Hayek Breastfeeding: Why Do We Care?

Health workers say the USA is unique in its breastfeeding issues.

ByABC News
February 12, 2009, 1:16 PM

Feb. 12, 2009— -- A video of Salma Hayek breastfeeding another woman's baby boy in Sierra Leone has ignited a week's worth of controversy on the Internet.

The video clip generated millions of Web hits along with a slew of passionate comments by people including women who were moved to tears by Hayek's generosity, some calling Hayek disloyal to her own breastfeeding daughter and others who responded with a simple, "That is so wrong."

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But why does America care so much?

"We're messed up," said Dr. Miriam Labbok, a physician, professor and director for the Carolina Global Breastfeeding Institute.

Labbok has traveled the world working with nursing mothers, public health experts and breast milk banks. Based on her research and personal experience, Labbok said she's noticed that the United States has an extreme view of breastfeeding compared to many other countries.

"We've lost the concept that breastfeeding is normal and human in the United States," said Labbok. "In most of the world, it's [nursing someone else's baby is] as common as breastfeeding" one's own.

"In many African cultures, it is not just a nice thing to do, it's expected -- although it's mostly within families," she said. "Anybody who is able to lactate and who does not feed a crying child is considered not doing the right thing."

Labbok met Hayek during her work with the United Nations Children's Fund, commonly known by the acronym UNICEF.

"She's a generous woman," said Labbok, who guessed that Hayek likely asked the baby's mother for permission.

Scientifically, Labbok said it is a natural reaction for a lactating woman's body to "let down" milk when she hears any crying baby.