Gisele, breastfeeding images, and real moms

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Ah, the bru-ha-ha.  A celebrity shared a picture of herself breastfeeding her child.  She’s a hero!  She’s so natural!  She’s supporting women!  She’s a REAL mom!  She’s a show-off!  She’s a bitch!  She’s pampered!  She doesn’t look like us REAL moms!  She makes breastfeeding look unattainable!  She’s making women that don’t breastfeed feel bad!  She’s pressuring women to breastfeed!  She’s a sanctimommy!  BRU.freakingHA.HAAAAAAAAAA.

Everybody has an opinion on it from commenters on Facebook and twitter to talk show hosts and bloggers.  They all must say something about it.  Apparently, me too.

Would this picture have been such a big deal if Gisele was holding a sandwich in one hand and feeding herself claiming multitasking as her team worked on her?  Or if she had an iPad set up and was FaceTiming with her child as a nanny gave them a bottle?  Or if Gisele was spooning baby food into her toddler’s mouth?  I highly doubt it.  Because while the uproar appears to be about a great many things such as whether or not it’s multitasking, or that normal moms don’t have a beauty team, the flashpoint is clearly that breastfeeding is involved.

Oddly enough, the focus has not really been on that she was pictured feeding her 12 month old daughter, the age of her little girl has hardly come up at all.  And the team working on Gisele didn’t seem to notice or care at all.  Maybe we are making progress?

I’m not one to get starstruck nor do I care what celebrities are doing.  It’s not a big deal to me personally the fashion, decorating, or lifestyle choices someone famous makes, I’m going to do what I do because it feels right for me and fits my values and tastes.  Decisions like breastfeeding and how they birth hardly seem like a big deal, they’re humans doing what humans do.  I don’t want to herald every star that puts her baby to her breast to feed them, that just seems a little… extreme.

But I am committed to normalizing breastfeeding so I do see the value in celebrities sharing that they are breastfeeding because I recognize that people look up to them.  Just as stars can normalize a fashion trend, inspire people to get their colon checked, or connect with nonprofit charity work, so can others be inspired to view breastfeeding as normal or at least ok because someone with notoriety has done it.  And who am I to say how someone should be inspired?  They see Kim Kardashian, Gisele Bündchen, Pink, Angelina Jolie, Miranda Kerr or some other celebrity breastfeeding and think “hey, maybe it’s not so bad and I could do that” that’s a good thing so why not?

Just as I understand how a celebrity sharing images of breastfeeding their children or talking about breastfeeding publicly helps normalize it, so do, I believe, the efforts of us incredibly normal, average, non-celebrities.  When we share our pictures and talk about the realities of breastfeeding, we’re helping create a culture that will eventually stop considering it newsworthy when a celebrity does the very normal, average, human behavior of feeding their baby.  A woman using her body as it is biologically intended to feed her baby won’t cause gasps of shock any more, perhaps it will be as normal as the marketing we accept every day that uses the female form to sell stuff.  Eventually, all the trolls and naysayers won’t have any buttons to push on the matter.

Gisele has said some things in the past that have made me cringe and I have a funny feeling she’ll say something cringe worthy again.  But this moment of sharing a picture of herself feeding her baby while she was working isn’t one of them.  The majority of mothers don’t have a team available to them to do their hair, make-up, and nails.  The majority of mothers also don’t have to look impossibly impeccable as part of their career even after flying 15 hours and getting only 3 hours of sleep, they don’t have the pressure of adhering to an artificial standard of beauty for their livelihood.  The majority of us moms are short on sleep and long on too much to do but we all have our own version of what that looks like.  My multitasking doesn’t look exactly like yours and nothing like Ms. Bündchen’s.  My multitasking also doesn’t look like that of a women in extreme poverty in a third world country or a mother struggling to feed her kids in the slums of New York.  Doesn’t make any of it less real.  Dismissing someone’s version because we can’t relate or maybe we’re even jealous or because we judge them isn’t helping anyone.  Such immature responses could actually be damaging.  Declaring “REAL moms…” or “REAL women…” don’t experience life as or look like someone else objectifies that person.

People, particularly women and especially moms need to stop that right now.

What’s “real” has many different expressions.

Gisele breastfeeding with beauty squad

This is a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

This is also a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

This is also a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

This too is a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work (image from Snugabell).

 

Another real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

Another real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

These are also real women breastfeeding, not multitasking but still real.

These are also real moms breastfeeding, not multitasking but still real.

Mama and baby with bottle

This is a real mom feeding her baby too. (photo credit: David Castillo Dominici)

Is this the world we want for our children?  A society that trivializes the reality of someone else simply because they can’t relate?  A society that dismisses the good of an act because they are personally offended that it doesn’t look a certain way?  A society that attempts to marginalize someone that can have influence simply because they are jealous?  A society that can only support those whose reality is just like their own?

I hope not.

What all these women need is pretty simple: support.  Even if you’re different than me, even if your reality looks different from mine, even if your choices are ones I can’t understand, even if we can’t relate: I SUPPORT YOU.  Natural birthing or highly medicalized birthing, breastfeeding or formula feeding, safely cosleeping or safely separate sleeping, working outside the home or stay at home parent, no processed foods or all processed foods, and everything in between as long as you’re not intentionally abusing or neglecting your child and have the access you need to make fully informed decisions according to your personal circumstances and available resources: I SUPPORT YOU.  Because anything else only serves to divide, keeps marginalizing women, and drag us all down.

I’m going to go out on a limb and state the obvious here: celebrities are normal, real people.  Normal, real people that can help change things.

Gisele Bündchen has a life I can’t even imagine, bet she can’t imagine mine either.  I multitasked writing this post while cuddling a sick 5yo and breastfeeding an active 19 month old.  In my pajamas.  The same way I answered emails, talked with my site host, interacted on Facebook, texted with my children, and worked.  Sometimes I multitask breastfeeding my toddler while speaking to a couple hundred people about sex.  A typical day for me, normal and real, different from Gisele’s day which for her was no less normal and real.   Though I can’t relate to her life, I appreciate her and all the other women in the world celebrity or not, that are sharing the very real aspect of caring for their children through breastfeeding.  As they continue to do so, maybe when my own daughters are breastfeeding their children, there will be more important and interesting matters discussed by society and the media than how a woman is feeding her baby.

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Why I am not passionate about breastfeeding

by Jessica Martin-Weber
TLB creed

“How did you become so passionate about breastfeeding?”

This question comes up often.  For a while I would hem and haw an answer, stringing together some words that were an attempt at sounding intelligent and reasonable as to why I would have created and continue to run The Leaky Boob.  Awkward and fumbling, I hoped it covered the truth.

I’m not passionate about breastfeeding.

My second daughter received formula starting at 4.5 months and by 5 months was completely formula fed.  The reasons are hardly the point of me sharing this fact.  It was, we believed, the right thing for our family at the time and, like these things are want to be, complicated.

I never felt guilty about it, never even thought about feeling guilty about it.  It just was.  I’d like to say she was perfectly healthy and no issues what so ever but that wasn’t our experience.  Between reflux that took months to resolve, constipation issues that took just as long and several expensive experiments, and then RSV, pneumonia, strep throat, multiple ear infections, and more than I care to recount, her first year was more difficult than I had ever anticipated.  Formula didn’t make it better, much it was exasperated by formula.  Still, through all that, guilt about stopping breastfeeding never occurred to me.  Nor did anger, bitterness, or even hurt.  I was sad, disappointed that it didn’t work for us but that didn’t last long and there wasn’t really anything I could do about it.  Fighting like hell to be able to breastfeed had taken a toll and I was confident that giving it up was actually better for my daughter and I by that point.

I was right.

Later, when I shared my story with someone they comforted me, telling me dealing with that guilt must have been hard.  Strange, I thought, why would I feel guilty?  In that moment and many moments later as I reflected on the guilt I didn’t have, my confidence in my parenting and decision making began to erode a bit.  Already struggling with postpartum depression, this little chink in the foundation of my parenting led to me believing that I was not fit to be a mother.  It wasn’t this person’s fault but I entered a place of shadows and shame, afraid that I couldn’t trust myself to make decisions for my children.

Time, therapy, medication, and some really good friends supporting me by encouraging me to see that I was not, in fact, a horrible mother, helped me turn things around.  Through that though, I began to understand something far more important than breastmilk or formula: confidence isn’t being right, confidence is more than believing in yourself to do the right thing, confidence is having peace with who you are even when you make mistakes.  With my confidence growing again, I moved forward with my husband, embracing that doing the right thing for our family wouldn’t always be an issue of black and white, A and B, or left and right, but rather a sensitivity for all parties involved doing the best we could with whatever circumstances we would face with whatever resources, information, and understanding we had available at the time.

My next baby was breastfed, up until 18 months we had an easy, simple breastfeeding relationship that working full time and caring for 2 other children only complimented, never hindered.  Weaning with her came unexpectedly when the single most difficult and devastating parenting experience we have encountered to date hit us: the sexual abuse of our two eldest by a very dear friend.

It was tempting to unravel in that time and in many ways I did.  But our daughters needed me.  Faking it often, I attempted confidence even as I asked how could I let this happen, how could I not see the signs, how could I… have failed so badly?

More time, therapy, and really incredible friends supporting us, we got through the investigation, trial, and agonizing fragmentation of our family.  Each step was in uncharted and sometimes lonely waters with swells of failure sweeping over me.  There was grief, pain, hurt, bitterness, doubt, and anger, so much anger.  My confidence wavered and so did my husband’s.  We considered a cabin in Montana and cutting off the outside world.

Our daughters didn’t need Montana though, they didn’t need to go off the grid and be isolated.  What our daughters needed most was someone, something to be a safe landing place for them.  That was us.  There was never a moment that I was sure we were doing everything right as we walked the path in search of justice and healing and there were plenty of people telling us how we should be doing it or how we were doing it wrong.  In the midst of the pain, grief, and anger, the truth we had learned before became an anchor along with our faith and love: confidence is having peace with who you are even when you make mistakes.  Our daughters needed us to have confidence to help them land softly.  There was space for us to be honest about our insecurities and fear but the greatest gift we could give our children along with our love was to have peace in our ability to love them well even through this.

Today, 9 years later, I know my husband and I are not perfect parents, we’ve made choices that we would change if we were to have the chance to make them again.  Maybe I would fight harder to be able to breastfeed my second baby longer.  Maybe I would have feed us all with better food.  Maybe I would have done things differently in our relationship with our daughters’ attacker.  Maybe I would handle the abuse another way.  Maybe.  I don’t really know.  But I do know that having peace in who we are, holding on to peace even as it shreds in my hands pounded by guilt, bitterness, and anger, helped our daughters find peace in who they are.  Together, we found healing.

Any more when I am asked why I’m so passionate about breastfeeding I tell the asker the truth: it’s not breastfeeding I’m passionate about.  I support moms in breastfeeding because of the gift of confidence breastfeeding can be.  Maybe it won’t be for everyone but for many it is, it was for me and so this is one way I can offer support.  The science and relationship bonding are compelling on their own but they aren’t why I talk about breastfeeding so much.  By not apologizing for our bodies, not suppressing our bodies, and having peace in who we are and how we are can help mothers find the confidence they are going to need for the really tough parts of parenting.  Feeding their children, be it breastmilk or formula, is one of the very first steps all parents must take, undermining their confidence there is insidious and damaging.  People that are confident are more free to love, learn, and live with joy.  Babies with confident parents have a place to land softly no matter what life throws at them.  I’m not passionate about breastfeeding, I never have been.  People are my passion.  People start out as babies.  Babies are cared for by parents.  Parents are people.

This may not make me popular in some circles, I don’t mind.  But I believe that having a hurt, angry, bitter mother struggling with their own confidence and ability to parent is far, far worse than feeding a baby formula could ever be.  I think breastmilk is great but I think caring for people is even greater.  The benefits of confident parenting far outweigh the risks.

I would never tell a woman, or anyone, what to do with their body nor what to do with their child.  Respecting their ability and responsibility in making the right decision for themselves and their family based on the circumstances they face with the information and resources available to them at that time means I don’t know what they should do.  All I can do is offer support, information, and encourage them to embrace their confidence and move forward with peace.

This is why at The Leaky Boob we believe:

Feed the baby, care for the mother, support the family.

But if you need some help or support to feed your baby how you want: we are here.

If you need help with how to correctly mix and prepare a formula bottle: we are here.

If you need help with breastfeeding: we are here.

If you need help going back to work and continuing to breastfeed: we are here.

If you need help weaning (at any age): we are here.

If you need help starting solids: we are here.

If you just want to talk: we are here.

 

Walk in confidence, live with peace, land softly.

 

Community.  Support.  TLB.

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For the Love of All Things Holy…

by Kari Swanson

For the love of all things holy, breastfeeding is not sacred.   It is simply a fact of anatomical structures, physiological processes and biological circumstance that female mammals produce these nutritional substances we call milk to sustain the lives of their offspring through infancy, preparing them in uniquely appropriate ways for their future existences.  While I certainly appreciate the wonder that is nature, whether it was designed by some Intelligence or not, I do not think it serves women or infants particularly well to proceed down the rabbit hole that is defining what should be a commonplace, normal, and natural part of child-rearing as a sacred activity that requires devotion on the scale of a full-fledged religious experience.

Milk is the liquid substance produced by the mammary glands of female mammals upon which young mammals feed.  For each species the quantity and quality of the life-sustaining substance varies to support the specific needs of that species.  Like other mammals, human females produce milk from their mammary glands in what some might describe as a complex, yet elegant process.  Except in cases where glandular tissue is insufficiently developed, all human females possess the anatomy and physiology to produce milk.  Quality and quantity are dependent on numerous factors (e.g. the woman’s nutritional status, stimulation of supply from suckling, etc.), but the capability is there simply by the existence of the glandular tissue itself and exposure to the cascade of chemicals that result following pregnancy and childbirth.  Whether or not there was intelligence in the design it is a factual characteristic of our membership in the class Mammalia that we as human females can and do produce milk.  Given the right circumstances it can even be stimulated in females who have never given birth.  Yet despite the decidedly universal nature of this capability among all mammals we are arguably the only species that both maligns and elevates this activity.

It is the elevation of this somewhat mundane activity that is my primary concern here.  The term sacred is variously defined by Merriam Webster to include, that which is “dedicated or set apart for the service or worship of a deity”, or that which is “worthy of religious veneration” or that which is “entitled to reverence or respect” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sacred).  In the profane world in which we live elevating breastfeeding into the realm of the sacred marginalizes women.  Women are not deities.  Setting us apart for special treatment based purely on the fact of our anatomy is a set up for social exclusion and it is a set up for segregating women into categories of those who “do it right” and those who do not.  Dichotomy is not supportive.  It is divisive.  It is a privileged perspective.

Cult-like worship of a biological activity that requires significant social support, in a culture that has largely forgotten that the activity is normal, does little to improve the integration of the activity into the everyday lives of all people.  It also does not present a broad range of what constitutes success, which will certainly not increase rates of breastfeeding.  It will alienate women who cannot achieve the ideal.  Women need to create their own standards for breastfeeding success and they need to be supported in so doing.  It behooves us as supporters of breastfeeding women to provide the kind of support that increases the number of women who breastfeed.  Classifying breastfeeding as a sacred activity does not do that.

Breastfeeding is not a sacred activity.  Breastfeeding is everyday, commonplace, normal, flexible, and beautiful for what it is.  This is breastfeeding:

Woman breastfeeding a child while surrounded by others listening to speakers during an outdoor STFU meeting.

Woman breastfeeding a child while surrounded by others listening to speakers during an outdoor STFU meeting. http://www.flickr.com/photos/kheelcenter/5279315901/in/photolist-93vSFX/

Nothing more.  Nothing less.


kariswansonTLB
 Kari Swanson is a daughter, sister, wife, mother of two, librarian, member of Generation X and an admin for The Leaky B@@b Facebook page.   Kari blogs occasionally over at Thoughts from BookishMama.

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The Breastfeeding Toddler Explains

 The transition from infant to toddler is usually a very gradual process, at times completely imperceptible.  But it is very real and there are some very special aspects of breastfeeding a toddler that are unique.  One shares with us.

 Breastfeeding toddler in black and white

 

Dear grown-ups,

My vocabulary is still quite limited but that doesn’t mean my brain isn’t going all the time and there are a few things you need to know.  Particularly about breastfeeding toddlers.  Because some grown-ups seem to get confused, I will take a moment to explain very simply so even an adult can understand.  As a breastfed toddler, what I like to just call “human being”, I don’t understand why anyone would think I shouldn’t be breastfed.  The milk is yummy, I like to be close to mommy, it’s fun, and I was just a baby still yesterday and I’m not grown up over night, you know.  Also, I don’t care how many months I am, I know I like to breastfeed and I still need it, so please don’t make it sound gross or bad.  That just seems mean.  Don’t be a meanie.  Some toddlers may be ready to move on, that’s fine and I’m not judging them but don’t judge me just because I’m not ready yet and need to breastfeed to get through my day.  I don’t judge you for what you drink to get through your day, ok?  Acting like there’s something gross and wrong about something I’ve been doing my whole life is confusing, just let me do my thing.  I can’t imagine ever stopping breastfeeding but most of the people I see don’t breastfeed any more so I figure it’s inevitable I’ll stop at some point.  Just not today.

Also, before someone tells me there’s no nutritional value to breastfeeding past the first year (it feels nutritional to me, more than most chicken nuggets) check out how breastmilk continues to change to meet my very special toddler requirements here and a mommy’s point of view on how special breastfeeding is here.

 Toddler bfing judging image

Toddler’s guide to breastfeeding (so simple, even a grown-up can understand):

 

  • Hungry?  Breastfeed.
  • Sad?  Breastfeed- rub mommy’s arm.
  • Happy?  Breastfeed- giggle lots and dribble milk.
  • Bored?  Breastfeed and sing with your mouth full of milk, won’t be bored any more!
  • Feeling silly?  Breastfeed and growl while sticking finger up mommy’s nose, she’ll growl too!
  • Tired?  Breastfeed.
  • Tired but don’t want to sleep?  Breastfeed- keep switching sides.
  • Tired but don’t want to sleep and want to try to keep playing?  Breastfeed- break out dance moves.
  • Want to go to sleep?  Breastfeed.
  • Just wake up?  Breastfeed and consider falling back asleep.
  • Fall asleep on the breast and mommy tries to sneak away?  MUST BREASTFEED.
  • See mommy is busy and want her attention?  NEED to breastfeed NOW.  Sign milk constantly at the breast.
  • See mommy is not busy?  Breastfeed.
  • See mommy is bored and needs something to do other than laundry?  Breastfeed.
  • Mommy trying to work?  Breastfeed.
  • Afraid mommy is going to go down the toilet?  Keep mommy safe, saver her by holding on to the boobies by breastfeeding!
  • See mommy sat down?  GET THE BOOBIES!  Even if you just breastfed, breastfeed now, she wants you too, why else would she sit down?
  • See the ta-tas out when mom is changing?  BREASTFEED NOW!  DO NOT LET THEM GET AWAY!
  • Fall down?  Breastfeed, pop off and wail occasionally to remind everyone what happened.
  • Get hurt?  Breastfeed.
  • Got hurt yesterday but just remember?  Breastfeed and whine at the same time.
  • Broken toy?  Breastfeed, pull mom’s hair so she knows how upset you are.
  • Can’t climb that stupid gate thing?  Breastfeed and point at it.
  • Break mommy or daddy’s toy?  Breastfeed and make sure she keeps looking you in the eye until the oxytocin kicks in and you help her forget about the toy.
  • See mommy and daddy kiss?  Breastfeed and slap daddy away.
  • See mommy and daddy hug?  Breastfeed and give daddy the evil eye.
  • See friend breastfeeding?  Breastfeed more than them.
  • Mommy sleepy?  Time for gymnurstics.
  • Mommy tries to exercise?  Breastfeed- insist on side lying.
  • Mommy eating?  Breastfeed- time for gynurstics or stick fingers in her mouth.
  • Mommy getting ready for date with daddy?  Breastfeed- insist on hand on other one too, give daddy stink-eye.
  • Mommy talking on the phone?  Breastfeed while standing on her lap, pop off occasionally to yell in her face to help her talk.
  • Mommy making food for other people?  Remind her how easy it is to breastfeed.  If she doesn’t do it right away, cling to leg, refuse the carrier, and jam your hands down her shirt as soon as possible.
  • Need to pee?  Breastfeed then freak.
  • Just changed diaper and need to poop?  Breastfeed.
  • Wearing clothes?  Breastfeed.
  • Naked?  Breastfeed?
  • Love dinosaurs, baby dolls, trains, elephants, anything else?  Breastfeed to celebrate and tell mommy all about it.
  • Get a new toy?  Breastfeed and insist mommy breastfeed the toy too.
  • Toys get hungry?  Have mommy breastfeed toy, get angry that mommy is sharing with toy, throw tow, breastfeed and give toy stink-eye.
  • On a plane?  Breastfeed- swallow loudly to clear ears and make everyone happy you’re not screaming.
  • Headed to the car?  Quick, arch back, twist, anything, BREASTFEED.
  • Mommy holding you while meeting new people?  Breastfeed or at least let them know the boobies are yours by shoving hands in mommy’s shirt.
  • Daddy and mommy snuggling in bed?  Need that boob!  No, that one!  No, the other one!  Must breastfeed on both right now!
  • Mommy in shower?  Let her know you need to breastfeed and are worried the shower will wash your milk away.  Screaming may be necessary.
  • Walking?  Breastfeed every couple of steps.
  • Climbing?  Breastfeed when they move you off things.  Every time.
  • Have sickies?  Breastfeed lots and lots and lots.
  • Cutting molars?  Smash all the things!  And breastfeed.
  • See picture of breastfeeding?  Breastfeeding for all!
  • Hear music?  Do the breastfeeding dance.
  • Knock over block tower?  Breastfeed- hold block and hit mommy with it.
  • Grandma coming over?  Breastfeed and tell her how excited you are about it at the same time.
  • Having a first experience?  Breastfeed.
  • Think mommy is going to leave without you?  Desperately need to breastfeed to avoid starvation.
  • Mommy returns home after being out?  Five minutes or 5 hours, you must breastfeed while berating her for leaving even if you didn’t actually notice she was gone.

Isn’t breastfeeding wonderful?

You know what else is wonderful?  The roll of toilet paper.  You can use the whole thing to fill the potty, it’s so fun!  And then mommy has to clean up a giant mess and it’s time to breastfeed again.  Everyone has fun!

Love,

Your friendly local breastfeeding toddler.

___________________________

What would you or your toddler add to this list of toddler breastfeeding?  Have you changed your views of breastfeeding beyond a year?

___________________________

 

 

 

 

 

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Instagram and the global village of breastfeeding

It is said that it takes a village to bring up a child.  Do you have a village?

Once upon a time community was found while foraging, working, washing, around the well, in the birthing room, through places of worship, then in salons, on front porches, over quilts, around suffrage signs.  Most never moved too far from the place where they were born.  Children grew up aware of the work their parents did, helping at times, involved.  With the exception of Victorian era stodginess, much about the reality of life was shared openly, families just lived and extended family and friends involved.

Today the global village has expanded where we find community.  No longer are the borders of our village confined to our geographical context, we find our place through social media with our past, present, and future, via our interests, concerns, and passions.  We learn about life in our context and far beyond, broadening our perspective and opening our minds to other ways of living.  By sharing the exiting, the mundane, the average, and the significant parts of life, people are finding their village again.  In a time when it is easy to be isolated and alone, the internet is drawing people together.

All this and more is what I love about social media.  I found my village.

#beautifulBfing

On June 8th, as I headed out for a date with my husband, Jeremy Beyond Moi, I quickly checked The Leaky Boob Instagram account but was already logged into my personal account which I checked first.  I noticed a comment on one of my photos asking what happened to The Leaky Boob account on Instagram.  Unsure what she meant a knowing feeling came over me and I entered the login information for the account and received this screen.

TLBigDisabled

Hoping it was a mistake but suspecting it wasn’t I tried again.  Then checked my email and saw no email from Instagram so I tried again.  After 4 tries I gave up.  The account was indeed disabled.  This part of my village was gone.

I’ve checked every few days since.  Gone.

I wasn’t sure I had the energy for this.  It’s not the first time The Leaky Boob has had issues on a social media platform and the fight was starting to feel wearisome.  With our eldest daughter preparing to leave for the summer, 5 other kids at home, and work, I was feeling swamped as it was without this issue.  But this is part of my community and not just mine but thousands of others as well.

We want our village back.

On May 23rd I received a warning from Instagram that The Leaky Boob account had been flagged but with no details as to why.  It was the third warning I received within a week.  All that was included was that I supposedly violated the terms of service, terms that are conveniently vague at best, intentionally nebulous for subjective interpretation at worst.  I emailed requesting they let me know what images I posted violated what terms of service and received no reply.

Instagram warning email

Shortly after this, inspired by Instagram’s own weekend hashtag projects and user Instagram_kids, I started a new hashtag on Instagram, #beautifulbfing to encourage more sharing of breastfeeding photos and informed users.  Posting about it I asked users to use the hashtag and I would select from those images ones to feature, or regram, just as thousands of other users and brands, including Instagram’s own account, do.  With each post, I credited the user that posted it and only used images from the #beautifulbfing hashtag.  The #regram is the only way to share other posts and functions much like the Twitter retweet, the only current option Instagram has to compete.  Every image I shared was of a breastfeeding mother and was within Instagram’s terms of service regarding nudity.  While I had forgotten the terms of service to not post images that weren’t yours, I didn’t feel this was a problem as I had permission to use those photos and had modeled this sharing of these images after Instagram’s own usage.

Instagram weekend hashtag

Instagram Kids

There were no further warnings between the May 23rd email and the account being disabled on June 8th as well as no response to my inquires about the warnings I had received.  I received no warnings after I began sharing the images from the #beautifulbfing hashtag either.  Nothing, just the account disabled.  On June 9th there was another form email that someone had flagged my account and if the terms of service were violated the account could be disabled but no details as to why or how to contact Instagram to dispute.  My account was already gone.

Many don’t understand why images of breastfeeding are shared online, I go into that in my post about my struggle with Facebook over the same issue and you can read that here.  And to go ahead and address the inevitable boorish “peeing and taking a dump are natural but nobody wants to see pictures of that” read this and remember, we’re not talking waste, we’re talking nutrition for a baby, something mothers spend a significant amount of time doing and it’s a part of her life… her life that she shares with her community.  Don’t understand?  Simply put though, moms need to see breastfeeding, it’s important.  Others need to see breastfeeding to put a stop to the dehumanization of women through the over emphasis on the sexual nature of the female body.  Sharing these images is important because we need to culturally encourage moms to breastfeed and go beyond just lip service and accept them fully in society without penalizing them by requiring them to hide feeding their children.  Society needs to walk the talk.  What I said about why share breastfeeding images on Facebook applies to Facebook owned Instagram as well:

Why  share breastfeeding photos on FB?  Some may feel it’s too private to share, I don’t.  In fact, I believe it’s crucial to share breastfeeding photos.  Gone are the days where breastfeeding is seen in the day in and day out living of our lives in a community, replaced instead with virtual communities found on Facebook, forums, and other social media platforms.  Social media and virtual communities need to be as multidimensional as the physical community or we lose ourselves as a society, relating to each other as a slick collection of data without the human and biological component that makes us alive.  We need to see breastfeeding in real life and in the virtual world that many of us relate in as our community.  This photo may seem obscene to some but to others it was inspiring and encouraging, leading some to even learn something about breastfeeding.

Women used to see breastfeeding all around them in their community, it is only fairly recently with the advent of artificial breastmilk substitutes or formula that breastfeeding was considered something to be hidden.  Not sure about that?  Check out the number of historical paintings of religious and nonreligious nature depicting breastfeeding as well as the historical photographs from even the Victorian era that include breastfeeding mothers.  We’ve lost that presence of breastfeeding in our community and today new moms see it in their online village.  Breastfeeding may be natural but it needs to be learned and it’s learned by seeing others feed their baby.

I don’t know exactly why The Leaky Boob IG account was disabled, I have received no response to my inquires from Instagram.  My best guess is that the many breastfeeding images, my own, were flagged by other users.  It is possible that Instagram decided to disable the account because of the #regram sharing, singling out The Leaky Boob to enforce this rule while blatantly ignoring it themselves and with other brands.  I don’t know.  But I do know that Instagram has shut down a resource that connected thousands of women and served as one of the avenues of the global village supporting breastfeeding.  In doing so Instagram has essentially said that breastfeeding women are not welcome and sends a conflicting message that may cause breastfeeding moms to question:

 

…if images of breastfeeding are inappropriate and not fit for her community to see, is it inappropriate for her child to breastfeed?  If she’s struggling and looking for her community for support but these images aren’t permitted, how is she going to work out that there can be a wide variety of normal in breastfeeding baby’s latches or any other variety of breastfeeding related questions?  How is she going to know that she’s not alone with how her little one behaves at the breast?  How else are moms going to get over the emphasis on the sexual nature of female breasts to just feed her baby when her very community shames and harasses her for sharing these images?  The message that is being sent is that you can have community, you can be marketed to within that community, but your personal experience with breastfeeding is shameful and not welcome in the community.  Which ultimately means the breastfeeding mother is not welcome in the community.

 

Maybe you’re uncomfortable seeing images of breastfeeding, that’s ok.  In time, with enough moms openly feeding their babies and sharing the experience with their village, you’ll get more comfortable with it.  For now though, just look away, scroll right past it, and remember that a woman feeding her baby is still a person and her child’s right to eat may just supersede your right to be comfortable.  And the law agrees with that.

Help us bring back The Leaky Boob on Instagram.  Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, has permitted breastfeeding images to be shared according to their terms of service, we need to pressure Instagram to do the same and to stop discriminating against breastfeeding mothers and the feeding children.

Instagram bring back TLB

What can you do?

Join the Facebook page: Instagram, stop discriminating against breastfeeding mothers and babies

Sign this petition.

Tweet and post on Instagram and Facebook using the hashtags #beautifulbfing #bringbackTLB #stopbfingdiscrimination #normalizebreastfeeding and tag @Instagram to let them know.

Share this post with your village.

Sharing breastfeeding images isn’t for everyone, individual comfort level may prohibit you from sharing.  But if you are comfortable sharing your breastfeeding photos, please do and we’d love to see.

Follow jmartinweber on Instagram for more updates on the situation with The Leaky Boob IG account.

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edited: In less than an hour of publishing this post and in only 20 minutes of sharing it on Facebook, I received the following email:

IG apologizes for mistake

 

While I’m grateful they acted fast to reinstate my account once I took this issue public, I’m not satisfied.  Nobody should be afraid their account will be suspended if they share breastfeeding photos.  Rather, Instagram needs to clearly outline in their terms of service that breastfeeding photos are permitted and have a system in place to be sure images and accounts are viewed after a flagging so as compliant accounts and images are not deleted.  Please continue to speak up for all breastfeeding women and let Instagram know their policy needs to change NOW.

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Fear and Breastfeeding in Las Vegas

Breastfeeding is not porn, nudity, or obscene The Leaky Boob

Since starting The Leaky Boob 2.5 years ago I have said and photographed things I would never have imagined doing before.  I’ve said things such as “breastfeeding is not about sex, it’s about feeding a baby.”  Nothing like stating the obvious.  Most recently was texting my husband “do you know where that nudie card is I brought back from Vegas?  I need it.”  Yep, I brought a nudie card home from Vegas.

Say “Las Vegas” and most of us conjure up images of slot machines, black jack tables, show girls, stripers, booze, and buffets with obscene quantities of food.  Sex and money seem to flow freely.  Clothing requirements are little more than sequins, triangles, stars, and stilettos for women, the range is a little more diverse for men.

Say “mommy conference” and you probably picture babies in strollers or carriers, baby toys, tennis shoes, snack cups, and a chatty group of women.  Breastmilk and cheerios seem to flow freely.  Clothing requirements range from diapers and onesies or soft outfits in bright colors for the smaller ones in the crowd and something comfortable covered in spit up for the adults.

Say “mommy conference in Las Vegas” and you might get a little confused.

However, as much as it may seem like a collision of 2 very different worlds, the MommyCon conference in Las Vegas hosted at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino was anything but confused.  It was fun, vibrant, and sometimes a little comical (I doubt Vegas has ever seen so many babies in carriers going through their casinos).  The Flamingo Hotel did a great job securing extra cribs for the influx of young guests and the conference area hosted workshops like dancing with your baby and it didn’t even involve a pole.  While there was room for improvement, the host hotel handled the influx of moms and dads with babies and young children well and the juxtaposition wasn’t as weird as I anticipated.  I was thrilled to be there as a speaker and enjoyed my first ever trip to Las Vegas.  It seemed appropriate that I was in Vegas speaking about Sex, Lies, Parenting, and the Rest.  I had a great time with my fellow speakers and meeting the attendees of the event.

I have breastfed 6 children now, in all different settings, sometimes covered and sometimes not.  Over time, however, I stopped covering completely thanks to babies that fought the cover, me realizing that I don’t show much when I feed my baby, and eventually a belief that covering was actually hindering breastfeeding for some women either because they didn’t see others doing it or because they couldn’t navigate breastfeeding in public with a cover.  In all my breastfeeding in public experience, I have never, not once, been asked to cover or leave.  There have been times I thought I received disapproving looks or was shunned for feeding but I’ve never experienced any kind of real negativity about my feeding my baby.  Actually, I’ve experienced several positive and affirming exchanges as I fed my babies in public, more people expressing support than disapproval.  Today I’m experienced and confident when I feed my babies, well practiced and well informed about my baby’s right to eat.  Even now though, when I need to feed my baby in a public setting I will have a moment of anticipatory nervousness as though I expect something to happen.

Flamingo hotel

Feeding Sugarbaby at the Tropical Breezes cafe at the Flamingo in Las Vegas

Except in Vegas at a mommy conference that highlighted breastfeeding and where I was speaking because I created “The Leaky Boob.”  It didn’t even occur to me that someone could have a problem with me breastfeeding there, of all places.

Following my first talk in the morning of Friday, January 4, 2013, I met up with my friend, Sue, who was helping take care of my 8 month old daughter, who I call Sugarbaby, while I spoke.  We decided to have lunch in the Flamingo’s Tropical Breeze Cafe so I could feed my baby and myself before speaking at another session after the break.  Wearing a simple button up shirt and a Rumina Nursingwear tank with Bamboobies breastpads (I may be The Leaky Boob but I didn’t want to leak during my talks), I fed my hungry baby shortly after we were seated while we skimmed the menu.  She was hungry and had missed me so she got down to business pretty quickly and stayed focused.  Our server brought us our drinks and a random cup of coffee neither of us ordered and took our food order.  As we sat joking about the random cup of coffee and waiting for our food (I think he thought I looked like I could use some caffeine), a lovely woman in a suit approached us.  She smiled and asked us how we were then very politely requested that I use a cover, nodding in the general direction of my baby at my breast.

People, I laughed.  I couldn’t help it.  I laughed and asked her to repeat herself.

After confirming that she was indeed asking me to cover while I fed my baby I returned her smile, barely suppressed my laughter, and informed her of my legal right to breastfeed my baby anywhere my baby and I have the right to be, covered or not.  (Do you know the laws where you are?  This helpful resource compiled by You Can Breastfeed Here is a great place to start to find out.)  Her smile waining ever so slightly and her eyes widening ever so noticeably, she gently, though firmly, informed me that I could do whatever I wanted to do but that if I covered I would be making others feel more comfortable as there had been four tables that complained about what I was doing.

I laughed again.  Harder.  “They do know they are in Vegas, right?” I asked her through my laughter.  Because this is what is on the sidewalks and shoved into the hands of those walking on the strip:

Vegas Nudie card

She looked around and I kept looking at her, still chuckling at the irony of this situation.  She knows that just before walking into her cafe I walked past a platform where that very evening, like every night, a woman exposing far more than I was while feeding my baby, dances with moves intending to sexually entice.  She knows that the sidewalks in front of the hotel are littered with photo cards of naked women with tiny stars on their nipples.  She knows that this very hotel advertises a burlesque show featuring breasts (bare), butts, and spread eagle moves on a video that loops endlessly in each guest elevator.  She knows that the very people that complained have seen all that and probably more in the 10 minutes before they sat at their table.  I know she was just trying to do her job.  I know she had no idea that there was actually a law stating I had the right to breastfeed anywhere my baby and I were legally permitted to be.  I know that in her line of work making the customer happy is a delicate balance when one customer may be making another uncomfortable.  I know that in that moment she was wishing I had never walked into her cafe.  I wondered if news coverage of irate breastfeeding moms flashed through her mind.

When she looked back at me I felt sorry for her.  She was probably a mom, I don’t know, but she wasn’t trying to make my life hard, nor was I trying to complicate her job.  In her mind it was simple, I could cover.  In my mind it was simple as well, putting the comfort of others over my child’s right to eat without a blanket on her head just wasn’t ok.  Her smile gone but her face still pleasant she stated again that I could do what I want but it would really help if I covered.  I thanked her and kindly told her that I would continue feeding my baby as I was.

Note that she didn’t yell at me, she never touched my baby or me, she did not call me names, she did not go over to the tables that complained and loudly inform them that I wouldn’t comply, she didn’t ask me to leave, and she didn’t threaten me in any way.

My friend and I laughed once she walked away, we could hardly talk as we shook with laughter.  Jamie Greyson, TheBabyGuyNYC,  joined us for lunch and we all talked about what had just happened.  This was a big deal but I didn’t want to do much about it before giving the hotel and casino the opportunity to make things right.  As I had another session coming up there wasn’t much I could do in the moment but finish feeding my daughter, eat my lunch, and tweet about the irony of the situation.  Jamie and I both shared the story on Twitter, tagged Flamingo, ordered our food, and discussed the entire situation over our meal before heading to my next session.  We all agreed that how I was feeding Sugarbaby at the moment showed far less than the poster outside the cafe and the cards handed out on the Vegas streets.

Vegas showgirl and breastfeeding mom

Poster outside cafe, me feeding Sugarbaby inside cafe.

Here’s where it gets most interesting.  In the 2.5 years I’ve been running The Leaky Boob I have watched how companies handle such fumbles when they receive public scrutiny for harassing a breastfeeding mothers and precious few navigate the rocky terrain well.  That very weekend Hollister Co was facing a national nurse-in protesting their handling of one of their store managers humiliating a Houston woman for breastfeeding in their Galleria store.  Over a week later and the company still hasn’t responded adequately.  I wasn’t sure what to expect from a Las Vegas hotel and casino but was pleasantly surprised to discover tweets from them responding not only to mine and Jamie’s tweets regarding the situation but individual responses to each of our followers that tweeted Flamingo about the situation as well.  It wasn’t long before I had a direct exchange with Flamingo on Twitter, in direct message, over emails, and then a phone call.  The representatives of the Flamingo asked if they could meet with me before I left and they publicly informed Twitter that they would be working with me to make it right.

My day was full of events and meetings so I was unavailable until Saturday, just before I had to leave.  It would have been easy to brush me off on a Saturday but instead Scott Farber Director of Food Operations, met with me personally Saturday morning to apologize, let me know that he had a meeting with his staff on Friday and informed them of Nevada state law permitting a woman to breastfeed her child where ever she has the legal right to be, and instructing his staff that should customers complain about a woman breastfeeding again they would not address the mother but would work with the customers that complained.  Kind and genuine, Scott laughed with me at the irony of being in Vegas and asked to cover.  Scott offered to make it up to me with a free meal and more and was genuinely concerned about how I was after the experience.  He shared that Estella, the manager, was horrified that she had misstepped in saying anything to me and he extended her apology as well as I didn’t have time to meet with her.  We discussed how the Flamingo could better welcome families and some changes that could be made to do so well.  The possibility of me returning to train their staff and sister hotels to consult with them on how to be set apart in Las Vegas as a family friendly destination came up.  These weren’t the actions of a company that wanted to embarrass their customer families, these were the actions of a company that cared to stand apart and understands the value of doing things right.

Yes, the cafe manager should have been aware of the law prior to asking me to cover but it isn’t a well-known law and probably not something they would have even anticipated needing to know.  Now that they are aware, however, they are responding and preparing to not make the same mistake again.  Instead of ignoring or responding heatedly to the situation, the Flamingo has become a model for other companies that find themselves in what could be a PR disaster.  A company that will receive my repeat business because of how well they handled their mistake.

The problem is a simple fix for the historic Las Vegas hotel and casino and they are well on their way to making it right.  The experience reflects more on society as a whole though.  That the most scandalous sight for some Las Vegas visitors was a baby eating is a little mind boggling.  Thankfully, I’m not easily intimidated, am informed on the law, am more than happy to help educate, and in the end I’m glad this experience happened to me because I believe through it The Leaky Boob and the Flamingo hotel and casino can work together to better support breastfeeding moms be they in Las Vegas or on the other side of the world.  If it happened to someone else it could have greatly damaged their breastfeeding relationship or intimidated them to not risk leaving their home setting them up for postpartum depression and extreme isolation.  Hopefully, by raising awareness others can become informed of the laws and their right to feed their baby and more companies will work to educate their employees on how to better support breastfeeding mothers and more and more mothers won’t have to be afraid to breastfeed their babies in Vegas or anywhere else.

Vegas call card compared to breastfeeding

_______________________________

 The Flamingo Hotel and Casino has asked me for tips and suggestions as to how their staff could handle breastfeeding situations in the future in a way that would be supportive and informed.  

What would be your suggestions?  

What tips would you give the employees that may encounter a breastfeeding pair and possible complaints from other guests?

_______________________________

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Blaming the milk? Is it the breastmilk or something else?

This post made possible in part by the generous support of Motherlove Herbal Company.

Fairly often on The Leaky B@@b Facebook page we see questions from moms concerned about their milk or explaining that they had to wean because they were told their milk was “bad.”  Moms ask about getting their milk tested, wonder about boosting fat content, and are concerned that their milk is making their baby sick.  Unlike issues with latch, milk supply, infection or, blaming breastmilk is often more ambiguous.  It isn’t uncommon for concerns to be rooted in outside sources; family expressing doubt that the mother’s milk is good enough, health care providers that suggest perhaps formula would be a more accurate, and formula marketing promising improved brain development and “closer to breastmilk than ever” so parents can sleep easier.  Even if their little one is growing well and meeting developmental milestones, there can be overwhelming concern that something is wrong with the milk and if their sweet offspring is anything other than the standard of a smiling, chubby, easy-going, and bright eyed Gerber baby, the milk is often the first thing blamed for a breastfed baby.

 

Why blame the milk?

Other than the reality of living in a culture where breastfeeding is not the accepted normal way to feed a baby but is just one option, why do so many people jump to the idea that there must be something wrong with the mother’s milk if the baby is “too” fussy, gassy, clingy, or any other possible problem?  Very few question if another mammal’s milk is good enough for their young, why are quick to suspect the quality of milk of human mothers?  Ignorance is a significant factor, too many people don’t understand what is normal behavior for a health, breastfed infant but I don’t think that’s the only reason.  Deep down I suspect there are other issues at play.

 

The perfect baby.

The old adage that children are to be seen and not heard is socially accepted as out of date however, our actions and reactions to children reveal otherwise.  If you don’t have a cherubic smiling baby all the time, there must be a reason, a reason that must have an easy fix.  A reason that probably starts with the parents.  And what could be an easier fix than a bottle of prepared, measured, and “scientifically formulated” breastmilk substitute?  With all that formulating, there can’t be anything wrong with it such as what you last ate… or so some are inclined to believe.

 

Out of touch.

With a good portion of a generation or two of mothers having no experience of breastfeeding, many in society are out of touch as to what’s normal in a breastfed baby.  New standards have been established based on a product derived from milk intended to grow an animal that starts out weighing anywhere between 50-100 pounds and can grow to weigh a ton (literally, not figuratively) as an adult.  An animal that has 3 stomachs.  Growth charts have been based on this product and for a long time nobody even thought there should be a different chart for breastfed babies and health care professionals and parents alike accepted the growth patterns of a formula fed infant as the standard.

Be sure your health care provider is using the correct chart with your child, ask if they are using the WHO growth chart for breastfed infants.

 

Obsessed with food.

Our culture is obsessed with food.  Eating it, not eating it, where it comes from, where it doesn’t come from, how much it costs, who is eating it, who isn’t eating it, how much we’re eating, etc.  It’s pretty dang hard to measure breastmilk coming straight from the breast.  If you can’t measure it, can’t see it, how can you obsess about it?

 

Women, your bodies are broken.

From monthly fertility cycles to sexual arousal, from birth to breastfeeding, from feminine hygiene to body shape, society consistently tells women there’s something wrong with their bodies.  A quick glimpse at vintage ads will show that this has been the case for a long time.  Douche it, pinch it, pull it, augment it, decrease it, measure it, plump it, thin it, paint it, perfume it, shave it, cut it, bind it, CHANGE IT!  Above all, hide what connects us with our animal side and don’t trust it.  Breastmilk is suspect because it comes from our body.  There must be something wrong with it.  The overwhelming message is that our bodies are broken.

 

Don’t judge me.

Whatever a mom’s reason to not breastfeed, whether there were physical issues, a lack of support, lack of information, or just not wanting to; nobody wants to be judged.  Finding camaraderie can be reassuring no matter what the reason.  Most moms don’t want other moms to fall short of their goals and they genuinely want to support but that support can also offer comfort to the one extending it if they feel even slightly judged because they didn’t breastfeed.  Blaming the milk for not being good enough or of making the infant sick can bring comfort that it wasn’t anything they did or didn’t do.  It’s not that they are looking for excuses but with the other reasons shared it can be that finding a reason as ambiguous as there being something wrong with the milk a relief that things didn’t work out.

 

Sex, sex, and more sex.

Breasts are sexual.  There’s no denying it.  But then so are other parts of the body that we use for other purposes… such as the neck holding up our heads and an erotic zone, our lips for kissing and talking, our hands for caressing and working, and so on.  Most of western society has over emphasized the sexual nature of the human female breasts but that doesn’t mean that they are a completely asexual part of the female anatomy.  That over emphasis has created problems though.  Problems that are easy to avoid thinking about if we just don’t use our breasts to feed our babies.  The balance is off between the breasts as a food source for a woman’s young and the sexuality of breasts.  Since women’s body’s are broken, babies should be perfect, we’re obsessed with food, and we don’t want to be judged, blaming breastmilk for any potential issues helps us to keep that overemphasis on the sexual nature of breasts so we don’t have to be confronted with the misogynistic objectification of women quite as overtly if we never have to see a breast being used in another capacity.

 

The reality is that most of the time it’s not going to be the milk to blame for problems with baby.  Once normal behavior, including normal emotional, psychological, attachment, and developmental behaviors are understood and eliminated as the cause of presenting symptoms, there are many other factors to be evaluated before even considering breastmilk.  When breastmilk truly is the problem these babies get sick very fast and in very distinct ways that require quick interventions.  And when there are more mild issues such as sensitivities to foods the mother has eaten, slow weight gain of the infant, or other such concerns, the answer rarely is to stop feeding breastmilk.  With the support of an informed health care provider and an IBCLC, most issues related to breastmilk can be worked through and the milk isn’t actually to blame.  Problems happen and sometimes the actual breastmilk needs to be considered before we rush to blame breastmilk for every physical discomfort or behavior we would rather not see in our babies and let’s truly help moms reach their personal breastfeeding goals, setting babies on the right track for a normal standard of health with the appropriate diet for human babies; breastmilk.

 

___________________________________

 Have you wondered if your breastmilk was ok?  Do you think we have unrealistic expectations that lead to confusion between what is normal and what are real problems?

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Breastfeeding Support- When will we walk the talk?

All of us need support.  Even if we think we don’t, even if the attitudes and opinions of others aren’t something we feel impact us, the truth is whatever it is we set out to do we are more likely to succeed when we have support.  Research shows that the number one reason that women that set out to breastfeed but end up giving up is because of lack of support, articles exploring the impact the lack of social support (or social toxins to breastfeeding) has on breastfeeding have called for change, and the US Surgeon General has issued a Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding addressing head on the institutional and social barriers to breastfeeding.  Overall, support is crucial to breastfeeding outcomes on both an interpersonal level and societal level.

The problem isn’t isolated to lack of support from family and friends, though at the individual level it certainly starts in the mom’s immediate circle.  From there it spreads to the local community around the mom, the health care community, and then society in general.  It goes from the outside in as well.

  • Every time a radio show personality rants about how gross it is to see a woman breastfeeding in public, or news reporters seem awkward talking about breast milk and milk banks, or feminist speakers forcefully imply that the “benefits” of breastfeeding are made up to trap women in their homes; it chips away at the support for breastfeeding within society.
  • With every joke laden with sexual innuendoes about breastfeeding, or negative reactions from television and movie characters to the idea of breastfeeding, or sexually charged awkward scenes centered around a breastfeeding pair in an attempt at comedy; entertainment places precedence on a woman’s sex appeal and mocks the breastfeeding mother.
  • Whenever a female politician sneers at the recommendations to support breastfeeding for health reasons, or a male politician openly questions the validity of requiring companies to provide space for moms to pump, or airport security detains a woman as though she’s a criminal because she’s trying to take her frozen breast milk home to her baby; the message is sent loud and clear that woman, children and breastfeeding are not as important as corporate profits and a false sense of security in travel but are considered a business and security hazard.
  • As a woman is shunned from yet another restaurant for feeding her child as biology intended, or a local women’s only gym tries to shame a woman for feeding her child, and school boards declare that mother’s can’t breastfeed in their school lobbies; breastfeeding as part of the fabric of the community and normal part of caring for one’s child is dismissed in favor of other feeding methods.
  • When a pediatrician continues to use growth charts designed for formula fed babies and scares moms into using formula because her baby doesn’t follow the chart, or a labor and delivery nurse tells a mom she doesn’t have any milk on day one and to give her baby formula until her mike comes in, or a famous obstetrician is disgusted on television with the idea of breastfeeding an older baby; breastfeeding is sabotaged by the very group that should most understand the importance of feeding human babies in the biologically normal way.
  • Any time someone in a breastfeeding support group talks down to a mother that supplemented, or an online community gangs up on someone asking for information on weaning, or quotes communicating the superiority of all mothers that breastfeed spread like wildfire across social media; a wedge is driven between those that should be offering support and the many, many women that need it but feel belittled.
  • When friends suggest “why don’t you just give her a bottle so you can have a life,” or a woman’s own mother is embarrassed by her daughter breastfeeding in public, or in-laws suggest formula so they can babysit, or an aunt insists that she never breastfed her babies and they turned out “fine,” or a mother is called “selfish” by a relative for breastfeeding so others can’t give the baby a bottle; the very people that should most have a breastfeeding mom’s back instead stab her in it with their perhaps well intentioned but clearly uneducated comments.

Given that society claims to know that breastfeeding is good for babies and their mothers yet continually sabotages breastfeeding mothers by being openly unsupportive, I can’t help but wonder if it’s just that we actually don’t care what’s best for mothers and babies but rather value profits, the sexual objectification of women, individual comfort based on the belief that breasts are only for sex, and holding onto old beliefs that have been proven to not be true.  As a whole, the actions of society do not match our words: we do not, in fact, believe that breastfeeding is good for babies and their mothers.  We do not, in fact, value the breastfeeding mother.  We do not, in fact support breastfeeding.  Even though we know support is needed.

I do think it’s improving in some ways.  Laws in the USA have passed that hopefully do improve the working mother’s pumping conditions and breast pumps are now tax deductible.  It’s sad that those had to be fought for and met any resistance at all but at least they went through and they are a start.  While the entertainment industry still mocks breastfeeding mothers as a standard comedic element, more and more celebrities are being not only vocal in support of breastfeeding but also openly breastfeeding.  Nurse-ins showing how many are supportive of breastfeeding when a business harasses or kicks a breastfeeding woman off their premises get news coverage and online buzz.  It’s not a lot but it’s something that looks a bit like progress.  A little bit of needed support.

But we have a long, long, long way to go.  I have hope, I have to, that some day our society’s actions will support our society’s words.  That breastfeeding will no longer require advocacy beyond normal education because breastfeeding will be accepted without controversy as normal.  That we will act like we believe the science that breastfeeding is good for babies and their mothers and that we will value the breastfeeding mother.

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The Measure of Indecency

This post was originally posted here.


Hello! Up here! My eyes. You’ve been so busy staring elsewhere that you probably haven’t even noticed I have eyes let alone looked in them long enough to tell me what color they are. I admit, the color of my eyes can be hard to nail down, it really depends on what I’m wearing or the color of the frames on my glasses provided I’m wearing any. Glasses! I always wear socks with sneakers, I was talking about glasses. Ugh, why must you only see me for that? As though that’s all I’m good for. It’s not like they are new, they’ve been around as long as humans have and most everyone has them.

Excuse me, it bothers you when I walk? You do realize that the primary function of my ankles is to help me walk on my feet, don’t you? I see, seeing them used in a different way is gross. Uh-huh. Would you rather I just sit around with my feet up, my ankles hidden discretely beneath my pants or skirt until they are to be viewed and touched for pleasure? Hmmmm, this could complicate things, like my life. And caring for my children. So it makes other people uncomfortable to see a woman’s ankles when she’s chasing her children around, keeping them safe, providing them with the best opportunities and using her ankles as, oh, I don’t know, how they are intended to be used? I should be worried about offending other people? Interesting. I’m really far more concerned about doing the best I can for my children. Research shows that mothers that are able to should let their children run and be active and for that to happen best a mother needs her ankles to chase after them. Saving them only for her partner’s pleasure would get in the way of her children’s health! Oh, I can use them, you just want me to cover them up. With a blanket. Or one of those fashionable things made just for that.

Wow. That really makes it difficult not to mention, uncomfortable and likely dangerous. What exactly would be adequate coverage? Adequate and safe? When I’m using them to care for my children, how much can you actually see anyway? I know socks that reveal more and ankles are plastered all over magazines, billboards, TV, and movies to sell everything from sports drinks to cars to furniture. Honestly. I’m not showing any more than what you’d see watching a sitcom. Probably less, actually. And if you think that’s shocking, what about flip-flops and open toe shoes that reveal ankles AND toe cleavage? Nobody is insisting those be covered up. But a mother running around caring for her children, now that is disgusting. Please tell me, what is the measure of indecency we hold as standard? But another man seeing my ankles while I run after kids could be a turn on? Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. A woman doing the best she can caring for her children, using her body as it is intended is going to be an indecent turn on? Now who is disgusting? But there could be a slip and they might SEE something! Gasp! Oh dear, what will we do! Mothers around the world are seducing men left and right using their ankles as they take care of their children! What is the world coming to?!

Now you’re saying that it is ok to use them but not only do you not want to see them used “that way” but it should stop once the child is one? How exactly does that make sense? Excuse me, but my child still needs me and it is encouraged by the experts that mothers continue to chase after their children as long as it is mutually beneficial and both parties are comfortable with it. Seriously, I don’t see how there is a magic switch that is flipped when a child turns one that she would no longer need me to walk after her. She may not even be ready to walk herself yet at that point! No, there is nothing inappropriate about me continuing to care for my child that way and I’m offended that you would say there is. It doesn’t excite me sexually, I’m not that one-dimensional, thanks. I may run around and use my ankles in a fashion only appropriate with my husband in our private times along but trust me, I couldn’t even begin to compare caring for my children to making love with my husband! I am not abusing my child by continuing to trot after them. My ankles have more than one purpose and I can differentiate between their functions, it isn’t that difficult actually and I already do it with other areas of my body so why should this be any different?


Honestly, I am sorry it makes you uncomfortable but I really can’t help but wonder if that reflects more on your issues than my ankles and my mothering. Your issues don’t have much weight in my caring for my children, sorry. If other women feel uncomfortable with their ankles so exposed while they care for their children, fine. It doesn’t bother me and if they can figure out how to gallop around after kids while hiding under a blanket then more power to them. In fact, I’m impressed, I just can’t get it to work. So I’m going to continue doing what is best for my children and while I’m not going to parade around with my ankles just hanging out there all the time for the world to see, I’m not going to hide me or my children just to make you feel better. There is nothing wrong with what I’m doing, I’m not ashamed of my ankles or using them to race around after my children. Not every woman can, I’m blessed to be able to. And no, I’m not going to cover to protect your sensibilities. Maybe your sensibilities aren’t that sensible. It is, after all, only natural for a mother to hasten to protect and give her children her best. This is my best. If you don’t like it then put a blanket over your head!


Once upon a time in a bygone era, ankles were considered a sexually indecent part of the body for a woman to show, a flamboyant display of indecency if they were revealed. Other era’s featured fashion that regularly revealed the breast mostly bare including the nipples showing while covering most every other part of the body with clothing. What we consider indecent now was at one time the height of fashion and accepted by the majority of society. Likewise, what has been considered inappropriate and immodest exposure in the past are now considered commonplace even in most of the extremely conservative circles. This post was inspired by some some online conversations I read  and by this article. It is intended as satire regarding breastfeeding in public and “extended breastfeeding.” Not that I need to explain but for the record my husband completely supports me breastfeeding our children. Also, no ankle or foot fetish here. But aren’t these shoes amazing? I love them. Well, love to look at them. Wearing them, not so much. Seriously, what could be more sexy that a woman scurrying after her children in a pair of smokin’ hot, deadly heels?

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