Last year for World Breastfeeding Week, I did a series of informative posts on breastfeeding. I looked at common myths, claims, and questions and provided supported answers. You can find that series here (Part 2, Part 3, Final).
You can also find my personal overview of my first breastfeeding journey here (3 part series – this is the last part that includes the links to the first two).
This World Breastfeeding Week I honestly didn’t have much content planned, since I had just written about my breastfeeding experience with Maggie and I just wasn’t feeling particularly inspired. I am always a supporter of all infant feeding: breast, pumping, formula, whatever. However this year before the week even really began I saw a lot of anti-breastfeeding rhetoric online, or anti-breastfeeding week. So I want to talk about that fora second.
I guess some people think that breastfeeding should not be celebrated in a week.
I understand where some of these people might be coming from. If you could not breastfeed for whatever reason, a week reminding you of this could be painful. I get that. I had a hard start to breastfeeding the first time myself and I could have been one of these people if I didn’t have the support I had I think. Or if things had been different – the cause of our issues something we couldn’t work through. If I had felt particularly low from trying and needed to stop for my own mental well being. No matter your story, I’m here to say your thoughts and feelings are valid. Whatever your story or your reason – it doesn’t matter. If you don’t want to celebrate the week – don’t! Maybe sign out of social media, as there are certainly lots of people sharing, to avoid the triggers. Take the space you need for yourself. Mute people if you must. Do what you need to do for your own mental health!
What I can’t support is the other group within this anti-breastfeeding week mindset. The group who thinks it is ’embarrassing’ for someone to share their breastfeeding (or chestfeeding) story; or photos where you can see a part of their breast or chest. Who apparently thinks you need to ask your husband’s permission to share your breastfeeding photos (I don’t even want to broach this topic). Who believe it is unwholesome to do any of this – to celebrate your accomplishments the way you individually choose to.
Individually. Choose. To. That’s right. We can all make our own decisions, and though many people in this world like to keep their life more private, there are people who don’t. There are people who make connections through social media, who share a lot of their life there. Why they do this shouldn’t matter or really be anyone else’s business. It’s their choice. I share a fair bit online because I want to raise awareness most of the time. I want to make taboo topics less taboo. In my breastfeeding blog posts, you will find photos of me breastfeeding. Sorry in advance.
Similarly in my fitness blog posts or on my Instagram, you will find photos of me in a sports bra, regular bra, or bikini. Can you tell me what the difference is?
For some people in this “ew boobs” camp, it doesn’t matter. No respectable person posts photos of their body online, according to them. Again – choice. To each their own. The internet AND “real life” as we call in-person interactions, will be different for each and every single one of us. Some people wear the crop top, some don’t. Some will post their breastfeeding photos, or their bikini photos, or whatever else they please; some won’t. I respect that – I support that. If you want to post something like that – it’s your choice. If someone doesn’t like it, they should mute/block/unfollow as needed. If something you see online doesn’t align with your views of the world, guess what? It’s not like “real life” – you can remove these things from your view, usually quite easily these days. Ta da.
So – if pictures of half of someone’s breast (or 98% of someone’s breast) bother you – leave the internet. Or at least tailor the internet to what you like to see. You can do that. Just like they can share the photos they feel comfortable sharing. It’s that easy. The magic of the internet.
Also lets stop making this a sexual issue – breastfeeding is exactly what it sounds like – feeding from the breast. Providing sustenance to your child. That is totally normal and should – after all this damn time – be normalized in society. I breastfed without a cover for most of our 15 month journey. 1) because the cover was really a pain in the @$$ to put on; 2) because I always felt like my baby was overheating; and 3) because it’s just me feeding my baby so what is the big deal?
I admit to sometimes having used the cover to make others feel comfortable, but it wasn’t for me. I am totally fine with just feeding my kid the way she was being fed. Just like now I’m ok with giving her a snack container full of blackberries and letting her face get covered in blue-purple (which apparently is called “blurple” according to my husband) mess. It’s the same damn thing.
I am not saying it’s NOT ok to use a cover – it is. Do what you’re comfortable with and respect that if someone isn’t using a cover, it’s because they are OK with the fact that they’re feeding their baby in a public place and this just doesn’t bother them. It’s OK to be more comfortable with a cover when you are breastfeeding in public – but lets not judge others for not. We each can make our own choices. Either way – breastfeeding is normal. You should breastfeed in a way that makes you comfortable – there is no right or wrong way. But don’t feel as if you need to breastfeed in a cave where no one can see you – unless that is legitimately where you feel most comfortable. Do what works for you!
My personal thoughts? I love seeing people’s breastfeeding photos – but I also understand that it can just be triggering for some, and I totally understand if you need to step away for a week or mute for a week or do what you need to do to cope.
I breastfed, so reading other people’s stories can be empowering. I think it can also reveal the realness of the journey – and I like that. I like to see what is happening behind the scenes. I like the picture perfect IG photos of breastfeeding but I also enjoy the ones where people’s baby’s are having a blowout in the very same picture. Or where people are sharing their struggles – cracked nipples, low supply, mastitis, etc. Both of these types of photos and shares are beautiful to me – because breastfeeding can be beautiful for many people, and for some it’s just what works best. And for others still it’s a rough road shrouded by guilt. The list goes on, the experiences are plenty.
If someone wants to share those details about their journey – I am there reading; supporting; encouraging; being your #1 cheerleader. You breastfed for 1 day, 1 year, 3.5 years, or maybe you never did. Maybe you pumped. Maybe your formula fed – I don’t care! It’s all a journey and I love to hear what we all can do. We’re all amazing.
So – lets normalize breastfeeding.
Lets respect that each person makes their own choices.
Lets be aware that the internet is a customizable place – if you don’t like it, don’t look. If it is a trigger – remove it and feel no shame for needing to do so.
Breastfeeding is not sexual, it’s feeding your child.
There is no best way to feed your baby – what matters is that they are fed and you are both happy and comfortable.
And remember, we are supposed to support each other. Be that village for those around you. Don’t pass judgment. Try to understand, and if your views are totally opposite then disengage. That’s it!
Although this week celebrates breastfeeding, remember that no matter how you feed your little one – you’re amazing and you’re doing a fantastic job.