Salma Hayek Breastfeeds an African Baby
Perhaps you’ve seen the video already? Selma Hayek is making headlines around the world with her breastfeeding of an African baby boy in Sierra Leone that was captured by an ABC film crew.
The image invokes visions of long-ago days of wet nurses and what is today a social taboo. But before you rush to judgment, make sure you’ve heard the whole story.
Ms. Hayek was visiting the country of Sierra Leone (a tiny country located on the north west coast of Africa) as part of a goodwill trip promoting tetanus vaccinations. Thirty percent of children in the country are underweight from moderate to severe and the life expectancy is a staggering 42. While there, Hayek learned that only 8% of infants under six months old are breastfed in Sierra Leone (compared to 39% in the U.S., an astounding 73% breastfeed for at least some period of time). This low rate is mostly due to the social stigma across Africa that it’s unacceptable to have sexual relations with a breastfeeding woman. There’s no doubt that the low rate of breastfeeding is directly correlated to the number of infants who are underweight and malnourished.
With all this in mind, Salma Hayek, who at the time was still nursing her one year old daughter, Valentia, stopped in the middle of her tour and filming and breastfed a tiny, African baby boy who was obviously undernourished and hungry. Asked about the incident afterward, Hayek said, “"Am I being disloyal to my child by giving her milk away? I actually think my baby would be very proud to share her milk. And when she grows up I'm going to make sure she continues to be a generous, caring person."
See for yourself
Advocates of breastfeeding in the United States, one of the most noted organizations being La Leche League, do not support cross-nursing. They do encourage donated breast milk for those who are unable to breastfeed for one reason or another, but they site a variety of reasons why cross-nursing is not advisable. Among these reasons are risk of infections, reduced milk supply, and even psychological damage. However, most believe that Ms. Hayek was making a statement about breastfeeding itself and not the practice of cross-nursing.
With as much support and controversy as Salma Hayek’s act has stirred up across the globe, let’s hope that it stirs up even more discussions in Sierra Leone and the continent of Africa, where the breaking down of social stigmas surrounding breastfeeding and the increase of the act itself could make a difference in millions of lives.