The perfect way Sesame Street talked about breastfeeding 40 years ago

If the explanation works for Big Bird, it should work for us, too!

The perfect way Sesame Street talked about breastfeeding 40 years ago
?: Via PBS

For those of us fairly new to the world of parenthood, it can seem like breastfeeding is a topic especially fraught with controversy—which is why we could all stand to learn something from the perfect way characters on Sesame Street talked about breastfeeding 40 years ago. Now, thanks to YouTube, two perfectly eloquent and educational clips from the 1970s and 1980s are having a bit of a moment online. And although they may not have the high-defenition our kids are used to, the segments are teaching a lesson many modern mamas can get behind.


The most famous clip is just under a minute long and starts with Big Bird leaning over 1970s cast member Buffy Sainte-Marie, who is nursing her son, Dakota "Cody" Wolfchild to ask what she’s doing.

"I’m feeding the baby. See, he’s drinking milk from my breast,” she says. “Lots of mothers feed their babies this way. Not all mothers, but lots of mothers do.”

Sainte-Marie tells Big Bird that breastfeeding is nice, warm, sweet, natural, good for the baby—“and I get to hug him when I do it.” To Big Bird, that was a perfectly reasonable explantion and he happily went back to what he was doing.

Reflecting on the episode in a 2015 interview with The Guardian, Sainte-Marie said she believes she was the first person to nurse a baby on a major television show. She added, “I mean, think of the impact: it was three shows a day in 72 countries.”

Sesame Street again used breastfeeding as an educational opportunity in 1988 when Sonia Marzano (known on the show as “Maria”) fed her little baby, Gabriella. In the scene, Marzano explained to another little girl cast member that Gabriella sometimes drank from her breast and sometimes drank from a bottle.

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“Before you know it, she won’t be a baby anymore. She’ll be eating big, fat sandwiches,” Marzano says in the clip. “But, for now, she’s drinking milk.”

To that, the little girl replies, “You know, that’s nice.”

Despite decades passing since Sainte-Marie and Marzano nursed their babies on Sesame Street, breastfeeding rates are still not where the World Health Organization wants them to be.

So, while these clips may be vintage, their message is still needed today: Whether a mama is on Sesame Street or just Main Street, breastfeeding is normal and wonderful.

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