In the years that I breastfed my two sons, there were many times I shared photos of them on Facebook or Instagram, as they lay nursing in my arms.
At first, I was a little timid about it, taking care not to post anything with too much skin and making sure not to post them too often. But after receiving an outpouring of support in the comments (and plenty of fist bump emojis), I began to post more.
One year, during National Breastfeeding Month, I even posted one breastfeeding photo a day of my younger son nursing. I was lucky that the reception from friends and family was mostly positive, but there were definitely a few critics.
As the years have gone by and the act of posting breastfeeding selfies (or “brelfies”) has become more common, I’ve seen more and more acceptance of the practice. And while that’s been amazing to witness, I’m also shocked that there’s still a whole lot of negativity that surrounds it, too.
It’s 2018, and yet women are often accused of posting the photos because they simply want attention. Or better yet, because they want to “rile people up.” Critics often call the pictures inappropriate, unnecessary, disgusting … or worse. And then there are those who are pro-breastfeeding in theory, but still don’t understand why a mother would pick something so seemingly private to share with the world.
First of all, let me just clear something up: I have never in my life met a woman who posted breastfeeding photos for selfish, attention-seeking purposes. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Most moms just want to share a special moment between themselves and their child — the last thing they want is to be in the spotlight.
If you ask me, thinking about breastfeeding photos this way shows a lack of understanding of what breastfeeding actually means to most mothers — namely, that it’s an ordinary part of life. I mean, if someone posted a picture of themselves lovingly bottle-feeding their baby, would you say they are doing so “just to get attention”?
It seems to me that just because boobs are involved, we can’t help but sexualize things. But really — a woman feeding her baby? Is that honestly so risqué?
That sort of misguided thinking is actually one of the top reasons women share their breastfeeding photos in the first place. We’re not just uploading photos for shock-value, in order to get more likes and shares. We’re showing others that the way we feed our babies is nothing to be ashamed of, and definitely nothing that needs to be kept behind closed doors. In short, we’re trying to normalize it — by reminding you that breastfeeding our babies is just as basic as taking them to the park, pushing them in a stroller, or letting them take a snuggly nap in our arms.
But you don’t have to just take my word for it. I recently asked some fellow breastfeeding moms why they chose to share their own brelfies — and their reasons ran the gamut.
1. Because it feels natural and right.
Pam Moore, a mom of two from Boulder, Colorado says she didn’t think twice before sharing a photo of herself nursing on her blog a few years ago. It was right after she’d run a half-marathon and her breasts were full of milk, so nursing in that moment just made sense.
“I was DYING to nurse at the finish line,” she tells Babble.
Moore’s husband was the one who snapped the photo, and she says it “just seemed totally natural to post that photo.” To Moore, this had nothing to do with making some kind of statement; instead, shared it “because it was a beautiful photo in which I was beaming after completing a half marathon.”
She adds that if someone had seen the photo and it inspired them to feel more comfortable breastfeeding in public, that would be awesome, but in the moment, that was not her intention.
2. Because it sums up the early days of parenting.
Lindsey Klein, a mom of two from New York, says that she’s had breastfeeding photos taken by professional photographers for both her children. She adds that her reasons for having them taken — and also enthusiastically sharing them on social media — is for a very simple reason.
“I loved sharing pics … it simply summed up those early days of parenting,” she explains. “We were a unit and that’s that.”
3. Because it’s an opportunity to teach expectant moms what breastfeeding looks like.
Sarah Sprague, a mom of four and blogger at Nurshable, has a more intentional reason why she has shared breastfeeding pictures over the years: “Breastfeeding is monkey see, monkey do,” she says. “If mama doesn’t see, doing is harder.”
Sprague believes that the more young girls and women see what breastfeeding looks like, the more likely they’ll be to give it a try themselves one day. Because even though her own mother breastfed her for several years, Sprague says she’d never seen anyone else in her family or community breastfeed before. So when it came time to do it herself, she felt at a total loss, and had some difficulty with making it work at first.
“I was the first mother I ever saw breastfeeding,” Sprague tells Babble. “And I was lost.”
4. Because it captures the moments when breastfeeding brings comfort in difficult times.
When Ashleigh Mack’s son Lincoln was diagnosed with Leukemia in 2016, nursing brought the both of them immense comfort. Soon after, Mack decided to share a photo of herself nursing Lincoln in a hospital bed with the Facebook page Breastfeeding Mama Talk, where the raw, emotional picture quickly went viral.
“I shared mine on BFMT when my son was able to nurse after 40+ hours of not being able to eat due to testing for cancer,” Ashleigh shares. “It was a moment I was able to provide him comfort and nourishment. It was a scary time and it brought me joy — my son was alive, and eating.”
Tragically, sweet Lincoln passed away a few months later at just 8 months old. But the photos Ashleigh has of him nursing still bring her solace, comfort, and tender memories.
5. Because breastfeeding is hard, and moms deserve to take pride in what they’ve accomplished.
We all know that breastfeeding doesn’t always come easily (I mean, that’s pretty much the understatement of the year, amiright?). But that’s all the more reason why we often end up feeling proud as heck when we’ve finally gotten into a groove with it. And then, when we’re able to multi-task while we’re at it (like breastfeeding and eating a meal simultaneously), we feel like genuine superheroes.
That’s just how Julie Musgrave, a mom of two from Indiana, feels about the breastfeeding picture she shared online. The image captures her nursing her baby in the car during a pit-stop, while her other child sleeps in their car seat. (We’ve all been here, right?)
“I am proud and grateful of my ability to do this,” Julie shares with Babble. “It’s so HARD! When it goes well it’s really good, but it’s day-to-day and sometimes minute-to-minute which is pretty much like motherhood, right?”
“I’m so grateful for that memory,” Julie adds, saying that it still reminds her of a proud moment she never wants to forget.
Well, there you have it, people — breastfeeding mamas share these photos for a myriad of reasons, but because they are meaningful to us. They capture those beautiful, fleeting moments of life with young kids, and (hopefully) remind the world that the simple act of feeding our babies is normal.
So the next time you see a breastfeeding photo posted online, try to look at it with an open mind, knowing that the mother who posted it did so most of all because she is proud to of this special moment with her child. And if the photo makes you uncomfortable, that’s fine, too. You always have the option of scrolling right on by.