The “Inappropriate” Photo

This page was created because of a single comment left on my facebook page in reaction to a photo I posted of me nursing my infant without a cover. Many of my friends replied with kind words, stating they thought it was beautiful, which then gave me the confidence to turn the photo into my profile picture. That’s when it happened… One person commented, stating she felt it was inappropriate and that I should not have posted it.

I love this woman as a mother figure and could never be angry with her, but I was deeply saddened by her comment and rolled it over and over again in my mind for days. I removed the image as my profile picture, but was so inspired by this one comment, I created a blog page devoted to the compassionate understanding of the choices we make as mothers and what those choices mean to our children.

I had some computer issues and was unable to reply that day, or even that week, so I decided I’d turn my frustration at being unable to post a proper reply into an opportunity to share not only this, but many other issues with other mothers who may need support.

Here is my response to the comment:

As of this moment in time, 4:59pm on 3/12/13, I’ve been a nursing mother for 2 years, 4 months and 4 days. I’ve been tandem nursing for 6 months, 28 days and 11 hours. I plan to do this for at least the next 2 years.

I am an active member on 7 different nursing advocacy, pregnancy and birthing sites, I have “liked”, frequently post and respond on about 14 separate Facebook groups that promote, support and teach the joy, benefit and beauty of nursing to women around the world.
These pages post the most beautiful pictures on a daily basis; showing the loving joy and divine gift we have been given as mothers to sustain and nurture our babies in the most perfect and natural way possible. Some of the images are deeply intimate and profound. Some are silly and fun and some show the rest of us that whatever our challenge, we are not alone- everything that we could be worried about, has been worried about by someone long before us and there are a million helping hands the world over, ready to help and show support.

My world is saturated with the act of nursing and the culture of the breastfeeding, attachment parenting, stay at home mom where every aspect of it is respected and understood for what it is, never taken for anything it isn’t. I study, promote and educate breastfeeding, baby-wearing and natural parenting and it is fast becoming more than just a passion for my own family, but for others’ as well. I believe the only way to encourage mothers to make the best choices for their babies is by being an example of that behavior and showing them it’s okay, it’s acceptable and it’s rewarding. My life is literally all about babies.

As a result, it never occurred to me that a photo of me nursing my infant daughter would ever become an issue of controversy, especially with my own family. I have removed the image as my profile picture because I don’t want anyone to feel I’m “pushing” this image upon them, but I have no intention of removing it from Facebook. I am proud of that image, as it reflects everything about who I am at this point in my life. I do apologize that it may have offended anyone, but I will not apologize for posting a photo that reflects one of the aspects of who I am that I am most proud of.

It’s a shame that in this culture that continues to push the envelope with negative, derogatory or overtly sexual images and sexual frivolity that an image of a mother feeding her infant child is seen as inappropriate.
The people who would wish for a world in which sexuality was put in its proper place and stayed there- the people who shake their heads in disappointment when a girl objectifies herself and showcases her body in ways that clearly display a lack of self confidence who crave to be rewarded with sexual attraction as means for emotional support rather than seeing her own body as a godly vessel of the soul… those very same people would automatically file this image away into the in the same category with the Carl’s Jr models and an “inappropriate” Victoria Secret billboard. It truly shows me the nature of our culture; so distorted and so very sad.

Below I have posted what is now being referred to as “the photo”.

This lifestyle is not a passing trend for me. In the last few years, I’ve become a fierce advocate for nursing and plan to eventually pursue (when I have time once the babies are a little older) a certification as a lactation coach and a breastfeeding counselor because I have a true passion for it.  Not just for myself, but for others.  I have discovered that I find myself most happy when I can champion someone else through a difficult situation. Whether it involves dealing with work and receiving the necessary paid time off for maternity, helping someone cope with letdown issues or how to manage differences in opinion with pediatricians when it comes to feeding age and vaccinations, I want people to make informed decisions.

Please understand- It doesn’t have to be MY decision that a mother makes, just an informed one.  I love helping moms with lactation questions and concerns.  I find that I have become the one who friends come to when they need support or advice in any of these areas and it gives me a deep sense of responsibility to further my research and to make sure I do know all there is to know, so I can help anyone if and when they ask.

I’ve read countless resources from medical journals to La Leche League & Breastfeeding USA blogs and everything in between.  I soak up everything I can possibly get my hands on to help myself and others through whatever nursing and even general parenting issue that might come up.

I know most mothers do this, I’m nothing special or extraordinary.  I am just a mom who started out a “new mom”, freaked out by everything and no clue what I was doing- just like everyone else.  I read to keep away the anxiety.  Because, let’s face it- being a mom is scary.  It just is.  But there is nothing more reassuring than knowledge, so that’s what I try to have a great deal of in as many areas as possible.

What sets me apart from a great deal of mothers when it comes to nursing, is that I’m not simply doing it because I have to. I know I don’t have to, but many feel like they do, because it’s the right thing but they don’t enjoy it and they’re thrilled at the prospect of being able to stop. I know I could easily shift my daughter over to formula and cereal and cut Liam off completely and get on with my life.  Many people think I’m completely nuts when I say I’m planning to continue nursing for another two years, but it will be up to them when we stop.

I’ve been compared to a milk cow and told I am a slave to my children.  I’ve been told every ridiculous, self righteous lie about nursing from people who don’t understand how important it is to baby’s brain and body and mama’s overall health. Most typically, the opposition I see comes from people who either don’t have children at all or people who did have children, but in a time in our history when it was more important to get on with your responsibilities than it was to nurture your child. I also have received a great deal of backhanded compliments from those who deliberately chose not to nurse and are trying to make themselves feel better.

Here are a few of the gems I’ve heard:

Formula is just as good and for the sake of their ability to mature “on time”, I should stop nursing by 12 months.
My son’s language delay MUST be because I continue to nurse and that makes him feel like a baby so he acts like one.
If I don’t stop nursing, put them down and make them cry, they’ll never learn to walk.
Nursing makes children too dependent upon a mother and if I ever “hope to have a life”, I should start supplementing with formula or at the VERY least, I’ll give them pumped milk in a bottle so they don’t get too spoiled thinking I will always be there to nurse them.
Breastfeeding causes socially stunted behavior.
Breastfeeding is selfish and hurts a baby if you do it longer than a year.
The list goes on and on….

These opinions further prove to me on a daily basis just how backwards and uninformed our culture is when it comes to the care and feeding of our children at these crucial ages.

I choose to continue nursing because I love to do it, because it’s what’s best for them and because I want to be able to tell them that I did all I could; not just what was convenient or what fit into my already overly-busy and important schedule to help them develop as fully as they could.

Please know that I am not a formula-mom hater.  I had to supplement with formula with both my babies in the early days!  I know plenty of women who automatically despise a mom who chooses formula, but they forget there are a million different reasons why a mom may choose formula and I cannot and will not be led to judge them for their decisions.  Their lives are not my own and I wouldn’t seek to hurt anyone by condemning their choices.  I simply know my own, why I made them and what prevented me from making different ones.  That is what I share with others.

When it comes to any of my parenting decisions, it’s about knowledge.  I always say, you can’t unlearn something.  Once you know the truth, you cannot simply pretend it isn’t there and continue on the way you were living before and what I know now as a nursing mother, I cannot simply ignore- I have to act upon that knowledge.  I have a responsibility to do so for my own family and to share what I know with mamas who don’t know.

Many women I see on these forums have limited resources and are told ridiculous things by both family and medical professionals to ensure the women comply with the “standard” of child development.  What most people don’t understand about child development laws and recommendations in this country, is they are all focused on making sure your child is conditioned and ready for an independent life in a public school system where they can be molded and trained as the government would see fit to train them.  It’s not about their well being. It’s not about their quality of life- it’s about returning to the workforce, returning to your tasks, treating a child as a possession and getting on with life.

It’s the responsibility of people like me who strive to live outside that system to educate, promote through my own actions and advocate the truth about proper health and feeding of our children.  Why do I feel so compelled to do this? Well, honestly now… If I don’t do my best to advocate for these causes and address these issues, who will?  Why not me?  So many women do not know what is going on inside their bodies and they don’t know where to go for information.  They skirt around the issue with their baby’s pediatrician and are usually advised to “just supplement” with formula or rice cereal and at four months, transition to solids and be done with the whole messy business.  They are too embarrassed to find the answers because it would require actually talking about breasts, latching, suckling, milky secretions and god forbid… NIPPLES!  Oh dear lord in heaven, not that!

Well, these dear, sweet ladies trying to do right by their babies have a right to know what goes on in their bodies and just how valuable that liquid gold really is to the physical and mental development of their babies and to THEIR health, too! They have a right to be taught the truth about its value and their value as a nursing mom to their babies.  It’s simply not fair for these babies to grow up with their mamas doing all they can to provide in every way with such a major component of the process missing and only because they were not aware.
So, that’s what this is all about.  That is why I am doing this, this blog, the facebook page, all of it.



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1 Comment

  1. You have hit upon so many points that resonate within me I don’t even know where to begin. Thank you for sharing your story. I understand how you feel all too well. I too have been helped immensely from a few groups on face book and it has also inspired me to take photos of my lil one while he nurses. I haven’t posted any of those pix online, mainly because I already post 9,000 pix of my kid; but also because I don’t know what my family and friends would say. Especially since in my photos you can’t see me at all, except for my boob. I don’t know if that would be considered better or worse in the eyes of the people who post negative comments.
    Actually that’s not true, one breastfeeding photo got snuck in amongst the others; my 4 year old niece took it and it’s all blurry you can’t really tell it’s a breastfeeding photo unless you know.
    I won’t lie, I thought you were really brave to post that pix. I marveled at how many positive posts you got, not from the breastfeeding groups but from family and friends. I had no idea anyone had given you negative comments. That makes me really sad.
    I completely agree about almost everything you said, it’s like you’ve mirrored my mind and posted my thoughts. I, too, cover up about 90% of the time, for the sake of my family and friends. I want to be one of those women out there changing the world, normalizing breastfeeding for everyone. Then I usually chicken out. Like the other day at the bus stop when I stood up and turned around to nurse facing the bus stop so cars driving by wouldn’t see. They were DRIVING by they weren’t going to care anyhow. When I don’t cover I always feel a little bit unnerved by it, more scared than fierce.
    My 4 year old niece really opened my eyes to a few things about myself (technically she’s my boyfriend’s niece, but I’ve known her since she was in her momma’s belly). Her momma explained to her about breastfeeding; but she was super curious. She had been nursed herself, but just for a very short time. Knowing it was okay with her mom I nursed uncovered in front of her and she was full of questions. Every time the baby latched off, wanting to play with his cousin or see what was going on, I would pull my tank top back up. My niece looked at me like I was silly and told me matter of factly, “Just leave it out, he might want more!” Then while the baby was eating she asked if she could touch it. Before I had a chance to ask her what she meant she pressed a few inches above the babies mouth and said, “Yup, there’s lots of milk in there.” 🙂 The innocence of babes. THEY know there’s nothing weird, or creepy, or sexual about it, even when they are curious and full of questions. I wish adults would ask more questions instead of being judgmental because they don’t understand.

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