Monday, March 01, 2010

Why SEEING breastfeeding is important: My personal challenge to you

By Emma Kwasnica
of Informed Choice: Birth and Beyond and Human Milk 4 Human Babies

I'd just like to talk a bit about the bigger picture here for a moment, in that by Facebook taking its stance against breastfeeding images, and by creating such arbitrary obscenity guidelines as "no exposed areola or nipple may be shown" (I have seen many, many women whose areola covers up to a third or more of their entire breast - a baby's mouth could never come close to "covering" it all!), it is stigmatizing breastfeeding women, and shaming women into thinking that their breasts are much, much less than the amazing life-giving source they are. Nipplephobia has reached epic proportions here in North America, and this is to the supreme detriment of babies everywhere.

Just think for one moment, how many more women would breastfeed, or for how much longer, if only we rid society of the harmful practice of over-sexualizing women's breasts! And how much this, in turn, could benefit BABIES. For whose voice do the most vulnerable members of society have, if not ours? Interestingly, we find cultures around the world where women's breasts are seen *only* in their functioning capacity, i.e., that of nourishing and comforting their young. I believe that we can get there, too (or at least try to find some balance), but we have to start somewhere, and I truly feel that there is never any harm to come from challenging the status quo (you're not surprised, I know ;-) ).

I've said this before, and I'll say it again : as a childbirth professional, but also as a woman, in general, it is absolutely crucial that one support ALL women to breastfeed their young. While you, personally, may have your own code of "decency" for how much skin YOU are comfortable showing while breastfeeding, it is important that you do not impose your own, completely arbitrary line drawn in the sand regarding "modesty" or "discreetness", onto any other breastfeeding mother. Period. Just like a woman who wants to cover up should be supported (and generally IS in our society....), we need to support those women who struggle --or those women who do not want, or care-- to cover their baby and their breast, and make life simpler for these women to, first and foremost, feed and comfort the baby!

Quite simply, this is about normalizing breastfeeding. The more we hide it away, classify it as obscene, shame mothers into covering up while feeding, and encourage women to retire to "private" rooms in order to breastfeed the baby, the less we see of it in public, and the less and less people are comfortable with the very idea of nursing in public. This is the sad reality, in this pathologically hyper-sexualized (yet sexually repressed...) North American culture of ours. The solution, however, seems quite simple to me; breastfeeding (and/or images of breastfeeding) need to be seen every day, and I am convinced that SEEING more breastfeeding, wherever possible, is what will change our breastfeeding culture. Re-normalize it. Everywhere in North America (in all provinces in Canada, and in every state in the USA but two) women have the right to breastfeed in public, wherever they have the legal right to be. So women should do it. And they should feel completely free to do it. Lots of it. As much as possible.

If you want to be a part of the solution, here is one, simple thing you can do, each and every time you see a mother breastfeeding her baby in public : yes, give her a great, big smile, but don't stop there --go right *up* to her, and tell her what a wonderful thing she is doing for her child. I guarantee you, that if we all did even this simple gesture every time we saw a woman nursing in public, the tides would begin to turn.

I would also like to suggest in your daily life (outside the 'net), that you get out there and nurse your children in public. And do so with a huge smile across your face. Pretty hard for onlookers to say, feel, or do something negative in the face of a beaming, breastfeeding mother --n'est-ce pas?

Breastfeeding is normal. Normal. NORMAL. Say it, do it, show it.

Will you start by doing these simple acts right today? Indeed, I challenge you.

Warm regards,

~Emma Kwasnica



P.S. If you need a breastfeeding photo to borrow, choose one here.


...sometimes, a juggling act ♥



sisters sharing a tandem-nurse together in the first hour after birth



Feb 2007
Getting the hang of tandem-nursing (all of us!)
Youngest is 5 days old



October 2008
Breastfeeding Challenge, Montréal
560 babies all latched on simultaneously!
1st daughter (who turned 5 the day before)
& 2nd daughter (19 months old)



Published in Le Journal de Montréal the following day



January, 2009
Tandem-nursing my daughters.

This is a very special photo to me. Although I did not know it, an embryo had already taken hold in my womb -- unbeknown to any of us -- another little sister for my two girls was on her way!

Incidentally, I spent the entire month of January without Facebook, as my entire account was deleted for 30 days without explanation (other than me having had "obscene" breastfeeding photos removed).




This is also the last photo I have of my first daughter nursing.
She weaned three months later.



Placenta's out, tandem-nursing to help my uterus contract down again...



8 hours post-birth --
Tandem-nursing my littles ♥



Feel free to use this image as your profile picture!



REMINDER: absolutely *everyone* can participate in this. YES, even if you're male. Even if you've never lactated. Even if your babes have weaned!!

PLEASE, for the love of babies everywhere, make this simple effort to re-normalize breastfeeding, and let Facebook know that it's not okay to delete breastfeeding mothers' photos OR delete their accounts, as they did to me and so many others!

~~~~

Additional resources on breastfeeding (books, websites, articles, videos).


Additional articles by Emma Kwasnica, or those that she is quoted within:


Exclusive Human Milk Diet Benefits NICU Preterm Babies


Reasons NOT to Send Formula or Breastmilk to Haiti or other Disaster Locations



Enfamil's New "RestFull" Formula Discourages Necessary Night-time Parenting



In Solidarity: SEEING Breastfeeding is Still Important


Facebook to Ban Breastfeeding Advocacy Group for "Obscenity"


Happy Pills! Placenta Encapsulation



Chloë's Homebirth




47 comments:

  1. Your photos are beautiful! I especially love the one where the older girl is holding the newborn's hand, that is so sweet.

    When I lived on the West Coast nursing in public was no big deal, but now that we live in the South I feel like I am out there as a example of what should be a normal activity but which is often seen as offensive, or at least obnoxious. Even when it feels uncomfortable I feel like I need to be part of the breastfeeding presence out there to turn things around.

    Thanks for adding your words and your brave example to the cause.

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  2. I love that you posted a photo of a 6 year old girl nursing. It's not something many of us see - ever - but it occurs and it's lovely and natural and I commend you Emma for breastfeeding her for as long as she needed and to Dr. Momma for posting these here. I just reviewed a book called Breastfeeding Older Children by Ann Sinnott on my blog. I would encourage you to read and review it too as I know you have a wide audience who would benefit from exposure to this wonderful and much needed book.

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  3. awwwww this is soooooo cute!♥

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  4. Tandem nursing is wonderful~

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  5. My 16 month old looked at this, said, "boobies" and latched on. :) I love the tandem nursing shots. I also love seeing pictures of older children nursing because I never really saw a mom breastfeeding before I had her and do not plan on stopping any time soon.

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  6. This is great. You know, the other night after reading April's blog, I searched some choice words on fb and found some pretty appalling things! I reported as much as I could- including a prostitute.....- but I find that some of it is still up and now when I try to report things, there's a different process then the other night. I read through the TOS as well and I'm confused as to how most of the photos being banned are in violation at all. The only guilty party I see here is actually fb!

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  7. love the photos!! l didnt want to wean my daughter whilst pregnant with my son, but didnt know anything about tandem feeding. would love to have seen these photos!! l fed my daughter handful of times and only once with 2 together after hs birth before she weaned. really miss closeness!

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  8. If I had not seen a toddler nursing while my baby nurser was tiny, I would never have thought to nurse her until she self-weened at days away from 4. A picture would have introduced me to it as well. This is very important!

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  9. Breastfeeding my son (now 16) in the US was a joy, but in public I had to have a demeanor of 'don't dare mess with me'. Which made it a lot less relaxing.

    When I had my daughter (now 7) I lived in Norway. Everyone BF'ds here. 98% leave the hospital BF'ing. It was a joy to BF her anywhere. People looked and smiled and it was asked several times why I covered up when I did it. When they realized I was an American they understood.

    People seeing it makes it acceptable, the norm and more relaxing for mothers. More people do it and more babies will benefit from it.

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  10. Cute pic....I will nurse my 29 month old with his 5 month old brother and he always says "two boobs. one for the both of you". I smile and say "aren't you lucky there are two?"

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  11. I love seeing your big girl nurse! I nursed my boy until he was 3 years one month but I don't have any pictures- which I didn't realize until now. So I have a picture of him nursing at 1 year up as my profile. Rock on mama!

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  12. So cool to see a mom like me!!!I'm tandem nursing an almost 4 yr old and a 9 month old!!!Thank you for posting this, I'm not the only one yay!!!!!

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  13. Seeing my sister breast-feed was so important to me. She was the only one who really was open about it. Now I am pregnant and breastfeeding and I have people ask me all the time because they know I still pump at work. I love the opportunity to teach people that it is possible. Next step, teaching them that it is not going to be miserable for me to tandem feed and that it is not going to hurt my children. People seem to want to warn me that my oldest is going to have such a hard time. I don't think so. It will be a transition but I think it will be wonderful.

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  14. Love it.

    I agree that posting for one day wasn't enough; but in order to get Facebook to change, other actions are needed --- off Facebook.

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  15. I ALWAYS nurse when we're out and about and I always have a huge smile on my face. It's wonderful!

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  16. Me too, I nurse my toddler (I know, gasp!) in public. I helped get a billboard campaign rolling in my city, there are 18 bright yellow billboards up right now that say, "Breastfeed... We did it, so can you!" with photos of moms and children. (I wanted them to be nursing in the photos) It was sponsored by the "Help me grow" program. I do what I can.

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  17. The more children see breastfeeding as the norm, the more it helps sway at least one generation.

    Sometimes old farts are just too set in their ways to see change as being positive. I know that my kids see breastfeeding as normal, so that is 6 future adults that I have influenced.

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  18. I promise just as soon as I have a baby to BF, that I will do so with joy and pride! And in public! Hells yes!

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  19. MotherWit DoulaMarch 12, 2010 8:59 PM

    I used to tandem nurse in public all the time. Freaked my poor mother in law out LOL! But what was I gonna do, say NO because someone might disapprove?

    I joyfully fed my babies in public, and have been blessed to have nobody give me anything but really curious stares, which I addressed by smiling. I think making it public gives women who are doing it secretly in their homes, in dirty public bathroom stalls and under blankets everwhere permission to bring this loving, dedicated practice to the light, releasing the shame that serves nobody.

    I wish I had some photos, but the only ones I do are pretty poor quality. I tell everyone, especially people I work with, that I tandem nursed, and that my babies all weaned themselves (usually at around 3.5 and 4). Some never get the opportunity to hear of these possibilities. They see that I"m a "normal", knowledgeable professional, and it gives them the realization that this is not just something "hippies" do. When we can be "bigger" in our communications with people who are shocked by this "radical" behavior, meaning not stooping to their level with judgment and insult, our educational power magnifies even more.

    My hope is to one day see a culture which totally embraces the breastfeeding of as many children to whatever age a mother/children unit chooses, without making them feel stupid or skanky.

    Breastfeeding is not only the most inoffensive things in the world, it is pretty downright beautiful.

    Thanks, Emma! Gorgeous photos!

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  20. i went back to the place i was asked to leave for b/fing today. unfortunately didnt have ruby with me so i just walked by and gave the woman a filthy look. i so want to go in sometime and get my tits out again.

    http://www.news24.com/Content/SouthAfrica/News/1059/ab30fe14364745d0b8dab41ce71abd84/24-06-2009%2009-06/Breastfeeding_upsets_diners

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  21. MotherWit DoulaMarch 12, 2010 9:01 PM

    Hahahaha! Love the image of a badass little girl in cammo pants happily nursing from a boob. Love love love seeing a kid who knows where her power comes from. When we are nourished from a strong loving source until we are ready to bust a move into independence in our own way, in our own time, we can move mountains.

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  22. I totally agree, until people see it, and see us proud and happy to do it, not shy and cowering, many people will still think it unnecessary, and gross and inappropriate. Sad to say, I apparently am friends with people in this mindset. Heck, I am related to a lot of them too! lmao

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  23. Beautiful girls you have, and beautiful tandem pics!! :) I have one tandem pic in my bfing album on here. ;) I'm going to change my pic back to a nursing one too :)

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  24. Just changed my FB pic, and made sure I picked a nursing in public one, too. :D

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  25. Okay, my pic is now my kids tandeming at 45 months and 12 hours old. I was nervous about posting this as my profile pic.. but yep, solidarity. ;) In the hope of normalizing toddler and tandem nursing as well as nurisng in gneral. Gee, hope I'm not called out as "judgey" and "self righteous" on my page again @@@@ lol :P

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  26. I too am one of "those" women: http://www.mylifetime.com/lifestyle/relationships/love-sex/week-love-and-sex-november-8-2007

    There are about 12 different versions of the story in the news.

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  27. Emma, Could you be anymore my HERO!?!? Love it. Thank you. Sharing.

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  28. Yeah, Emma is pretty awesome, huh?
    I've met too many cool ladies on this place. At least Facist Book is good for that!

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  29. already doing so! i found this great hundred year old poster promoting breastfeeding. Late Victorian. so much for "old-fashioned discretion" requiring a cover!

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  30. I've liked my BF profile pic so much, I haven't wanted to change it ever since two MILC events ago

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  31. Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing :)

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  32. I was glancing through my fb profile pictures and am proud to say that about 90% are me breastfeeding (the others are my children). I love what you are saying. My sister sent a friend suggestion to one of her friends and said that my page was a "lactivists dream". I think meeting women like you has been pivotal in that journey. It is odd that something so oppressive as facebook has brought us together. Let's stay visible!

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  33. Thank you, all of you, for your support ! It means the world to me, but not only that, I hope your open-mindedness and acceptance of breastfeeding --not only older children, but breastfeeding more than one child at a time-- will go far in helping to re-normalize this sacred, beautiful act.
    For the record, my eldest daughter, now 6, weaned at 5.5 years old. She still tells me at least once a week, "I really miss nursing, Mama. But it's not the *milk* I miss --it's the cuddles..."

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  34. Emma,

    Brilliant! Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures. You are absolutely right. Let's raise awareness of breastfeeding like the Susan G Komen foundation has done for breast cancer-- which we know is higher among women that formula feed.

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  35. Such polite nursers! My boys prefer to nurse standing on their heads, over my shoulder, doing twirls. :)

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  36. oww i hope my daughter is still nursing when shes 5.

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  37. *Almost* makes me want to have another so I can tandem nurse too. :)

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  38. I will never cover up when I nurse! DF was so uncomfortable about the idea of me nursing in public when our baby was born, but now he sees how easy it is and encourages me. He asked why I don't nurse in the parent's room, and I asked if he would like to eat next to a toilet? He laughed and said no! By nursing anywhere and everywhere with our son, it's certainly normalized the behavior for him. Now to get started on the rest of the world! You will often find me sitting on a bench in the middle of the store, happily nursing my beautiful healthy baby. Wouldn't have it any other way!

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  39. Great read emma. very beautiful!

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  40. When there is more NIP, maybe mothers who don't know if their baby is actually drinking at the breast will be the exception, rather than the rule. This is incidental cultural learning, like watching someone change a spark plug, chop wood, bake a cake or change a diaper. And when mothers cover up while breastfeeding, how can anyone learn anything? We all need to know what it lookslike when a baby nurses effectively, and with enjoyment; it's just part of cultural literacy. I'm sick to death of hearing from mothers whose babies are nursing badly, that the nurses told them the latch looked good. Nurses need to see the whole spectrum of normal nursing behavior, so they will know what it looks like, too.

    I want the sight of a mother breastfeeding in public to be responded to in the same way we respond to someone walking past, holding a take out cup of coffee. If you're Canadian, think how fondly you view someone holding a cup to Tim's, and how normal that looks to you. What if the children see? Great! They should have a close look. Recently my DIL announced that she had sighted a breast, at the mall. This had startled her, actually. My son looked around, in anticipation, and then she gave him the new: it was a woman, breastfeeding. Oh, he said, dissappointed. I thought you meant a BREAST! He got to see lots of those at breastfeeding support groups, big deal.

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  41. Knowing what effective breastfeeding looks like is part of our cultural literacy, a part that nearly went the way of baking from scratch, and home-cooked meals. Everyone needs to see women breastfeeding, and see that it's normal. It should be as normal as seeing someone walking past holding a cup of Tim Horton's of Starbucks coffee. Suppose everyone who drank from a cup were to put a blanket over their heads so no one could see what they were doing? How would anyone learn to drink from a cup? Same with breastfeeding. Everyone needs to know how it works and how it looks when it's working, the whole spectrum of it. Maybe then health professionals will know what it looks like too, and stop sending moms home from hospital with babies who aren't drinking well, who are hurting their moms, who will need to be readmitted, who need formula bottles to gain weight.
    The other day at the mall, my DIL announced that she had sighted a breast. My son looked around, hopeful for some display of a gal in skimpy clothing, only to be told it was a woman breastfeeding her baby. Oh, he said, and stopped looking. He's seen plenty of those growing up, and it's no big treat. Same old, same old. Move along, move along, nothing to see here. That's what I consider to be a normal response to NIP. Just a mom feeding the baby, no excitement there.

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  42. Emma,

    I love this now as I did when I first read it. You've helped me realize a sense of pride at being able to nurse my 33-month-old son in public. I consider it my duty, not only as his mother, but as a breastfeeding woman, to let him nurse in public. All I can do for now is NIP and talk about breastfeeding and help to make it a normal part of my life, (a normal part of my Facebook!), the life of my family, the life of my friends, and that is not such a small thing I don't think. Human babies deserve human milk and mothers deserve to be supported in their efforts to provide it to them.

    Thanks again!

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  43. Beautiful article Emma. I tandem nursed my first two and am currently tandem nursing my 2.5 yrold and ten mth old daughters. Breastmilk is extremely important for children's development and definitely needs to be normalised. I breastfeed whenever my girls wish to because I am their mother and that's what my breasts are for, nourishment and comfort. I love to see other women nursing their children and I agree people just need to see it happening everywhere and they will get used to it. None of my friends bat an eyelid when I'm feeding, but they are used to it. In other countries ankles and shoulders are scandalous which seems ridiculous to us, but sexualising of womens breasts is equally bizarre behaviour considering it is such a necessary practice for our childrens health. Go you tandem feeding Mama, I love it! :)

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  44. I make a real effort to nurse in public, without a cover. It's just a small thing that I can do to normalize breastfeeding.

    I wish I could say that I smile at nursing mothers in public, but I never see them. Although most of my mom-friends do NIP, there just aren't enough of us to make it normal.

    Hm...that gives me an idea.....perhaps we should go out in groups and nurse everywhere we go! :)

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  45. i realize this is an old post but it just made me smile to see your pictures. One of my favorite pictures is of me nursing my newborn son and my toddler daughter, for the first time together. you can just see the joy on face. I hope to be able to do it again some day!

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  46. I wish everyone would read and consider the things said in this post!!

    Beautiful pics. I have one of me tandeming with my brother when we're about 6 and 3... Wish I could find it!!

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