immunity to diseases from mother to child, including respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. Some studies have shown they have 50 percent to 95 percent fewer infections. Other studies suggest breastfed babies are at lower risk for sudden infant death syndrome and serious chronic disease later in life such as asthma, diabetes, leukemia and some forms of lymphoma.

The health benefits may extend to mothers as well. Studies cited by advocates have shown breastfeeding reduces the risk of adult-onset diabetes and osteoporosis later in life. "A lot of people view this as a personal rights issue for mothers," said a representative of La Leche, "but it's not just a mother's right, it's a child's right too."

Feminist artists in Kentucky are doing their share to create engaging art that brings this important issue to the attention of women, men, and children in our state.

Women's eNews lists the following sources for more information:

Breastfeeding World