Breaking news: Babies need to eat!
SYDNEY, Australia — With the complete disregard for politics that is a characteristic of youth, Alia Joy Gates made her position clear: She would not wait to be breast-fed. It did not matter that her mother, Senator Larissa Waters, had work to do in the chamber of the Australian Senate.
She was 11½ weeks old and, for crying out loud, a girl’s gotta eat.
As a result, little Alia made history. On Tuesday, she became the first child to be breast-fed in Australia’s federal Parliament. By Thursday, her mundane bout of hunger had attracted praise for her mother from all over the world, including from Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, who declared (on Facebook, of course), “Go Larissa Waters — leading by example!”
Ms. Waters said in an interview that she was a bit stunned by the reaction.
“Breast-feeding is a normal and natural thing that women have been doing since time immemorial, and in that sense, it’s quite strange to me that it caused such a sensation,” she said during a break from voting in the Senate. “What it really says is that we need more young women in Parliament so that when we breast-feed our babies, it’s not considered news.”
The response, not unlike what occurred after a lawmaker in Iceland was photographed breast-feeding while defending a bill in the country’s Parliament, reflects the degree to which maternal functions are still considered bold and political acts in institutions dominated by men.