Since its debut in 1969, Sesame Street has been considered the gold standard in children's television programming. The show has dealt with a wide range of issues over the years, and its clever combination of educational components and entertaining and iconic characters and storylines has made it the inspiration for countless other children's television shows.

The beloved classic, however, has also dealt with its fair share of criticism. The most recent Sesame Street controversy? The show's portrayal (or lack thereof) of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding on Sesame Street

Sesame Street has a long history of addressing topics that are common in the lives of its toddler and preschool audience. From common issues like potty training and bicycle safety to more serious topics like death and childhood hunger, Sesame Street has dealt with them all in a fun and age-appropriate way.

In the 1970s and 1980s, breastfeeding was also a recurring topic on the show. Toddlers and preschoolers often have new siblings, so it made sense for Sesame Street to address their curiosity about how babies eat. Popular character Maria and guest star Buffy St. Marie both nursed their own babies on air, and along with Big Bird, audiences learned about breastfeeding as a fact of life.

Since the 1990s though, breastfeeding has been noticeably absent from Sesame Street. Babies are shown being fed from a bottle, but never nursing. Sherrie Westin, executive vice president of Sesame Workshop, says the change is not intentional.

"There has never been any edict to remove breastfeeding from the show. We have included it and would include it again if it were a natural part of the storyline."

The Petition to Bring Breastfeeding Back

Whether Sesame Street's exclusion of breastfeeding is intentional or not, there is a growing group of parents who are ready to fight for its return. Recent controversies over nursing in public have added fuel to the fire, and the movement to bring breastfeeding back to the popular children's show has gained momentum.

In fact, a "Bring Breastfeeding Back to Sesame Street" petition currently has over 31,000 signatures. The petition states:

"Back in the 70's and 80's nursing was tastefully shown on the show but now they have replaced their nursing videos with bottles. Please note ... we are not asking Sesame Street to remove bottle feeding. We are asking that both ways of feeding babies be shown as normal."

What do you think? Should breastfeeding return to Sesame Street? Will you sign the petition?