Facebook needs your breastfeeding selfies — a.k.a brelfies
“Lots of women are super stressed out about feeding their babies in public. So think of this brelfie trend as any other public awareness campaign,” writes Kristen Thompson
Original article for Metro, published Aug. 15, 2016. Read online here
I have this secret stash of selfies on my laptop that I wish I could post online except they show too much nipple. Or more nipple than I’m used to showing off to Facebook friends.
They’re pics I’ve taken of me breastfeeding, snapped in secret because I wanted to capture the moment for posterity, even though I figured it was maybe a weirdo thing to do.
Only as it turns out, it’s not that weird of a thing to do. Breastfeeding selfies are actually a thing with a name: “brelfie”. In fact, the United Nations is actively promoting the brelfie, which even has its own hashtag. Who knew?
If you search “brelfie” on Twitter (and I’m guessing that’s what a bunch of you are going to do as soon as you’re finished this sentence), you’ll be bombarded with uncloaked boobs with babes attached, posted for World Breastfeeding Week, which ended on Sunday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already jumped on board, recently tweeting a pic of his wife nursing their son in support of the campaign to normalize public breastfeeding.
We’ve come a long way in that fight. Mothers are encouraged to breastfeed wherever and whenever their babies demand. But that “nurse boldly and unapologetically” battle cry doesn’t seem to translate to the social media world, where even the most unabashed of us are reticent to post babe-on-boob pics.
In my own Facebook mom group, fellow mothers often post brelfies while lamenting, “I love this pic, but since I can’t post it on my regular wall, I’ll post it here.” I’ve done it myself.
That unspoken rule – thou shalt not bare your brelfie for all to see – runs counter to the very point of the #normalizebreastfeeding movement. If my breast is okay to be seen while nursing in a park, why can’t it also be seen in the same context on social media?
Facebook has gotten flak in the past for removing pics of nursing moms, and I have acquaintances to whom this has happened. Facebook says it’s altered its policies:
“The vast majority of (breastfeeding) photos are compliant with our policies,” the company says on its Help Center. “Please note that the photos we review are almost exclusively brought to our attention by other Facebook members who complain about them being shared on Facebook.”
Instagram changed its guidelines last April after receiving similar backlash, announcing it would no longer be censoring breastfeeding pics. This came after a push by celebrities like Alyssa Milano, Miranda Kerr, Alanis Morissette, Gisele Bundchen and Thandie Newton to post brelfies – scandalous nipple and all.
Former Victoria’s Secret model Karolina Kurkova has even started a #BreastfeedingSelfie campaign, encouraging mothers to post brelfies to show support for moms struggling with nursing.
Of course not all celebrities have been lauded for their brelfies. Former model Ashley Nicole received ridiculous criticism for an Instagram pic of her nursing her newborn son, whose head was covering most of her breast anyway. Her boyfriend, Miama Dolphins linebacker Philip Wheeler, rushed to her defense, condemning what he called “boob haters”.
I suppose all this begs the question: Why do we take brelfies in the first place? It’s not self-absorption, I promise you that. Moms really just want to capture something we find beautiful, something we take pride in, and something that can often be really hard to accomplish.
In fact, capturing these beautiful moments has become so important that there’s now a growing trend of hiring photographers for breastfeeding photo shoots. One particularly beautiful shoot of a mom breastfeeding her two daughters has gone viral.
But do brelfies really need to be posted on social media for all to see? Well, yep, they do. In part because of what a friend recently told me:
“I’ve struggled with breastfeeding in public, regardless of the fact that I have the most supportive (network),” she said. “I’ve run out of cafes, restaurants, even from parks to breastfeed (my son) in the car, covered… or I often run home to feed. I find my insecurities do come from the sexualization of (breasts) and I often regret not having a professional breastfeeding picture to capture this special time.”
Lots of women are super stressed out about feeding their babies in public. So think of this brelfie trend as any other public awareness campaign: A campaign to de-stigmatize breastfeeding in public, and to encourage moms who find nursing difficult.
For my part, I planned on digging up one of my own brelfies and posting it online later today. But my own 10 month old, who was playing with my iPhone, beat me to it, somehow managing to post – of all things – a brelfie to my Facebook.
My instinct, even after having just written this story, was to delete it. But then something strange happened: the photo started getting likes. Lots of them. So my accidental brelfie post photo is staying up. Maybe it will give one other mom a little bit of courage to head to the park, or the library, or the doctor’s office today, and nurse her baby without shame. And then post a brelfie to her Facebook. Nipples and all.
Inspired by this article, friends of mine, and friends and friends, and fellow moms on my Facebook mom groups, posted their own brelfies, and gave their blessings to post their beautiful pics. Here they are:
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