Listen, Posting Breastfeeding Photos Is Not TMI!

I’ve been mostly silent, on most of my social media, on the public breastfeeding debate, save for a few pages and groups about breastfeeding that I am part of.  But, I feel like silence,  from someone who is so #probreastfeeding, is in the midst of #extendedbreastfeeding and often still is #publicbreastfeeding, is no longer an option.  I want to start by saying that I am so proud of this mama.   I was proud of her when the picture of her breastfeeding her son first showed up on my social media pages and I’m even more proud of her today for speaking up and out against what Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb said on their morning talk show.  And now I am speaking up and out publicly as well (to as little a readership as this tiny blog has anyway…).

So, listen up.  I am saying this in no uncertain terms:  Posting Breastfeeding Photos is NOT TMI.  It’s. Just. Not.  It’s feeding a baby!

@TODAYshow and@klgandhoda when you say something is “beautiful” and “natural” but then turn around and say “sharing it on social  media is TMI” you are underscoring the very beauty and naturalness of it.  I hope that you understand that with this one comment you have set back the #normalizebreastfeeding movement countless steps. Instead of championing mothers (many of whom are your loyal viewers, by the way), you have created a space, a place, of judgement and shame against moms who are doing the most natural thing in the world: feeding their children. I can’t speak for other moms. I know every mother does what she can and is comfortable with, and I have tried to reinforce, in my 17 months of motherhood, the end of mama-shaming in all aspects of our lives. But, up to this point I have posted only one picture of myself breastfeeding my daughter on my public Facebook wall and I was terrified to add that one photo.

THAT fear is not natural or beautiful, but it exists because I was so concerned of backlash or criticism or snide remarks – from my family and friends. My family and friends!  From people I know love and support me!  But I was afraid they wouldn’t understand. Or would judge me. And yet, I was so proud.  I have this amazing bond with my daughter, one that words can never, ever express. One that is fleeting, because they don’t actually breastfeed until college, like some people like to joke. One that I thought a photo I had came close to representing the love I was feeling. So posted it.  And I was scared.  I am happy to say that my photo was warmly received.  I’m sure there may have been those who didn’t like it (though you can barely see any skin) but they simply didn’t respond. The comments I did get were thoughtful, and respectful and supportive.  And it quieted, for me, that little voice of insecurity inside of me. Sometimes that insecurity does creep back in when I know that I’m breastfeeding longer than some others, at this point, with my 17-month old. We certainly breastfeed less frequently and most often in our home, but sometimes we are in public and she does need to eat and I admit, I find myself worried when this occurs.  I know our breastfeeding time is coming to a close, but it’s not here yet and I do worry what others will think. Then I remember that I put myself out there in a pretty public way and my family and friends were supportive, and I breathe a little sigh of relief knowing they know that I am doing my best, and what I believe is best for my daughter.

But then you, @klgandhoda, went and made that comment.  And you raised the insecurities in me all over again.  And I imagine you did the same for other moms, and soon-to-be-moms. And shame on you for that! Shame on you for shaming us for sharing these amazing and beautiful and natural moments.  Shame on you for suggesting, with your flippant commentary, that feeding our kids, where and when and how they need to be fed, is anything less than normal, and natural, and beautiful AND acceptable!  Shame on you!

And hooray for you moms!  For those of you who nurse in public and private, through year one and year two and beyond – or for any amount of time that you can and are able. With a cover and without a cover. In your carrier while carting your darling through the grocery store, or the zoo, or the DMV, or wherever else you all are when they need to eat – for nourishment or for comfort or any combination of both.  Hooray for breastfeeding moms who are proud enough and strong enough to ignore the ignorant stares and snide remarks and do what they know they need to do, when they need to do it. And HOORAY for those moms who post pictures of that so that they can let the world know they are not doing anything wrong and are sharing an experience they are proud of, one grounded in love and bonding and nurturing.  Hooray for those of us/you trying to #normalizebreastfeeding and not beat moms down with demeaning commentary, snide remarks or ignorant jokes.

Breastfeeding, as a journey, is not an easy one for most mothers.  There is pain – real pain (and I won’t go into detail, but there IS pain).  There are sleepless nights.  There is pumping at work. There are countless ways in which it is the most rewarding and most exhausting, emotionally demanding and physically taxing experience a mother goes through.  But this journey needs to stop being vilified, even when shared publicly.  This. Just. Needs. To. Stop!

And that is all I think I can say.  It’s normal.  It’s natural. And as something that is normal and natural, no mother should be made to feel badly about sharing that experience in whatever way she wants. In solidarity with all you moms and with the message of this post, I now join in the public display of breastfeeding photos.

Please stop reading now, and don’t look, if you don’t want to see pictures of me breastfeeding my daughter.  You have been forewarned.


Stop Shaming Your Kids

A few days ago I sat in a parking lot watching a mother ream her child for forgetting her Girl Scout vest to sell cookies. I was two rows away and could hear every word of the interaction. I should have gotten out of the car and said something, but I didn’t. I just sat there and realized, in that moment, I never – ever – wanted to be that mom.

This mother got in her daughter’s face and shouted  “what the F is wrong with you that your forgot your vest?” and she said THE word. Loudly. But then she went farther: another woman came up and asked if she could buy cookies (she could see the car trunk filled with them) and this mother points to her daughter and snidely responds with, “no apparently I don’t have a Girl Scout, she forgot her vest…”

I get it, you are frustrated. Probably this is not the first time your daughter forgot something. Probably there are a million other things you’d rather be doing on a Saturday afternoon than setting up a table to sell Girl Scout cookies, cookies that I know you had to pre-buy so this is a big deal, it’s money out of your pocket. I get it. But you know what?

Shaming your kid is not the answer.

I don’t often research for my blog posts, and perhaps that should change, but for this one I had to know – am I overreacting? Am I the only one who thinks this is a big deal? What I found out is  there is an alarming trend online:  parents finding humor in shaming their kids.

I have to say, we should stop this.  We should stop this now.

It might seem cute to hold a sign in front of your toddler (who doesn’t know any better, right?) and share, with the world, that they have just poured glue all over all of your shoes in the closet.  It might seem cute.  And probably people will “Like” it or share in your misery, etc.  My contention with this early type of “kid shaming”, that might not even seem like shaming to some people, is what it morphs into – shaming of our 6, 12 and 16 year olds…who now do know better – and they feel it, I promise you, they feel this shame.  What this later shaming shows our kids is that, when they make a mistake (big or small, as they are bound to do), we make fun of them. We humiliate them.  We break down their probably already fragile sense of self-esteem a little bit more and, more alarmingly, we do this in front of others.  Publicly.  In the case of online posts, in front of hundreds or thousands of people.  Imagine all your mistakes being posted for the world to see and judge and laugh at.  I cannot imagine this. As an adult, I would be mortified.  As a child, I would have been crushed.

In her Huffington Post blog post Why ‘Funny Kid Shaming’ Isn’t Really Funny, Vicki Hoefle (@vickihoefle), a professional parent educator and author of Duct Tape Parenting, raises several really valuable points. Two among these, however, I think are worth mentioning here. Shaming our kids, Hoefle contends, “models a HUGE lack of empathy, respect, tact and maturity”  and it “jeopardizes two very BIG things: the future of your relationship and your child’s confidence to navigate the world.”

Do not get me wrong.  When a child does something wrong, I believe they need to understand there are consequences. Whether you call that discipline or not, I suppose, is up to you. My concern – my issue – is with the public nature of these consequences.  I was once told by a colleague that I dearly respect, that young people don’t get sarcasm.  He and I are both very sarcastic individuals, and this is something that to this day, we both work on.  To that end, I have found out on more than one occasion as a high school educator that this is, in fact, true.  Some young people do get sarcasm.  Most do not. You think that because they can “dish out attitude” with the best of them that they understand what sarcasm and humor (in the form of public shaming, some would say) is.  They don’t.  They really don’t.  When it’s personal to them, it just hurts.  And it hurts for longer than you can imagine. It’s leaving a mark on their psyche that will remain there long after you or I have forgotten about it.

I have a daughter.  I went home and shared the situation I witnessed above between the Girl Scout and her mother with my husband and told him that I never, ever want to be that parent.  If, I said, you ever see me starting to be that parent, please pull me back and, I said, I will do the same to you.  He agreed, as I knew he would – he’s sort of that kind of awesome co-parent/husband/dad!  We agreed we both want to model the best possible behavior for our daughter.  I want my daughter to understand that when she makes a mistake, no matter how bad that mistake is, that she can come to me and we can work through it, that she (and probably I) can learn from it. I want her to know that when she does make a mistake that I will treat her not only with understanding, but with respect and empathy, the way that I want her to treat those around her.  I want to strengthen our relationship through difficult moments and provide her with the tools to go out into the world and feel confident to take risks, live boldly and be kind.

I cannot accomplish any of this if I shame her, publicly or even privately.  Neither, I would argue, can you.

Wait, Wait…I’m Not Ready

People say “it happens so fast” and I get it.  It does.  But I didn’t really get it, notIMG_5975 (1) really, until these last few weeks.  Our one-and-only is turning 13 months old this week.  Holy cow.  I mean, I was just pregnant!  She was just born.  She was just being swaddled and learning to coo and hating tummy time.  She. Was. Just. Born.

A few weeks ago the daycare told me she was considered a “pre-toddler” and asked if she could start practicing taking her naps on a low-cot instead of a crib.  What? I felt tears well up in my eyes and my heart started racing a bit.  Seriously, that was my reaction.  Over a crib.  For naps.  At daycare.

Other things are occurring that I do not think I’m fully ready for. While she’s still not walking (stubborn little lass, she is) she is starting to stand up and take steps – lots of them with support.  She is “dancing” and shaking her head “no” and responding to sign language prompts and even doing some signs of her own for birdie, airplane, monkey and all done.  She has recently started crawling ON the coffee table – that’ll be fun – and pushes her cart (or anything that slides) clear across our house to where she wants to go. She plays “peek-a-boo” and is eating pretty much every solid food she can get her hands on – same as what we eat for our “adult” meals.  She drinks out of a straw cup and does a pretty darn good job with a spoon.  She is napping less often and eating less breast milk, but does still breastfeed regularly (thank goodness, I love those cuddles).  She is almost out of her 12 month clothes – almost.  She has 11 going on 12 teeth.  She has had a bout of Roseola and came through the fever and the rash smiling, no worse for wear.

My baby.  Money little, tiny human is starting to not be so little and tiny.  Her personality is big.  Her smile, even bigger.  Her hugs and her cuddles fill me up with a love so strong and complete that I almost don’t know what to do with the emotions.  But, she is growing up.  And it’s happening so quickly.  I know that preteen and teenage years are, truly, very far off.  I get that.  But I cannot help but look down that rabbit hole – the one in which I see  that today she just started crawling and isn’t walking, but tomorrow she could be.  Any second now she could be and then that is one more milestone we check off and can’t get back.  One more way in which our baby will be a little less of a baby.

My nephew is 15 and just started drivers training.  I have a picture of him on my office wall from his early birthday, covered in cake…it seems like just yesterday that he was a tiny human.  Now he’s a young man. Learning to drive a car.  He’ll be going off to college in just a couple of years…sigh.

I am going to miss all these firsts.  I know there will be other firsts.  I know that.  I know those other firsts will be just as fun and magical as the firsts we’ve already witnessedsmirk as parents.  I guess I’m just hoping I can slow down the hands of time, just a little bit, to hold onto these precious early years a tad bit longer.  The only way that I know how to do this is to just live each and every moment in the moment.  To that end, this morning I nursed her in just a diaper and her socks (which she tore off a few minutes in, a new favorite game…) and realized that in the mornings we are often in such a rush to get out the door to work, she’s already dressed and ready to go before I nurse her – or still in her jammies, if I’m running a bit late.  It’s been a long time since we’ve had a moment with her looking just like a “baby” in her little diaper and chubby little legs.  It was a nice moment.  I kept my phone off and didn’t get on Facebook or Twitter or check my email.  I just enjoyed that moment, slowed down, took it all in.  Enjoying that moment with her was a perfect start to my Monday.