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Grace Kelly - Her Role as a Breastfeeding Advocate

As Nicole Kidman kicks off Cannes with “Grace of Monaco” Premiere, many of us who are old enough, fondly remember the beautiful Princess Grace (Kelly) of Monaco. I think Nicole Kidman was a good choice as an actress to play Grace and I’m sure she has the poise and “grace” to pull it off in style, particularly with all of those beautiful dresses, hats and ensembles she gets to wear for the part as Princess Grace was well known for her fashion choices.

Although people remember Grace as a beautiful Academy Award winning actress, a “partner in crime” actress and collaborator with Alfred Hitchcock, a Philadelphia well brought up socialite and lastly, as the esteemed Princess Grace of Monaco and dedicated mother to her three children.

It is well documented that Grace turned down movie roles offered to her during her reign as Princess, such as Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, Marnie, which would portray her as a kleptomaniac as well as others such asThe Turning Point, directed by Herbert Ross. She very well could have expanded her movie career and added more awards and accolades to her shelf, but instead she put Princess responsibilities and motherhood above her movie career as her position limited her involvement with anything Hollywood or entertainment driven. Both the public in Monaco and her husband were opposed to her involvement in films as Princess of Monaco and she respected that sentiment.

She did go on to use her artistic talents and passions to support the arts and improve art institutes in Monaco. Later the Princess Grace Foundation was formed to support local artisans. Grace returned did return to a form of acting in a series of poetry readings on stage and narration of the documentary The Children of Theater Street. She also narrated ABC's made-for-television film The Poppy Is Also a Flower (1966). But perhaps interestingly she took up a cause close to my heart, that of nursing women.

Grace was one of the first celebrities to support and speak on behalf of La Leche League to advocate breastfeeding. She joined La Leche League in 1965 after the birth of her youngest daughter, Caroline.  In one of her speeches and press conferences for La Leche League in Chicago, she said she breastfeed all of her children after birth. She said, “I wouldn’t think of having a baby without feeding him myself.”

Grace said she believed in improving the solidarity of family to help society overall and felt the best way to start this process was by focusing on the Mother’s connection to the baby at  birth by breastfeeding, “Solidarity begins with the child at the mother’s breast.” She continued, “as women it is one of our biggest prides that we have in our bodies every element that an infant needs for perfect health and growth.”

She also added young siblings should be allowed to watch their mothers breastfeed their babies without embarrassment as it is a natural and beautiful experience for them to witness.

The Milwaukee Sentinel documented that her 1971 La Leche League speech as attended by 1400 women and their children and caused quite a stir among the public and other hotel guests, “Passerbys looked twice as women were nursing their babies in the hotel lobby, hotel conference rooms and while walking down the aisles.”

What amazes me is that is that is now 2014, over 40 years after this event occurred, and we still have to protest to protect the rights of nursing women in public and even to overcome the social stigma of breastfeeding outside your home. Even today we have newsworthy protests as women have “nursing” protests outside places of business, like Fitness Centers, where mothers are often regulated to nursing their babies in the restrooms. Nursing women everywhere receive dirty looks when discreetly nursing their babies in public places and are often asked to leave or relocate.

I know I have spent many hours nursing all three of my babies on public toilets and although this can be a choice for privacy, it should not be a requirement. I believe every new mom should be awarded a card at birth which gives her the right to nurse in public for the first year of their baby’s life, sort of like a driver’s license. It should be a birthright for any baby to eat when it is hungry, particularly by way of breastfeeding as it is the cleanest most sanitary way for a baby to eat and it does not create a mess.

Although the reviews have been scattered for the Grace of Monaco movie, I am looking forward to seeing Nicole Kidman’s portrayal of Grace Kelly. I am particularly interested in the part about the hard choices Grace had to make between her roles as mother, princess (both her appointed royal role and her volunteer leadership role in her community), wife and her career. I know many of us can identify with at least two to three of those roles to balance or choose between, sometimes on a daily basis. I’m also interested in seeing if and how the film will incorporate any of Grace’s breastfeeding advocacy as she was well ahead of her time with taking a public stance on this issue as a celebrity.

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