In Arkansas, about 75% of infants are ever breastfed and only about 13% are being exclusively breastfed at 6 months post-partum (the length recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization that babies be exclusively breastfed). Some of the risks associated with not breastfeeding include increased risk of ear infection, gastrointestinal infection, sudden infant death syndrome and lower respiratory tract disease in infants as well as increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers in mothers (Surgeon General's Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding, 2011).
In the Surgeon General's "Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding", 2011, embarrassment is cited as one of the seven key barriers to breastfeeding, "The popular culture's sexualization of breasts compels some women to conceal breastfeeding. Improving support for women to breastfeed can help them better accommodate the demands of everyday life while protecting their infants' health."
I have worked for over two years to get a piece selected to tour with Small Works on Paper (a year-long art exhibition that travels to about ten different galleries across Arkansas). This year, one of my nursing photos was selected by the juror to be included in the exhibition, but the first venue, the South Arkansas Arts Center, has chosen to exclude my piece from the opening show based on the fact that as a breastfeeding photo they do not think it will be received well.
By choosing to exclude my piece, the South Arkansas Arts Center is sending the message that breastfeeding should be kept private, when in fact it is every mother's and nursling's right to breastfeed in any place (public or private) in Arkansas.
If they were to include my photo, it would send the message that there is no need for mothers to feel embarrassed or to feel the need to conceal breastfeeding. This would be a positive step toward improving breastfeeding rates along with the health of infants and mothers across Arkansas.