Seen the new Luvs commercial?
The spot, one of four in a new campaign for the diaper company, opens with an obviously frazzled mother, a first-timer, struggling to breastfeed her baby in public under a blanket. It then cuts to the same mother, older and wiser, her firstborn now a toddler, as she breastfeeds her second baby in the same restaurant. No blanket. When the waiter's eyes wander downward, her fingers prod his gaze toward her eyes. "Up here," she says.
Whether veteran mothers buy Luvs because of experience or because they're cheaper than, say, Pampers or Huggies, is open for debate. But the message that breastfeeding in public is an inalienable right, the confident act of a woman who's been there done that, comes across loud and clear.
Response from the media has been overwhelmingly positive, a back-slap of congratulations on a topic that I, a mother of five grown children, thought long settled.
"A triumph for mothers who breastfeed in public," crowed Salon.com. From Advertisement Journal: "Smart, funny and graceful." And cafemom.com: "Great job, Luvs. And thank you!"
But support from the public? Only so-so.
"Luvs should stick to selling diapers and stay out of the politics!" wrote "Tasteless" from Temecula, Calif., on the Luvs website. "I found the ad tasteless and crude."
Posted Sarah, a nursing mom from Manchester, N.H., "OK people of Luvs. ... The bare breastfeeding mom is a little over the top. I mean come on. Any woman whipping the girls out in public is looking for nothing but attention. There is no need."
Here we go again. Like clockwork, every few months, someone somewhere publicly engages in this most natural and ageless of acts, and the debate -- hide 'em or let 'em hang out -- resurfaces in all its vitriol and self-righteousness.
About four months ago, a photo of two military moms breastfeeding in public while wearing their uniforms sparked both outrage and support. It was part of a breastfeeding awareness campaign by Mom2Mom of Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Wash. One critic compared it to urinating and defecating in public while in military garb.
I consider that comment an insult to both motherhood and country. But of course, the controversy has less to do with the uniform and everything to do with our view of women's bodies.
In 2011, two employees at a Target store in Houston ordered a breastfeeding customer to use a fitting room, though she had covered herself with a blanket. She reported it on Facebook and mothers organized "nurse-ins" at Targets all over the country. Four years earlier, another woman suffered similar harassment, this time in the back of an Applebee's restaurant. She, too, organized a protest.
Sadly, I doubt this debate will end anytime soon because it's an extension of the way we, as a society, view our bodies. Form or function? Pleasurable or practical? Bombarded by contradictory messages, American women feel ambivalent about their breasts when used for their true purpose.
While nursing in public is no big deal in many countries, here at home mothers are likely to be rewarded with a scowl instead of encouragement. In our society, breasts -- cleavage, really -- serve another purpose. They sell cars, promote sporting events, advertise websites and campaign for beer, shaving cream and men's cologne. Isn't it about time they endorsed good mothering?
(Ana Veciana-Suarez is a family columnist for The Miami Herald. Write to her at The Miami Herald, One Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132, or send e-mail to aveciana(at)herald.com.)