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Oh, For The Love of Brelfies

For those of you who haven’t heard it’s a term to describe pictures of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding Selfies.

Brelfies.

Yup. Really. It’s a thing.

I hate this term with the burning fire of a thousands suns.

Not really, but come on, it’s a pretty poor term for breastfeeding photos. It makes it sound like images depicting breastfeeding a current and trendy, and not in a good way, like a bad fashion. Which couldn’t be further from the truth.

so fetch

Here is a picture depicting Hera breastfeeding Hercules painted on a vase dated back to the mid 4th century (approximately 350 BC – so fetch!)

hera breastfeeding hercules 400 BC

So, images of breastfeeding are not new. At all. It’s older the the apparent birth of Christ for goodness sake! And I’m sure that’s not even the oldest image – it was just the easiest one I found with an English translation!

Breastfeeding photos aren’t trendy – it’s tradition.

Why all the fuss lately? Well, Facebook and other social media outlets have continue to loosen their rules that would have prevented mother’s from sharing their breastfeeding photos. The updated version of Facebook’s Community Standards, with regards to Nudity, states “…we always allow photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding…”

Which is great. *High fives* to Facebook.

But apparently not everyone is happy.

It seems the biggest complaints with regards to “Brelfies” is not the name itself (despite it making me want to roll my eyes so far back into my head I can see my own brain) but more along the lines of:

“Breastfeeding should be private”

“Breastfeed is great, but it doesn’t need to be on social media”

“I don’t want to see that on my newsfeed”

“Stop showing off and making other mother’s feel bad.”

Firstly, breastfeeding isn’t really a private activity. It can be, if it makes you feel more comfortable to breastfeed in private, but breastfeeding itself is not immodest, immoral, inappropriate, or anti-social. It’s a baby (or toddler… or child) eating. I’ve had a mind-bending argument with a friend’s friend on Facebook – after my friend had shared a picture in support of public breastfeeding and for whatever reason her friend took that as an opportunity to critise mother’s who feed their babies. During this incredibly disjointed argument, with a woman I later found out was actually a nurse, I was told it was disrespectful to my baby to feed her in public, because breastfeeding is a private, intimate, special bonding moment, and supposed to only be between Mother and baby.

Tell that to my daughter:

reasons my toddler is feeding2

Seriously, not every single breastfeeding is her and I gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes while a choir of angels sing “hallelujah”. She’s just having a snack. No biggie. It is what it is.

With regards does it NEED to be shared on social media the answer is – no. But neither does anything else. Like – at all. Not one thing. There is never a need for anyone, ever, under any circumstances to post things on social media. Not just breastfeeding photos, but gym updates, food photos, holiday snaps, birth announcements, heavily made up and filtered duck-faced-selfies. If we removed everything that wasn’t necessary from social media it would all cease to exist. Social media is a platform for people to express what interests them. Breastfeeding can be a pretty big part of someone’s life so naturally some people are going to want to share it.

From my own newsfeed
From my own newsfeed. Hardly a vitally important announcement.

And if we removed all the things I personally don’t want to see on social media it could end up a pretty quiet place indeed. First thing that comes to mind is all the statuses by my baby cousins about drinking and boyfriends/girlfriends – or their half naked photos with come-hither expressions. I don’t like it. I don’t want to see it. They’re still all 12 years old (to me, they’re actually all adults and live out of home now, but that doesn’t mean I have to be okay with it!)

The last point is the hardest to refute, because I want to tread very lightly here. I’ve been very very lucky to be able to breastfeed two children easily, so I can’t really say I know how it feels, but I have experienced intense disappointment and heartbreak after having a csection when I desperately would have rathered a vaginal birth. I think I can empathise with wanting something so badly that anyone else having it cuts me, no matter how irrational that is.

About a year or so after my son was born I was watching the episode of Glee where Quinn has her baby, and she has a fairly straight forward vaginal birth. And I cried. Not just a few little tears down my cheeks, but full sobbing. Because it wasn’t fair that she could and I couldn’t. She’s not even real! She’s a fictional teenager! But she had the birth that I wanted and it hurt me more than I could bear.

When you have that kind of pain inside you it’s hard to avoid being triggered, even in just normal daily life. People will still give birth – and announce it on Facebook, or share their birth stories, or talk about it. As they should. It’s their stories and experiences and deep down I was happy for them (the real people, not Quinn).

But my intense and inappropriate reaction was a big signal to me that I wasn’t over what had happened to me and I made an appointment with my GP to talk about a mental health plan. Because it wasn’t Quinns fault; it was something I still needed to deal with myself.

So, with the deepest empathy I can offer, if seeing breastfeeding images is distressing to you, can I suggest that it might be a good idea to seek professional help, rather than telling other women what part of their normal daily lives they can or can’t share on social media.

But, back to the name. The reason I hate the word “brelfies” is it makes it sound both new and temporary, and breastfeeding photos are neither. They’ve been around for a very long time and hopefully will be around for a long time to come. The the medium might change, from stone carvings, to vases, to snaps on a camera phone uploaded to social media, but I hope the tradition itself is here to stay.

About Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central Australia. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner.She has a background in early childhood education, but right now is content to be a stay at home mum.She is passionate about birthing rights, breastfeeding and mental health. She enjoys crafting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.

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