I can't believe it, it's totally out of control!
Women breastfeeding in public… now they're even taking “brelfies” for all to see.
This article is going to be a very challenging read for some people. So take a deep breath and let's do this.
If you're feeling fragile, bookmark this article and come back to it later.
So, let me ask you something:
How do you react when you see a woman (or an image of a woman) breastfeeding her baby?
How do you feel when you see a woman breastfeeding her baby?
Think about it for a minute. Then put a name on those emotions.
Do you feel angry? Do you feel anxious? Guilt creeping in? Sadness or despair?
Instead of focusing on what's right in front of you, focus for a minute on what thoughts and processes are going on inside your body. What messages are you telling yourself? What beliefs (stories) are you creating about others?
Now, are those stories factually true? Can you be certain for sure that it's true? Or are they just assumptions and judgements based on your own reactions and feelings?
From a practical perspective, covering up a baby is like trying to cover up an octopus. But let's go deeper. Religious and cultural reasons aside, here are the most common reasons why the members of the public (mostly women themselves) feel that breastfeeding women should cover-up — in no particular order:
1: My Husband/Significant Other Doesn't Need It In His Face
“It's really offensive when women whip their boobs out in front of my partner — he doesn't need to see that, and I don't want him to see that either.”
Why don't you want him to see it? Are you worried he's going to get off on it?
The thing is, it's called breastfeeding, not nipplefeeding. He's going to see more breast tissue on the beach, on the television (how about that Game of Thrones that's gripping the world?), on the internet and in advertising. So, there are a few things to consider.
Ask yourself, why am I truly anxious about my partner seeing a woman breastfeeding?
Perhaps you might discover that you feel insecure about your own breasts or body. Or perhaps you don't like the idea of your partner seeing another woman's breasts (what little you can see while she's breastfeeding) because he behaves in ways that leave you feeling insecure.
For example, does he ogle or inappropriately comment on women's bodies at other times? If not, than you are acting without any evidence that your partner is having a jolly good time watching other women breastfeed.
If he does behave badly, why are you in a relationship a person who is shredding your self esteem to the point of insecurity and paranoia? All for a man who has clearly not grown up emotionally. A woman should be able to trust her partner. When we don't feel safe in relationships, we can behave in desperate ways.
I'm going to make a leap for a minute, but for good reason: another thing to consider is that one of the more obvious signs of someone being hooked on porn is that they look at other women (and you) differently. Instead of seeing a woman, they see sexual objects. They tend to blatantly ogle, right in front of you. Yet, you may think there is nothing is wrong with porn. You might like to look into how addictive porn is and how it easily and quickly it escalates. Read up on all the research at Fight The New Drug and Your Brain On Porn. Think it's over the top? Read this boy's story. Stories like it are growing at a rapid pace.
Why do I even mention porn? I truly believe it's played a huge role in the shift we're experiencing. Women are suffering in silence thinking it's a ‘man thing' and something to be endured. But breasts have become over-sexualised thanks to marketing, media and porn, which is a shame. Not just for the men, but for women who have become paranoid about breasts being used as intended.
None of these things have anything to do with how a woman chooses to feed her baby. Don't hate the breastfeeding mother. Channel that passion and energy into changing the status quo. Also, see our article on the sexualisation of breasts: what caused it?
2: My Children Don't Need To See That!
“Gees, I have kids here, can't you cover up? They don't need to see your breasts, it's nudity for goodness sake!”
Kids are like little sponges — their brains are geared to learn at a much faster rate than us adults. The first three years are especially formative, shaping who we'll become. What we tell them and what we teach them, they take literally.
Considering breastfeeding rates are dropping around the globe and we're less likely to encounter breastfeeding everyday, what would you rather teach them:
- Most women bottle feed their babies; breastfeeding should be hidden and ashamed of
- Some women breastfeed, some women bottlefeed. Both are fine but cover up if you breastfeed
- Breastfeeding is the normal way to feed your baby, isn't it wonderful seeing women breastfeed? Breastfeeding is very challenging for some mothers and babies, and that's okay. Formula is there for those who need it. We're so lucky women have options for their babies!
It's your choice what you decide to teach your children about feeding babies. But know that everything they see is an opportunity to teach them. I think the best thing to do is teach our children to be open-minded (don't worry, their brains wont fall out), and let them make their own decisions, rather than just let them take on our stuff.
3: She's Just Seeking Attention!
“All these women posting selfies or breastfeeding in public are doing so for attention! All they want is people to look at them!”
There's a belief that goes something like this: the quirks we find irritating in others (and what we think about others) is an exact mirror reflection into the inner workings of ourselves — no matter if we realise it or not.
- Are you feeling a lack of attention from your significant other? Or from the world in general?
- Do you feel insignificant?
Because you're choosing to believe something that simply isn't true. When you choose to believe something, you suffer — from your own thoughts. Do all breastfeeding mothers post selfies because they want attention? Do you firmly believe yes? Because if you do, it's not only a generalisation, but it's also a delusion.
I've taken photos breastfeeding my daughter. While I didn't post them on Facebook specifically, I did share them. Why? Because when I look at them, I am filled with SO much love for my daughter. I felt so happy to be with her, right there in that moment where we are connected both physically and emotionally. And it passes by SO fast.
You see, mothers who breastfeed get a rush of the hormone oxytocin, which is the hormone of love, bonding and connection. Mother Nature has cleverly wired us so that we will feed and protect our babies, by giving us this yummy dose of feel good hormones. It puts us in a state of love, connection and pride.
I don't know of any mothers who post brelfies with the motive to piss off other mothers. Nor am I aware of a Facebook group set up solely for that purpose. And seriously, we're really busy mothers. We don't have the time to make it our mission.
Brelfies are a feeling, not just a photo. And trust me, we absolutely do not want people to stare at us or get off on us breastfeeding. It's simply a snapshot into a moment that will one day, sadly be over forever. Just like you have treasured snapshots of pregnancy, birth or parenting, breastfeeding represents a special moment in time to us. We wouldn't ask you to stop posting your most treasured photos.
And yes, bottlefeeding moments can be just as beautiful. Wear and share them with pride too.
4: I Don't Need To See THAT!
Oh, you mean breastfeeding? On the contrary, maybe you do need to see breastfeeding.
Does your brain overload with raging hot fury when you watch documentaries of tribal women on the television? Are the tribe horrified? No, because it's how it's done and everyone just gets on with it.
Sometimes, some people report seeing other women with a whole boob out, not caring who sees her. These boob-out women are the minority, because so many women anxiously cover up every inch they can, but in either case… Just. Look. Away.
When you continue to look, you grow the problem in your mind — you feel more upset, angry and disturbed. It's not that hard unless you let yourself get hooked into the untruths you're telling yourself. Just like anything else you don't like the look of, you look away and move on.
There's no need for drama. It's just a mama feeding her baby. If she doesn't feed her baby, it will eventually will lead to crying (which is a late hunger signal), then everyone will no doubt take offense to the crying. She cannot win.
Something to note is people have grown up with varying messages about feeding babies. Our parents are very influential as to our belief systems as we grow up. Sometimes we don't even know why we think, feel and act the way we do. This is because early experiences shape who we become.
Consider your parent's experiences with infant feeding. What did they do? How did they feel about it?
It can be a huge insight into the way we operate, and why we do what we do when we speak to our parents. Have a conversation with them today, you just might be surprised.
5: It's Disgusting!
Breastfeeding is not disgusting for a baby. Nor is it disgusting for a mother. Nor do people find it disgusting to see array of animals that feed their babies in nature — we even see it as cute and adorable! Why?
Because our feelings and emotions aren't being triggered.
It's not about the act of feeding our young. It's the ridiculous stories we're telling ourselves about other women that are simply not true.
If you think breastfeeding is dirty or disgusting, ask yourself how you feel about your own body. Is it possible that you don't feel comfortable with your body? Is low self esteem is hampering your thoughts? Are you basing your views on breastfeeding due to outdated religious or cultural messages in the past? What were you taught about breastfeeding when growing up?
At the end of the day, I am simply asking you to question your thoughts.
Only then will you have any real answers and understanding, rather than judgements and assumptions. No-one likes those. Especially when it's about themselves, eh?
And remember, when you're fighting against something, you're giving it more energy and keeping the drama going. It's a snowball effect.
Think about the person you would be and how you would feel if you didn't believe the thought that breastfeeding women should cover up. Imagine seeing a breastfeeding woman, without the judgement and without the thoughts you usually associate with it. No crazy self talk.
What do you see now? Can you possibly see a beautiful mother lovingly feeding her adorable baby? Because that's what's right in front of you! Isn't it perfect?
No? Well if you've gotten through this article and still feel offended, then see if you can answer the 4 questions featured here. Click the button to answer the questions… it will change your life — not just how you feel about breastfeeding.