It all started three weeks ago, when Australian mom blogger Haddas Ancliffe took a break during her sister’s wedding to breastfeed her son, Jonah.
With a glass of water in one hand, she slid one strap of her dress down with the other, and cradled her son in her arms as she always does. Except this time, she let her husband Oliver snap a pic, and later uploaded it to Instagram with one simple, but powerful caption: “Just me and my baby having a drink. (Gotta do what you gotta do, wedding or not.) #normalizebreastfeeding”
The photo was a quick glimpse into an everyday moment Ancliffe — and millions of breastfeeding mothers across the world — share with their babies. Except the photo didn’t exactly get lost in the abyss of #breastfeeding photos, like so many others — it went viral, racking up thousands of likes in the process. That’s because on Instagram, Ancliffe goes by the handle @dahs; and to date, she boasts over 16,000 followers.
“Rock on mama, I too still nurse my toddler and don’t give AF what others have to say,” wrote Instagram user mitratalarman. “Much love from Italy.”
“I’m not a mum but I believe this is great! Xx,” commented siberianwolf.
Overall, the photo’s pro-breastfeeding message was met with a bunch of virtual high-fives and hell yas.
But dig a little further through Ancliffe’s feed, and you’ll get lost in an Instagram click-hole of even more body-positive images, accompanied by honest and empowering captions.
Most of them feature Ancliffe’s postpartum belly, which she openly admits has changed. In the months after giving birth to Jonah, she shows her “mom tummy” for what it is – scarred, a little saggy at times, and in some ways, a far cry from what it used to look like.
But she’s not about to let that get her down.
“Hello body,” she writes under one photo. “I haven’t appreciated you much lately but I do love you, I am proud of you too. One day if we have another child, you’re going to change again. But don’t worry, you’ll still be beautiful! Just like every other body, you are full of wonder and worthy of love. Thanks for keeping me alive after all I’ve put you through. I promise I’ll take care of you and feed you lots of good food to show you my gratitude. With love, your tenant.”
Yep — it’s pretty powerful stuff. (Almost enough to make me start loving my own thighs after 31 years.) But scroll on, and there’s plenty more where that came from.
“I have bad days you know,” Ancliffe writes under another photo. “Days where I look at myself and think, ‘I’ll never look like girls on Instagram in their Calvins with amazing figures and smooth flat tummies. But I don’t have days anymore where I want to tear my skin or cry at my reflection. Gone are the days where I’d refuse to go out if I thought I looked bad or get mad at anyone who would compliment me. NOW most of my days I look at myself and I’m happy. I am flawed, I’m not always confident, but I am living and breathing and full of love, so I have no reason to be down on myself.”
Amen to all that.
But truth be told, Ancliffe admits she wasn’t always so body positive.
“For the majority of my life I’ve had horrible body image issues, so I know what it’s like to hate the skin you’re in,” she tells Babble. “But I’d finally learned to love myself and I wanted to encourage others who were struggling to do that. I wanted to challenge what society says about stretch marks and saggy skin; I wanted to remind people that they aren’t flaws.”
It was another mom’s Instagram post about loving her “saggy tummy” that ultimately inspired Ancliffe to a.) start learning to love herself and b.) get others to see the beauty in their own bodies, too.
The response to it all has been nothing short of amazing, Ancliffe shares.
“The way people responded to my posts was so incredible, I actually couldn’t help but cry each time I’d get on Instagram,” she says. “A lot of women shared stories of how they got their stretch marks and [embarked on] their journey to self love. We opened up to each other about our struggles and found comfort and support, [and] it’s had almost a ripple effect, with other women posting their own body positive tummy pics and sharing [them] with friends and family.”
And that, has made “baring it all” worth it.
“I’m so grateful to have been that support to others,” adds Ancliffe. “It’s humbled me, softened my heart, and strengthened my spirit all at the same time.”