Advocacy

Newsflash: the internet is uncomfortable with breastfeeding

side boob
Well, not everyone, but you get the point.

Best for Babes shared a lovely nursing picture a few days ago. The mother who offered permission to share it had the photo deleted from her own Facebook timeline, and her response was to want to share it even more widely. I’m not sure she was quite bargaining for this: the post went seriously viral and the response has been pretty overwhelming. One of the seriously cool things to come out of it has been mothers and fathers from all over the world, who have used all sorts of combinations of feeding methods to feed their own babies, offering words of encouragement and spontaneously sharing their own breastfeeding pictures to counteract the negativity spewed on the photo that was shared.

And, let me tell you, the negativity spewed has been gross. I’m not sure if you’ve all noticed this, but the internet is pretty uncomfortable with breastfeeding.

I decided to share one of my own nursing photos, taken recently while nursing my 2.5-year-old twins right before we took a great nap. I snapped the picture during a rare moment of calm; as you can imagine, nursing two toddlers is often an Olympic-level gymnurstics event. I also knew that this wouldn’t last forever. They are getting older and nursing far, far less often and for a shorter amount of time than they used to. I used to spend all day nursing them, and now we’ll might go days without it. That is part of the process of weaning, and someday they will be done for good.

I don’t go into a lot of detail about my nursing experiences here or with parents I’m helping. Sometimes a personal story is helpful, but it’s not about me. But it also surprised me to admit to myself that I haven’t shared more photos of myself nursing because of exactly what everyone is flipping out about: boobs. It’s ironic, but underscores just how contentious this issue is: I am someone who believes 5,000% in breastfeeding from every angle possible, yet I balk at sharing my own nursing photos because you might—gasp—see my boob. It’s just boobs, people! Well, unless you want to avoid controversy and appear professional and don’t want people to think you’re weird or angling for attention and, and, and…

If you’re feeling brave, you can click through to this photo and take a look at the comments I received. It received so many lovely responses, and so many responses that would make me cry if they weren’t making me laugh. (Keep in mind, too, that you’re seeing the comments that managed to make it through moderation. Plenty were vulgar, insulting, or otherwise unsuitable.) I can’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, but oh my goodness do I want to reach out and hug those for whom this hurts. It is not you who is doing the wrong thing, it is the people who cannot see beyond their own narrow experience that has been shaped by countless societal factors that turn breastfeeding into something that is sexual, should only happen in private (if it happens at all), and should stop by a certain not-yet-agreed-upon-by-internet-trolls age.

I’ll leave you with this comment I left, and another wholehearted message of gratitude to all of those people who are reaching out to others and showing how much they appreciate seeing the photos people are sharing and who are leaving touching and supportive comments for total strangers to counteract the utter rubbish coming from others.

I’m the mama in this picture (and, for the record, an admin here!) and I wanted to take the time to say thank you to everyone who has posted lovely, encouraging comments to this picture and all the others. It is amazing to see this virtual community pull together to support other breastfeeding parents and educate people about what normal breastfeeding looks like.

My twins will turn 3 in March; in this picture, they’re 2.5. I took this picture because I knew that the days are running out on breastfeeding, and breastfeeding is what got me through having twins (in addition to two older children). I can’t imagine parenting any other way, and will miss it when we are no longer nursing (even if it sometimes drives me crazy, because nursing two children is no picnic).

As far as why I shared this picture, well, I shared it because I knew it would be out of the realm of comfort for some people. This album exists because one mother wanted to share her beautiful photo of her nursing her newborn and received a wide range of negative responses—and a far more overwhelming number of positive ones. All of us who see the beauty in these photos also see the need to share how natural and normal it is to breastfeed. And it continues to be natural and normal, at any age, regardless of the opinions of strangers on the internet (or in public).

For anyone who wants to make negative comments, I’m very glad you’re doing it here, on this picture. As I am a lactation professional who is sitting for the IBCLC exam this summer as well as a breastfeeding advocate, I understand very well how negative attitudes can be toward breastfeeding. I can laugh at them. And I can also hold in my heart those parents who read your words and feel ashamed or hurt, who *you* are making feel ashamed or hurt. We can, and should be, better to each other.

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