In defence of "brelfies" (breastfeeding selfies)

I take a lot of photos of Quinn whilst she's feeding. Like, probably at least five a week. This may sound excessive but then, I'm often feeding for around ten hours a day, if not more - so it dominates my experience of the world at the moment!
I also choose to share many of these photographs on social media (predominantly via Instagram). Many other breastfeeding women will proudly share photographs of their children feeding, others prefer not to, yet more again don't breastfeed. For the most part, nobody gives a hoot. I'd imagine if people find photos of Quinn feeding inappropriate or uncomfortable, they cease to follow me on these platforms, or they just scroll past. As yet, I've never received any negative feedback as such, other than people feeling it necessary to tell my boyfriend that they've "seen my boobs" (weird).
There tends to be a certain level of backlash towards the "breastfeeding selfie" when the notion filters through to the wider media though, which, more often than not, occurs when someone famous shares a breastfeeding picture.
No betterplace to go now but The Daily Mail - bastion of tolerant society, whose article "Rise of the BRELFIE: Breastfeeding selfies are the latest trend for new mums thanks to stars like Miranda Kerr (but is it just 'naked exhibitionism?')" attracted some great reader responses. If you want to see that photo of Mirander Kerr "naked" by the way, it's here:

Some of my favourite responses include "is nothing private any more? People will be sharing photos of conception next!" and "sex is natural, shall I take a selfie of myself doing that?" (because making breastfeeding comparable to sex isn't weird, at all...)

Anyhow, as someone who not only breastfeeds openly but shares photographs of myself doing so on social media, I thought I'd respond to the overall arguments against the "brelfie" as expressed in response to this and similar articles, here on the blog. I'm not going to make any further reference to objections which mention sex, when I breastfeed my daughter it is absolutely in no way similar to a sex act, therefore me posting photographs of me breastfeeding my daughter is in no way similar to me posting a pornographic image. End of.

As I said, I've had no negative directed at me, these points are raised in the media, predominantly in the "comments" sections of either social media posts or "news" articles - I've responded to them personally because they're generally aimed at all breastfeeding mothers.

1. It will mentally traumatise your child in the future. Only if I raise my daughter to consider breasts as wholly sexual and/or dirty, in which case I could understand her being uncomfortable at the thought of breastfeeding from me. But hey, as my breasts' primary purpose is to feed babies (as will be hers, regardless of whether that's what she uses them for or not), then I don't understand why she'd be more embarrassed of these photos than she would any other baby photo.

2. I'm all for breastfeeding, but it's a private, intimate moment between a Mother and child. Oh bore off. Every now and again, Quinn looks up at me whilst she is feeding and we lock eyes and smile, its beautiful. For the most part though, its just what I do, day in, day out, to feed my baby. Breastfeeding has strengthened our bond, but its no more "private and intimate" than my formula feeding friends preparing and giving their child a bottle - it's the necessary act of feeding the baby. Sometimes in fact, it's downright boring. It's just normal, guys, its not like a heavenly light shines from my nipples and the sound of angelic chorus can be heard for miles. Normal, normal, normal - how is that hard to understand? By the way, I'm breastfeeding right now as I type this one-handed, I'm not engaged in any sort of intimacy or active bonding experience, but it does keep her quiet!

3. You should be looking after your baby, not sitting on social media. Have you even had a baby? For most of the day I'm literally trapped on my sofa... it's this or stare at the wall.

4. You're just showing off because you can breastfeed, you look down on those that can't. Normal guys, not special, not better, not somehow talented. Just normal. I post photos of her face too. Because I have a baby. By posting photos of my baby I express no ill will towards those who can not have children, the same goes for photos of me breastfeeding. Stop projecting your own emotional response to women who breastfeed on to me.

5. Don't you mind people seeing photos of your boobs? I don't know... I don't share photos of my boobs. I share photos of my daughter, sometimes some of the skin and flesh of my breast is in the shot. I don't just post images of my bare breasts though.

6. You don't have any self respect or dignity. Self respect? Are you serious? I breastfed for weeks through the pain of a tongue tied newborn. I screamed in to pillows and bit my own arm to supress screams every time she latched on. I've had mastitis three times, blocked ducts that have meant I couldn't raise my arms, and thrush so crippling I couldn't even let the stream of water from the shower touch my chest. I've bled, and cried, and I now suffer from vasospasm, for which there is no treatment and means that breastfeeding will never be pain free. I don't think I'm better than anyone, but I do think I'm seriously badass, and I'm bloody proud of myself for continuing to breastfeed for my daughter's sake. The respect that I have for myself and my body in light of that, knows no bounds. As for dignity: defined as "a state of being worthy of honour or respect"... see above.

7. The pictures are in the public domain, you don't know who's looking at them. This is actually a completely separate argument regarding photographs of children in the public domain. I share photographs of my children here on the blog and on open profiles such as Instagram. There are a number of considerations to be made when doing so because, sure, images can be viewed by those with dishonest purpose. I choose to share photos of my children, a photograph of my daughter breastfeeding is no more likely to end up in the "wrong hands" than a photo of my son holding a cat. Both are a possibility, which is a real shame, but the problem lays elsewhere and isn't relevant to breastfeeding photographs alone.

8. It's unnecessary. So is every photograph I think I've ever posted on Instagram. Ever.

9. I wouldn't feel comfortable sharing a photo like that. OK, that's absolutely fine. I don't tell people to post photographs of themselves breastfeeding! For me, it's a huge huge part of my life, my parenting experience, and it's what I'm really most proud of at the moment. After what we've been through, I'm impressed with myself that we're still breastfeeding 17 weeks on. I don't feel awkward or embarrassed sharing these photos, I just think they're beautiful (generally) or cute, not sexy, not a bit saucy, not "private". But if you don't feel comfortable with people seeing you breastfeed or seeing photographs of you breastfeeding, there's nothing wrong with you, and there's nothing wrong with me. Onwards.

10. It's disgusting. I don't want to see that. You're disgusting.











 


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