Mona Lisa's Breasts_EditedOn a recent trip to Paris, as I wandered from museum to museum, taking in the art and culture, I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of breasts. And I’m not talking about the multitude of languishing full-figured beauties we’ve come to associate with classical art, but rather it was the depictions of those classical women breastfeeding that really struck me.

The breastfeeding I encountered in the classical art of the Parisian museums was often a part of the scenery. Not a central focal point, just a natural part of the background. Women gathered in Grecian robes breastfeeding their little ones, as men conversed nearby. What’s more, the men in the scenes with them seemed completely at ease with the exposed women; in fact, it looked like they barely even noticed.

In today’s society, could you ever imagine a group of young women breastfeeding in a public place, boobs hanging out, and no man noticing? Of course not; in our overtly sexual culture, bare breasts have become a crude symbol of sexuality, leaving breastfeeding women to hide out in corners and bathrooms to nourish their babies in the most natural way possible.

If an artist were to depict a feeding infant in art today, the baby would most certainly be seen with a bottle, feeding artificially. And if an artist were even to depict a breastfeeding mother at all today, surely her breasts would not be freely out. Ancient art is a snapshot of the times and frequently such a snapshot would include depictions of mothers and children. Today’s art, too, is full of pictures of children, mothers, and progressively even fathers participating in daily household tasks. Yet we do not see depictions of breastfeeding.

Today, Facebook still flags and removes pictures of mothers breastfeeding. On any given evening of television programming it would not be farfetched to find several shows depicting mother and child, yet not one would depict a mother breastfeeding freely, comfortably and confidently breastfeeding her child in public. Yet, how many images do we see everyday of young girls using their bodies for more provocative purposes? If an alien from a different galaxy arrived today and studied our art, he’d see cleavage, provocative dress, and sexual innuendos abound about the breast, but he would leave never having understood breasts’ celestial and natural design.

As breastfeeding rates rise thanks to increasing awareness of its many virtues, so do the sales of breastfeeding cover-ups. It is a booming industry and you can even find cover-ups for sale here in the Ybreast boutique. Social manners dictate that if a mother must breastfeed her child in plain sight, she should cover up. But why? What message is this sending to our young girls? That breasts are only intended for sex and do not serve another, more virtuous purpose? Covers implicitly shame the act of breastfeeding.

Art is merely a reflection of life at a specific moment in time. I dream of a future when our art, our culture, and our society allows a mother to nourish her child naturally, nuzzled at the breast, providing not only nutritional sustenance but the love, affection, and physical warmth that is the natural accompaniment to breastfeeding. I dream of a future where our society reinforces to a new generation of young girls that their breasts are designed for a higher purpose than gracing the covers of Playboy and where our art once again reflects a moment in time where we accept the public display of breastfeeding.