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.