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Buffy Sainte-Marie talked about her decision to breastfeed her son on Sesame Street in 1977, saying the groundbreaking moment “wasn’t controversial.”
The Oscar-winning singer and Indigenous rights activist played herself in the children’s series from 1976 to 1981. After the birth of her son, Dakota “Cody” Starblanket Wolfchild, she proposed a breastfeeding segment to educate viewers.
The Sesame Street episode is widely regarded as the… first picture of breastfeeding on television, but at the time it wasn’t seen as a big deal.
‘I know lately’ [public breastfeeding] is quite inflammatory — there’s always someone who has to sexualize it — but it was very normal,” Sainte-Marie, now 81, told me. Yahoo Life in a republished interview from last year.
Buffy Sainte-Marie, 81, spoke on Sesame Street in 1977 about her decision to breastfeed her son, Dakota “Cody” Starblanket Wolfchild, during an interview with Yahoo Life.
The clip shows her breastfeeding her son in front of Big Bird, explaining that he drinks milk from her breast
The episode shows the mother of one breastfeeding her son as Big Bird looks over her shoulder and asks what she is doing.
“I feed the baby,” she explains. “Look, he drinks milk from my breast.”
“That’s a funny way to feed a baby,” says Big Bird.
“Many mothers feed their babies this way,” Sainte-Marie replies. “Not all mothers, but many mothers do.”
The Canadian-American musician told Yahoo Life that the idea for the segment came from her experience after birth in the hospital.
Sainte-Marie said she was inspired to pitch the idea to producers after being fed a basket full of formula after the birth of her son.
The Canadian-American noted that the segment was “not controversial” and was considered “very normal” at the time
“When I woke up from delivering my baby, there was a big basket of stuff from a formula company,” she recalls. “I prefer breastfeeding, but… there’s no money for breastfeeding, so no one makes a fortune.
‘The formula companies put a lot of money into education in medical hospitals. So that’s kind of the difference. And sometimes there’s no one to blame for the things you wish would change in the world… So why don’t I talk about it?’
Sainte-Marie, who was already breastfeeding her son off-camera, said the show’s producers were immediately open to the idea.
“It was nothing. It wasn’t controversial,’ she explained. ‘I introduced it to the producers, they were just great by the way. They never stereotyped me as ‘the Sesame Street Indian.’
The Oscar-winning singer and Indigenous rights activist played herself in the children’s series from 1976 to 1981
Sainte-Marie became the first Indigenous person to win an Academy Award when her hit Where We Belong was named Best Original Song in 1983.
Sainte-Marie’s life and career take center stage in the upcoming documentary Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On
“We did segments on sibling rivalry, breastfeeding, multiculturalism, travel, all sorts of things besides indigenous things,” she added.
A few years after Sainte-Marie’s departure from Sesame Street, she became the first Indigenous person to win an Academy Award when her 1983 hit Where We Belong was named Best Original Song.
She co-wrote the song with Jack Nitzsche and Will Jennings for the film An Officer and a Gentleman.
More than three decades later, she won the Canadian Polaris Music Prize for her 2015 album Power in the Blood.
Sainte-Marie’s life and career take center stage in the upcoming documentary Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On, which will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2022 later this month.