If My Breastfeeding Selfie Bothers You, I'm Sorry, Not Sorry

breastfeeding selfieWhen you're a breastfeeding mom and a blogger, sharing your life online is just a way of life. In the same way that I’ve captured images of my son crawling, standing for the first time and smashing bananas on his head (then belly-laughing so hard he nearly toppled over), I’ve also captured images of him nursing and shared them on social media. Breastfeeding is one of the ways I have chosen to do grow, nurture and bond with a child, and I don’t need to hide that from the world. But now some moms are claiming that sharing breastfeeding selfies -- aka the #brelfie -- is just another form of mommy shaming.

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Telegraph writer Anna Maxted recently waved an angry finger at those who dare to share a breastfeeding photo, saying “the relentless flow of blissful, boastful yummy mummies, with their angelic little ones suckling can cause- or compound self-doubt or even psychological trauma.” She added that the #brelfie is merely a way to shame bottlefeeding mothers, noting they are "creating yet more #bressure on those who don’t, or can’t."

She's not the only one angry about #brelfies. Today show host Hoda Kotb has been vocal about the trend, recently calling it “TMI” -- which prompted angry breastfeeding mothers to revolt.

So mothers are clearly divided over the #brelfie, and maybe that’s OK. Newsflash: Mothers are allowed to have strong feelings about motherhood.

More From The Stir: Moms Breastfeed in Very Public Places to Make Nursing 'Normal' (PHOTOS)

But to make a mom sharing a photo of her baby eating out to be some kind of villian is a bit much. It’s that attitude -- that mothers should have to hide their differences rather than embrace them -- that drives mothers apart. As a mom who has breastfed as well as formula fed, I have never personally felt even remotely angered at someone’s nursing photo (or a bottlefeeding photo for that matter) nor have I suffered psychological trauma at how anyone else chose to feed their baby.

Maybe I’m naïve, or maybe I just don’t think mothers are out to get one another. I don’t feel there are that many mothers who genuinely wish to hurt people by sharing a piece of their own journey. It’s not (usually) being done to brag about how flawless and amazingly a mother thinks she’s doing her job. It’s a mother sharing her life -- which may be centered around nursing at one point or another, especially if the baby is brand-spanking new. If we want to celebrate different choices in motherhood, we shouldn’t isolate nursing moms from being able to share theirs.

More From The Stir: 11 Breastfeeding Photos That Perfectly Capture the Bond Between Baby & Mom

New motherhood is stressful enough without wondering if your baby is being well-fed or if you’re being inappropriate while feeding. So while some people might not benefit from seeing a #brelfie or a mother nursing on a park bench, or hearing about someone’s experience with nursing a baby, many, many people do. Mothers and babies do, as well as fathers and other family members who may not be that familiar with breastfeeding either. Seeing babies nursing helps us all get a little more comfortable with, well, seeing babies nursing.

When I was a first time mom, I was terrified of nursing in public. Why wouldn’t I be? I was 24, and I had never, ever seen a woman out in public nursing a baby and since I was the first of my friends to have a child, I’d never seen, well, anyone nursing a baby anywhere. At all. Ever.

“How can I ever leave the house?” I often debated. I would have to time it perfectly so that we were never out more than two hours and I could be in the comfort of my own home without judging eyes when it was feeding time. God forbid I was struggling to discreetly nurse in public and my baby tugged at my shirt or, gasp, a nip-slip! The whole ordeal of trying to not be seen or heard nursing was monumentally anxiety-inducing. In many ways, when my daughter could no longer nurse after a great deal of effort and many tears, I was a little bit relieved.

Seeing an image of someone breastfeeding might be challenging for a mother who struggled to nurse, and as a mother who once felt the sadness of having to stop nursing a baby before I was ready, I empathize. But we can’t hide a hugely important part of our lives as breastfeeding mothers at the chance it might make someone else feel something undesirable. People are inclined to share the important parts of their lives on social media.

If we feel breastfeeding is important, then we should share it because it helps far more than it hurts. Think of the many mothers who have been through excruciating difficult things -- had miscarriages, struggled for years with infertility or even lost a child. But that doesn’t often stop us from sharing our own joys very often, does it? I know very few people who do not announce on Facebook that they are expecting, post newborn photos or even sonograms. Hell, I have many friends who post nothing but pictures of their children on a daily or even hourly basis. How excruciating for a family who has been through a tragic event or infertility to be bombarded with images of everyone else’s children.

More From The Stir: 8 Funny Breastfeeding Onesies for Babies Who Love the Boob (PHOTOS)

Is it OK to ignore the feelings of others on all fronts, except when it comes to nursing? We cannot segregate breastfeeding as if it's the only thing we must continue to keep hidden from the world.

On the occasion that I’ve shared a nursing photo, it has been about documenting something that’s special and meaningful to me and sharing it with friends and followers, most of whom, are happy to see a moment of connection between me and my baby. But has also been about contributing to a movement of mothers who wish to normalize breastfeeding, something that often feels so far off in the world we live in today.

Even though public breastfeeding is protected by law in almost all 50 states (47 to be exact, as well as DC and the Virgin Islands), mothers are routinely kicked out of restaurants, shopping malls and pools for nursing across the country. The message behind the #brelfie is that mothers are tired of hiding or being told they must never be seen when feeding their babies. Until nursing mothers are treated with the dignity they deserve, don’t expect the #brelfie to go anywhere.

What do you think when you see a #Brelfie"?

 

About the Author: Sarah Bregel is a writer, yoga teacher, feminist and deep-breather based in Baltimore. The birth of her first child in 2010 led to the birth of her writing career when she realized no one wanted to talk constantly about birth, babies or the messy business of being a mom. So she started a blog. She has since written for The Huffington Post, XOJane, The Washington Post, Babble, Scary Mommy, Mommyish, SheKnows Parenting, Mutha Magazine and Mamalode. She lives with her husband and 5-year-old daughter and baby boy. She blogs about the endlessly terrifying journey of motherhood at TheMediocreMama.com. Join her growing Facebook community or find her on Twitter: @SarahBregel.


Image via © IStock.com/YarOman

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