Are brelfies transgressive, traditional or sexist?

Taking selfie portrait photo on smart phone concept

Breastfeeding selfies are now so ubiquitous that they have their own nickname, “brelfies.” Women offer them for public consumption on social media sites, often positioning them as transgressive and often with the stated objective of “normalizing breastfeeding.” But the reality of brelfies may be somewhat different. Their true purpose may be as personal branding and to re-inscribe traditional motherhood as a woman’s highest calling.

According to Boon and Pentney, writing in the paper Selfies| Virtual Lactivism: Breastfeeding Selfies and the Performance of Motherhood:

[pullquote align=”right” color=”#ffbc01″]Brelfies are a form of personal branding.[/pullquote]

Situated between lactivism and narcissism, the breastfeeding selfie must … be understood as both a personal gesture and a political act. The two tangle into one another in complex and sometimes contradictory ways. However productive the breastfeeding selfie might be as a space for self-realization and lactivist engagement, it is an inherently ambiguous space. The corpus of images we surveyed … while intriguing, nevertheless appears to reinforce—rather than undermine—the status quo.

There’s no question that brelfies are situated between lactivism and narcissism:

Like other selfies, breastfeeding selfies offer individuals the possibility of microcelebrity, the opportunity to present carefully manufactured and managed online selves across a range of social media platforms, with the “audience” imagined as fans. Furthermore, their socially mediated presence enables the possibility of virality, offering a wide audience for those who might otherwise not have access to a public in an unmediated space.

Brelfies are a form of personal branding:

If … participation in social media is modeled on corporate branding strategies, particularly active self-promotion and status-seeking behavior, then the selfie may be the most obvious example of the self as brand commodity. Certainly breastfeeding selfies can be read as instances of self-branding… [W]hile breastfeeding selfies may be decidedly—and often determinedly—unprofessional self-portraits, they are still highly constructed sites of self-making; that is, their informality belies their staged nature.

The authors analyzed a collection of brelfies found on

As a whole, this collection of selfies and their commentary reflect the concerns and attitudes of normatively privileged social groups, demonstrative of the larger flavor of BabyCenter … For instance, the majority of BabyCenter’s fixed and advertising images portray white, heterosexual couples and white babies. Additionally, the site’s “2014 Best Overall Baby and Toddler Products” guide (2014)—amassed by “real moms”—features high-end products priced at or above $300…

But, as is the case with nearly all aspects of natural parenting:

Perhaps not surprisingly, then, the vast majority of breastfeeding selfies posted … feature white mothers and children and reference cisgender, heterosexual family structures. While most images do not include the full body, the bodies that are shown appear to align with standard body ideals; for example, there are no visibly fat bodies included.

Are brelfies really transgressive? Or are they the opposite, re-inscribing traditional views of thin, white, well-off women whose proper place is attached, literally to her children.

Is public breastfeeding a feminist act, in opposition to the typical sexualized view of breasts? Or is public breastfeeding just the contemporary iteration of “a woman’s place is in the home,” and visible expression of the belief that women should be judged by the performance of their reproductive organs, not the power of their minds or the breadth of their talents?

116 Responses to “Are brelfies transgressive, traditional or sexist?”

  1. DrSelina
    November 6, 2015 at 10:40 am #

    Hi Dr Amy. I am an OB/Gyn in Oregon, and I guess I am a lactivist. Is it because I trained in ainstitution with the number 1 NICU in the world, or because I have seen the power of breastmilk in Brown and Black babies, probably both and so much more, but when I see a site like Black Women Do Breastfeed, where Brown and Black women are trying to encourage others to start off our babies with the best milk, and that translates to us starting to have healthy diet and healthy lifestyles for our babies, I can tell you, Brelfies are not a bad thing, for Black women. Especially when there is increased obesity, nut and other food allergies, noted in research of “urban” areas. Areas where Black and Brown mothers tend to not breastfeed. I am not attacking you, but I question where your obvious distaste of encouraging and promoting breastmilk originates.
    I also encourage you to look into Black Midwives and, if possible see if there is a difference in the rate of outcomes in women who “deliver in the tradition”. The International Center for Traditional Childbirth is a great place to start. More women of color are pursuing home birth due to the way Black and brown bodies are treated in our hospitals. I do not agree with home birth at all, but I also don’t see any mainstream people, such as yourself advocating for an end to racial bias in healthcare

    • Ash
      November 6, 2015 at 11:01 am #

      Endorsed schools by ICTC:

      Sacred Transitions in Midwifery Institute (STMI)

      Academy of Experiential Midwifery Education

      The Matrona

      Do you think it’s safest for women to deliver with a birth attendant that has been trained by correspondence course? Per the Martona “The course is a year in length, designed
      for an average of 12 to 15 hours per week. We also offer an additional year for participants who do not complete their studies within the first year.”

      A group that encourages a birthing setting with no effective pain relief?

      A colonoscopy is less risky than giving birth.

      Would you refer patients to a colonoscopy center that had staff who studied 12-15 hours per week for a year? And they didn’t have medical pain relief–instead they had “colonoscopy doulas”?

      Would you refer patients to a hospital that had a higher rate of neonatal death and hypoxic injury? (PS my comparison is not to a hospital, it’s planned out of hospital birth)

      • DrSelina
        November 7, 2015 at 1:20 am #

        Would I? No, absolutely not, but as I mentioned in my original post, I do not agree with home birth at all, but many of my brown sisters, disillusioned and sometimes abused by this medical system, are turning to home births. Knowing the history of Black midwives in This country, which I do because #1 I know my history, and #2, I am a descendant of Black midwives, I am curious about the outcomes of Black midwives compared to their white counterparts. after all, white slave masters often trusted Black midwives to safely deliver their children over the local white midwife. I know, for a fact, That having a physician who looks like you improves outcomes. Since, as Black women,we often have to work harder to get half the respect, do the Black midwives feel similarly and work more responsively.
        I recently attended the ICTC international conference and was astounded by the number of Black and brown midwives and doulas. These women were dedicated to birth justice. When you consider the fact that MANA and some of the other organizations, who represent white midwives, banded together to form US-MERA and purposely left ICTC out, it makes you wonder if part of that motivation was because the Black and Brown midwives would hold the other midwives to higher standards, especially in how women of color are treated/cared for. It seems that the one thing MANA wants to avoid is being held accountable.

        By the way, yes, anecdotally, there is a difference in how Black babies perform if breastfed versus formula fed. I know this is not your community, but you are an educated woman, who understands White privilege. With all of the unhealthy things in the Black community, diet, obesity, high cholesterol, etc, if something like breastfeeding can help to decrease these illnesses and make our community healthier, why not strongly promote it? Why not encourage Black and Brown mothers to do all that we can to even the playing field. Also, in regards to making moms feel guilty about breastfeeding…. Dr Amy, you trained at Harvard, where, as a woman, you had to work harder and always be at the top of your game to compete with the men. Our mentality was different in regards to understanding that hard work and dedication helped us to succeed. This current generation is entitled. They want what they want when they want it and do not understand that somethings in life are a challenge and not easy, but are worth earning. Breastfeeding is one of those things. It is a commitment, time consuming, stressful, painful at first, but as you know from your own children, worth it when you see how well they compete academically, are healthy, and strong. I push my patients to breastfeed. Especially my poor patients and my brown patients, because I know that they save money, the moms lose pregnancy weight, the moms start to really think about what they feed their kids and family. This helps them to look outside the food deserts they live in and try to get their kids to eat better. My perspective is not one of a rich, or well off white woman. My perspective is that of a poor Black woman who has lived a different reality. This is the perspective that helps me to empower my moms. Breastfeeding is EMPOWERING!

    • Amy Tuteur, MD
      November 6, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

      I’ve repeatedly advocated for an end to racial bias in healthcare.

      I have nothing against breastfeeding; I breastfed my four children. I am opposed to grossly exaggerating the benefits of breastfeeding in order to scare women into breastfeeding.

      When corrected for maternal IQ, education, and socio-economic status, is there any difference between babies of color who are breastfed and those who are not?

    • Roadstergal
      November 6, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

      If you want to help Black women, campaign for a good federal minimum wage, for starters. SES has way more effect on outcomes for babies than on the source of their necessary fat, protein, water, and carbohydrates.

      • DrSelina
        November 7, 2015 at 1:22 am #

        I help Black woman everyday. YOU campaign for a good federal minimal wage and follow your own advice. When you walk in the shoes of a Black woman, come talk to me.

  2. Maya Markova
    November 6, 2015 at 4:15 am #

    This post seems to me a little harsh. I would not post a picture of myself breasfeeding (I have a few, done by the happy dad), and I would not go to the beach topless or completely nude. However, I don’t find anything wrong with nudists, they just are a different subculture than me and they like enjoying the sun and seawater in a way that would make me feel uncomfortable. I guess, the same may be true for many women who post breastfeeding photos.

  3. yentavegan
    November 3, 2015 at 10:46 pm #

    OT: The neologism Cis-gender irks me. And I have never taken a brelfie.

    • fiftyfifty1
      November 4, 2015 at 8:01 am #

      What would you suggest other than cisgender? Myself, I’ve always thought cisgender was the perfect term. The prefix “cis” being the opposite of “trans” and all.

      • yentavegan
        November 4, 2015 at 11:29 am #

        I have no alternative word for something that heretofore did not require a subset definition.

        • fiftyfifty1
          November 4, 2015 at 12:54 pm #

          Well that’s the way words work, no? You don’t need a word for something until you need to talk about it. An example would be autism. We needed to talk about autism. Once we had the word autistic, well what should we call people without autism? Neurotypical was what we as a society came up with. Likewise with gender. If we are having a conversation about gender, what should we call people who aren’t transgender? Cisgender is what we as a society came up with. If you have a better label, we are all ears.

          • yentavegan
            November 6, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

            non-transgendered? that word works for me.

          • fiftyfifty1
            November 6, 2015 at 7:04 pm #

            Yeah, “non-transgendered” is one option. So basically take one name and call the other group “non-whatevers”. Like we could call you a non-man, non-young, non-black, non-transgendered, non-christian.

          • yentavegan
            November 8, 2015 at 2:14 am #

            Yes. In many circumstances it would be accurate to be identified as non-xyz.

          • fiftyfifty1
            November 8, 2015 at 7:52 am #

            Why not in all circumstances? Why not call all men “non-women” and all women “non-men”?

          • yentavegan
            November 8, 2015 at 8:36 am #

            for example if the rule for a college sports team was that all men must wear cups to protect their genitals and I was a member of the team, even though I self identify as male because I am trans gendered and do not possess a penis I would be exempt from that rule b/c I am a non-man.
            In the Navy all women serving on a ship must be on hormonal birth control. If I am a transgendered woman and there fore can not get pregnant I would be exempt because I am a non-woman.

          • fiftyfifty1
            November 8, 2015 at 9:13 am #

            “I would be exempt from that rule b/c I am a non-man.”

            No, you would still be a man. It would be on your passport, driver’s license, and all other legal documents. Now you might not be required to wear a nut cup, not because your weren’t a man, but because you didn’t have nuts. Of course, some trans men do have genital plastic surgery to create a neo-penis and place prosthetic nuts. And some trans men don’t, but will wear a nut cup anyway for stylistic reasons, just as many trans women may wear a bra even before their breasts have grown to the size that they really need one.

            “In the Navy all women serving on a ship must be on hormonal birth control.”

            Again with your forced hormonal contraception conspiracy theories. This ranks up there with how the school counselors at your daughters’ high school forced them to get on the pill and become sexually active. There is absolutely no requirement that female sailors be on hormones while on ship. Where did you get that idea?

        • Mattie
          November 4, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

          I guess the word is required because it’s a way to combat the widely held assumption that everyone is cis or that cis is ‘normal’ and trans is ‘other’…when you look at the world without the assumption that there is one thing, and not being that is ‘other’ then you need a word for the one thing. Having the word cis means that people who are trans are seen as equal to people who are not trans, which is how it should be.

  4. Gatita
    November 3, 2015 at 9:18 pm #

    OT: A Lesbian’s Dilemna: My Wife Might Not Be Able to Have a Child, but I Refuse to Be Pregnant

    Getting pregnant is a choice, and a big one, with lots of downsides. It’s not a duty. Pregnancy can be incredibly uncomfortable—common side effects include nausea, vomiting, bloat, back pain, heartburn, and permanent scarring. Childbirth is so bad it’s portrayed in the Bible as a punishment for Eve’s sin, and it carries with it a risk of actual death, even with proper medical attention. (It’s rarely discussed, but C-sections are also very unpleasant to recover from, or so I’ve heard from friends and relatives who’ve had them.)

    It should be obvious that no one ought to be subjected to pregnancy if they prefer not to experience it. But it’s necessary for someone to do it if the human race is going to continue, and many people do—often more than once. Many even enjoy the process. I think this may be why people forget what a big ask it is for someone like me, who isn’t interested in being pregnant, to take one for the team and do it anyway. (Of course, there’s always an element of sexism influencing the way we see women’s bodies and who decides what happens to them. I can’t think of any other grueling, time-consuming test of mental and physical endurance that we treat the same way we treat pregnancy—babies are nice, but so are MDs, and no one ever asks why some people don’t want to go to med school while others do so willingly.)

    • LizzieSt
      November 4, 2015 at 7:47 am #

      Wow, a less-than-optimistic view of childbirth! More of this, please! This I say without the slightest hint of sarcasm.

      Lately I have been encountering many stories of women who expect pregnancy and childbirth to be full of smiles, cuddles, sunshine, and skin-to-skin contact. And then when things don’t go according to plan, they feel horribly sad and cheated. They feel like bad mothers compared to the glowing pictures of birth and family life their friends show on Facebook (which, it bears repeating, never show the whole truth).

      I’m not saying that they should be Debbie Downers. I’m saying that a little intelligent pessimism might do our society some good, and relieve some of the pressure to be perfect.

      I like this little film:

      • demodocus
        November 4, 2015 at 9:58 am #

        It ain’t for the faint of heart. I’m not one who enjoys pregnancy, but I’ll put up with it for the children I want so badly. If your or any other woman’s desire for children isn’t strong enough to overcome a dislike of being pregnant then so it is, and none of my beeswax.

      • Kelly
        November 4, 2015 at 1:12 pm #

        This video made me feel so much better. I have refused to see myself as a pessimist but more of a realist. I am now going to embrace my pessimism as this proves that I am not a terrible person for preparing myself for the worst.

        • LizzieSt
          November 4, 2015 at 1:45 pm #

          I’m glad you like it! It’s not the most popular attitude in American culture, but I think our national obsession with positive thinking could use some counterbalancing.

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
        November 6, 2015 at 11:41 am #

        This is why I am realistic about what childbirth/pregnancy was like for me with my daughter now that she is an adult and why I talk about why I didn’t breastfeed with her. She goes to a very crunchy(in my opinion) college and despite being a science major, unfortunately she has picked up a few very non-scientific ideas. For instance: “Natural”/Organic is cleaner, safer, uses no pesticides , GMO’s are bad, unsafe, gluten free is better, breast fed babies are smarter, slimmer, healther, don’t have digestion problems, etc. I also had a long talk with her about the fallacies a lot of anti vaxxers believe and the dangers of homebirth/value of C-sections and epidurals. In my family I don’t have to go far to give examples of how wonderful having good medical care can be (yes I realize availability is a whole other story)

        It may seem a weird list of ideas to bring up to your 21 year old but I know too many smart people who believe really dumb things. They think being smart protects them from believing bunkum…they are wrong

        • LizzieSt
          November 6, 2015 at 2:05 pm #

          Please, keep bringing them up. It’s common for college students to become crunchy, but keep fighting the good fight! Keep debunking. It’s the only way to stop the hokum.

    • RMY
      November 4, 2015 at 8:46 am #

      Hey I’m a wife unable to get pregnant and my wife doesn’t want to carry. I don’t see why it’s remarkable. It’s obvious that nobody should feel pressured to carry if they don’t want to, it’s not easy or risk-free.

      • Gatita
        November 4, 2015 at 8:52 am #

        I know that. That’s why I posted it. Pregnancy is actually a really big deal and probably one of the most dangerous things of woman will ever do and yet the default assumption is that of course you’re going to get pregnant. I was pretty much applauding through the whole essay even though I chose to have a baby. Being pregnant made me more pro choice because it was so difficult for me that I can’t imagine forcing a woman to go through that involuntarily.

    • DrSelina
      November 6, 2015 at 10:42 am #

      Amen and I totally agree with EVERYTHING you just said

  5. Blue Chocobo
    November 3, 2015 at 6:14 pm #

    The personal to power to take a brelfie is feminist.

    Posting it for “normalizing” the preferences of the lactriarchy is traditional as it gets.

    • Roadstergal
      November 4, 2015 at 11:07 am #

      “Lactriarchy.” I love it.

    • Phoenix Fourleaf
      November 4, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

      I find most selfies to be pretty tedious. People who like to post selfies REALLY like to post selfies.

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
        November 6, 2015 at 11:47 am #

        They also worry me because people taking selfies do some of the same things people taking video of natural disaster do. They seem to feel/behave like the camera puts them one remove from the action. Examples – people talking selfies with bears, buffalo, moose whi get mauled, people taking selfies on the edge of cliffs/steep hiking paths who step back into thin air.
        Obviously talking one will breastfeeding is not in the same category but I hope someone else is holding either the camera or the baby so the baby doesn’t get fumbled

        • Roadstergal
          November 6, 2015 at 1:01 pm #

          In that same vein, there was a major fire in SoCal earlier this year where firefighting efforts were hindered by drones in the air from lookee-loos. It’s like we think our right to see, record, and broadcast on social media should have no bounds.

  6. Zoey
    November 3, 2015 at 4:53 pm #

    Back when my kids were very little, I used to belong to an attachment parenting group on Facebook that would have semi-mandatory Brelfie threads at least once a week. I know, in that context, the posting of a breastfeeding picture didn’t seem to be terribly transgressive in a group with a 99.9% breastfeeding rate – it was your way to (continually) prove you were one of them. You got extra points if you also posted the picture to your Facebook wall, and it got reported because then you could do a follow up post filled with righteous anger, get lots of virtual hugs, and then post several more Brelfies out of spite. I never posted a picture either in the group or on my wall and was criticized for it.

    Aside from the group cohesion aspects, the importance of the Brelfie was constantly discussed as being necessary because breastfeeding was the single most important bonding relationship you would ever have with your child, and it was supposed to have this huge emotional significance for you, and you’d miss it SO much when it was gone. (None of these things were true for me, however.)

    • demodocus
      November 3, 2015 at 5:36 pm #

      Someone told me I *had* to have bump pictures ’cause I’d be sad later if I couldn’t reminisce over one. Still not caring.

      • Charybdis
        November 4, 2015 at 12:09 pm #

        I heard the same thing and also got hit with the “When are you doing your belly cast?” question for the same reason. Uh, why would I WANT to do that?

        Nearly 12 years down the road now and I’m still not caring/missing the fact that I didn’t do either one.

        • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
          November 4, 2015 at 12:52 pm #

          I have some photos of me while pregnant that I am happy to have as they were of my mom in law’s visit that summer and we took photos all over LA. She was awesome. But photos of just my stomach would have seemed weird(to me) My least favorite pic is of me in US Navy dress white uniform(white polyester blouse and skirt)..I look like the great white whale… The belly cast I wouldn’t even know what to do with. Where do you put that?

          • demodocus
            November 4, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

            Prominently displayed on your altar of motherhood

          • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
            November 6, 2015 at 12:13 pm #

            By my altar of motherhood I assume you mean the laundry pile? Mostly kidding now that the kid has moved out

          • Megan
            November 4, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

            Paint it with traditional tribal drawings or depictions of goddesses and hang it on your wall? 😉

          • Roadstergal
            November 4, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

            Serve fruit salad in it at picnics?

          • LizzieSt
            November 4, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

            It could make a great punch bowl.

        • Kelly
          November 4, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

          What the crap would you do with it after you had the baby? I wish I had gotten one picture of my last pregnancy. I just like to compare my belly to previous pregnancies at about 35 weeks. Otherwise, I don’t need pictures of that.

      • Monkey Professor for a Head
        November 4, 2015 at 5:07 pm #

        I’ve got a few bump pics on my phone, but I can’t say I’ve looked back and them and reminisced. Whilst I had a perfectly fine pregnancy, I guess I see it more as a means to an end rather than an achievement in itself.

    • Amy M
      November 3, 2015 at 5:41 pm #

      Single most important bonding relationship? Once breastfeeding is done, do these people decide that, since they breastfed, they are bonded like glue and don’t have to spend any more time with the child? And do they spend time with the child when they are not breastfeeding? These people…grrrrrrr

      • Monkey Professor for a Head
        November 3, 2015 at 11:00 pm #

        As a breastfeeding mother, I find the concept of breastfeeding being the “single most important bonding relationship” pretty damn offensive. I think the hours that I have spent caring for my child outside of breastfeeding – cuddling, talking, playing etc, as well as the hours I will spend in the future are far more important than breastfeeding. I also hate the way it marginalises fathers (as well as adoptive parents and women who for whatever reason do not breastfeed). My husband is very much “bonded” to our son.

        • yentavegan
          November 3, 2015 at 11:09 pm #

          A really powerful bonding moment took place with my son as we drove him to college this year. Interestingly enough he failed to thank me for breastfeeding him.

      • Kelly
        November 4, 2015 at 1:18 pm #

        Please tell my two children that they should not be following me around everywhere I go. One night my one year old followed me back and forth from two rooms I was working in. She would even wait to see if I was going to stay for a while before she settled in with her toy. When I moved to the next room, she would pick up her toy to follow me. They never ever ever leave me alone and both were bottle fed breast milk and formula. If by formula feeding my kids would not follow me around like lost puppies, it would be one of the things I would take into consideration when deciding how to feed my kids.

        • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
          November 6, 2015 at 12:15 pm #

          I never breastfed, worked full time and this describes my daughter as a toddler. I had a cabinet in the kitchen with a couple of old pots, a colander and a wooden spoon so that while I worked on the laundry she could follow me to the kitchen, pull everything out and do her “drum set” stuff while I folded clothes. She would also come steal my book if I tried to read while she played on the rug with her toys.

    • somethingobscure
      November 4, 2015 at 2:27 am #

      I’m not actively part of any natural parenting circles thank goodness, but I was fully pulled in by it during my first pregnancy. I ended up with a c section, and still somehow managed to breastfeed and bond with my child *shocker* and from there I slowly realized that it was all basically bullshit. But the emotional pushing and pulling they do on mothers runs deep.

      I’m now grappling desperately with the decision to stop breastfeeding my 6 month old so that I can start taking medication that would make my life overall much better and make me a much better parent to both children. But I still can’t bring myself to stop because I still hear these nagging tag lines from breastfeeding propaganda and worry that if I stop I might not be giving my baby the very very best shot in life. Plus he really likes nursing, and I enjoy it too, and he very rarely takes to bottles, so then I worry that maybe he will be upset and feel like he is lacking that “bonding” element with me. Will the guilt trips every stop?? I only planned to breastfeed for around one year like I did with my first, so I keep trying to figure out how to hold off until then.

      The crazy thing is I’ve seen many message boards where women are talking about taking the very same medications I’m planning to take while nursing, trying to find a study online so they can prove to their doctors that it’s safe, etc. My own doctors were very adamant against taking these medications while nursing, and I trust them. It’s scary that some women are so set on breastfeeding they think it’s better to give their babies drugs through the milk than just giving them formula.

      • Megan
        November 4, 2015 at 6:47 am #

        I understand. I really do think there’s something about the hormonal milieu of breastfeeding that makes it even harder stop than it normally would be otherwise. I found it hard to stop pumping at 7 months even though I knew it wasn’t worth it given how little milk I got. But as I drew down it literally was like a fog lifting and then I reached a point I couldn’t wait to be done. And I bought into a lot of the AP crap while pregnant and breastfeeding too. That on top of the hormones is so tough to let go of.

        Obviously only you can decide what’s best for your family but I encourage you to think of your needs too and to put them quite high on the priority list. You could try just replacing one or two nursing sessions with a bottle and see how it goes to start? Either way, I hope that you make a decision you can be happy with and just keep reminding yourself that moms matter too. AP philosophy doesn’t leave much room for that and they condition moms to feel guilty if you put yourself first, but I found myself to be a better mom once I made my needs and sanity a priority too.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks
          November 4, 2015 at 8:49 am #

          Your first paragraph in particular was SO true for me. I hated breastfeeding. It hurt, it led to discomfort, I got sick so often from it (mastitis, yeast infections, plugged ducts, etc), DD loathed it (kid far preferred bottles), and DD wasn’t getting much anyway. Yet once I made the altogether right-for-us decision to stop, I’d start crying anytime I thought of a session as being our last nursing session. Ah, hormones…

          • Kelly
            November 4, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

            Me too. Once I start, I have a hard time stopping

      • Daleth
        November 4, 2015 at 9:37 am #

        I’m now grappling desperately with the decision to stop breastfeeding my 6 month old so that I can start taking medication that would make my life overall much better and make me a much better parent to both children.

        I hope that bolded part gives you the impetus you need to stop breastfeeding and start taking your medication.

        I tortured myself about not breastfeeding enough (my twins were maybe 90% formula/10%BF) until my mom sent me the discordant siblings study. I had no idea, before I read it, that all the research that concludes BFing is super-important is tainted by its failure to correct for the fact that women who breastfeed are overwhelmingly more white, middle class/wealthy, educated and physically healthy than women who don’t breastfeed. It was genuinely shocking to me that researchers would look at the children of doctors and lawyers, compare them to the children of the maids who keep the doctors’ and lawyers’ offices clean, and conclude, “Omg, the first group of kids is doing so much better in school–it must be that the breast milk made them smarter!”

        So the discordant siblings study eliminated that problem by looking at siblings where one of them was breastfed and the other wasn’t. Surprise: no difference. Or, specifically, out of 11 different health measures, the study found that there was no difference between breastfed kids and formula-fed ones… and for the 11th measure, asthma, breastfed kids were actually at HIGHER risk than formula-fed ones.

        A few links:

        • somethingobscure
          November 4, 2015 at 8:56 pm #

          Thank you!!

          • Daleth
            November 4, 2015 at 10:36 pm #

            You’re welcome! Best of luck with it all.

      • Elizabeth A
        November 4, 2015 at 10:12 am #

        I’m now grappling desperately with the decision to stop breastfeeding my
        6 month old so that I can start taking medication that would make my
        life overall much better and make me a much better parent to both

        I was really emotionally attached to breastfeeding, and giving breast milk to my preemie whenever possible, but it eventually turned out that formula was the best thing to hit my family in a loooong time. I had time. I had energy. I wasn’t starving, cranky, and touched out. I could use more effective anti-depressants. It was miraculous for everyone.

        Your child will absolutely adjust to bottles and formula. It will be a rough few weeks, maybe. But you get so much back.

      • Mer
        November 4, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

        I went through the same question when my little guy was 8-9 months old. Needed meds that weren’t safe for breastfeeding but kinda wanted to keep going, but the meds would help me so much. I finally talked to a lactation consultant/PA and she pretty much gave me permission to quit since we had gone till 9 months and gotten the max benefits from it basically. My tipping point though was that he was biting me and I really hated it and couldn’t get him to stop so I finally stopped nursing him without regrets. Also, snuggling your baby while feeding them a bottle is actually much more cozy because you can get yourself comfortable without regards to positioning your boobs for baby. Oh and its nice when they’re older because they can hold their own bottle so you have a free hand to stroke baby or control the remote!

      • DrSelina
        November 6, 2015 at 10:48 am #

        If you are concerned about the med and lactation, go online to lactmed. It is a NIH database of medications and their effect on breastfeeding. If the meds are incompatible with breastfeeding, but your overall health and the health and happiness of your family would be improved……Stop breastfeeding. You gave your kiddo an amazing start.

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
        November 6, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

        Why would cuddling with him with a bottle be less bonding than breastfeeding? I had a hard time giving up bottle feeding with my daughter because it was a quiet snuggling time we both enjoyed If you are happy to be spending that time with him, snuggling, singing, whatever, why would he not also enjoy it? whether his nourishment comes from a bottle or not?

        I only have my 1 test kid, but she is healthy, bonded pretty good to both her parents, going to school to study engineering on a scholarship, the correct weight for her height. Apparently formula did not hurt her at all. Possibly reading to her, coloring with her, taking her to the museum and library, finding classes at the community center for her to talk pottery, dancing or swimming, helped her development more than breastfeeding or not, ever did. Or possibly she would have done fine do the best you can and just hope, mostly

        Starting a med that you need is definitely a valid reason to stop breastfeeding(not that anyone needs a reason, I don’t want to is perfectly valid as well). If you are feeling better then that is also better for your kids. You owe it to your family and you to take care of yourself too.

  7. Gozi
    November 3, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

    Would brelfies be along the same lines as women who must have all their friends present during the most intimate moments of labor and delivery and then post the video (with all their goods showing) on YouTube?

  8. Gatita
    November 3, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

    I’m thinking of brelfies in relation to Slutwalk where similar issues are in play. Slutwalk involves women going topless in public to protest the policing of women’s bodies. And while I’m 100% behind the sentiment that women’s nipples shouldn’t be taboo when men’s nipples aren’t (after all, men’s nipples are also a locus of sexual pleasure) and that women who dress in revealing clothing are not in fact asking for it, the way it all plays out is that young, conventionally attractive, white women are the ones participating. No one’s encouraging 50-year-old and 30 pounds overweight me to take my clothes off in public as a form of protest. So Slutwalk ends up reinforcing the values it’s supposed to subvert.

    • demodocus
      November 3, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

      Can’t see Condeleeza Rice doing this either, and she’s in pretty good shape.

    • Roadstergal
      November 3, 2015 at 3:19 pm #


    • Spamamander
      November 3, 2015 at 8:20 pm #

      I’m not sure you’re understanding the purpose of the SlutWalk. It started as a protest against police shaming rape victims by asking them what they were wearing, and rape culture that reinforces the idea that women can be judged by how they dress. The force behind it is that rape victims are just that- rape victims- whether they are young girls or sex workers or grandmothers. Most participants are not topless. Many are people wearing the pajamas or jeans they were wearing when they were victimized. There were people of all ages and body shapes participating, in many forms of dress. My 40+ (not skinny) self was there in a miniskirt and leather boots, with my 20 year old conservatively dressed daughter.

      • Gatita
        November 4, 2015 at 8:57 am #

        If that was the original intent the message is definitely getting lost. In my city the women I saw participating in Slut Walk were overwhelmingly young and white, and the ones who were topless were all conventionally attractive. I don’t know if the problem is with the way the event is publicized or if the media is just a big fail in covering it. Probably a little of both.

        • Spamamander
          November 4, 2015 at 10:11 am #

          I honestly blame the media, because I agree that a lot of the coverage seems to center on that. I participated in the Seattle one three times and there was a lot of representation of different people. There probably WERE more young, white participants, but that has to do with the demographics of the area and of the activism than encouraging certain people to show up unclad.

  9. demodocus
    November 3, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

    There are no pictures of me nursing my kid. There is a single photograph of my near-invisible bump from my first pregnancy, taken on a disposable camera, and only because my mother-in-law begged for one. (Between my obesity and the way I carried Kid1, I barely showed even at 40 weeks. Kid2 is still only 8 weeks along.) Definitely *not* my cup of tea. I’m one of those who prefers to blend into the crowd, then slip out the door, and go find a nice library to get lost in.

    • Bugsy
      November 3, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

      I think we have a handful of me nursing little man, primarily because we have probably 10,000 photos of his first years. However, they would be considered completely discrete by brelfie standards and are hidden in our photo storage. I don’t think I’ve ever posted a selfie, let alone a brelfie…I hardly need to show off my relationship nursing my son to know that I did it.

      Then again, I’m like you – I prefer to get lost in the crowd. We still haven’t announced my pregnancy w/ #2 on Facebook; I’m 39+3 weeks.

      • demodocus
        November 3, 2015 at 3:43 pm #

        I never actually announced Kid1’s birth, lol. Never announced when my mom died either. A friend just found out 4 months ago; Mom died 5 years ago. (She had her daughter the same day, so I didn’t like to bring it up)

        • Bugsy
          November 3, 2015 at 4:05 pm #

          We are planning on announcing #2’s birth after he arrives…but more from the standpoint that it’ll be pretty hard to deny his existence at that point. I am kinda looking forward to seeing reactions from people who have no idea; we even got away with posting maternity and family photos a few months ago without anyone catching on. 🙂 We’ve kept it quiet out of respect to my friends struggling with infertility, but not sharing pregnancy on social media definitely seems to be an anomaly.

          • demodocus
            November 3, 2015 at 5:41 pm #

            Some of those are awesome indeed. A couple guys from church didn’t even realize I was expecting last time; I’m in the choir, lol.

          • Bugsy
            November 3, 2015 at 5:50 pm #

            Hehe, that’s great! 🙂

          • Bombshellrisa
            November 3, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

            “It will be hard to deny his existence at that point” oh that is too funny, plus you really have to explain the spit up on all your clothes.

          • Bugsy
            November 3, 2015 at 10:09 pm #

            That, and trying to explain away the baby in the pics with our 3-year-old, and my 40-lb weight gain these past few months… Hehehe!

          • Inmara
            November 4, 2015 at 1:55 am #

            I didn’t share in social networks either, except for select groups of women with whom I wanted to discuss pregnancy and child rearing related topics. Well, many jaws dropped at the moment when I announced 😀

          • Kelly
            November 4, 2015 at 1:23 pm #

            I do that too. It is fun to see people’s reactions to not knowing. All the people I see in real life though know.

      • Chi
        November 3, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

        I have a series of professional photos of me and my husband bottle-feeding our daughter. She was doing some portfolio work on “Nourished with love” so she was taking breastfeeding photos, SNS photos and yes, bottle feeding photos.

        It was nice because it helped me put some of the pain and grief I felt at ‘failing’ to breastfeed aside and cherish my child. Especially since the photos turned out so beautifully.

        • Bugsy
          November 3, 2015 at 4:54 pm #

          So sweet! I love that the photographer was capturing various types of baby feeding.

          • Chi
            November 3, 2015 at 8:43 pm #

            Exactly. She felt that a fed baby was a loved baby and her photos capture that, which is brilliant 🙂

      • Phoenix Fourleaf
        November 4, 2015 at 12:34 pm #

        I also have intimate family photos that I did not post to Facebook. 😉 I am glad to know there are others.

  10. LizzieSt
    November 3, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

    Oh those sweet glowing “brelfies” (UGH STUPID CUTESY MODERN
    PORTMANTEAUX PLEASE GO AWAY THANK YOU). It helps to remember that social media is all a public performance. No one’s life is exactly what they claim it is. The brelfie-poster may be suffering from severe postpartum
    depression. She may be resentful as hell because she can’t share the
    feeding of her baby with anyone else. She may someday snap and post pictures of herself giving the finger to her baby to an online news magazine. And then write an article bragging about it. And then act shocked and horrified when people don’t find this as adorable as she does.

    That last one really happened. The relentless demands of attachment parenting caused this highly educated woman to snap, and here is the result. I feel more pity for her than anything else.

    • Barbara Delaney
      November 3, 2015 at 4:16 pm #

      I remember that, you’re kind to feel pity for this woman. I couldn’t be that generous. I have to admit it was her name dropping of John Stuart Mill and Aristotle to justify her photos of giving the finger to her baby that disgusted me. If a young uneducated teenage mom, or a mom of a certain race or ethnicity had posted similar photographs she would have been excoriated. And I think this writer would have joined that denunciation enthusiastically. Women who have been fortunate enough to benefit from higher education shouldn’t attempt to use that education to rationalize their worst impulses.

      • demodocus
        November 3, 2015 at 5:42 pm #

        I don’t think JS Mill or Aristotle would have approved.

      • Who?
        November 4, 2015 at 2:34 am #

        If she’s such a genius why can’t she see that what she needs is a break from the baby? Which is perfectly okay.

        That child is going to grow up and read that article, febrile tone and all.

        • LizzieSt
          November 4, 2015 at 7:23 am #

          She has probably been so brainwashed by the woo (which is very common in those highly-educated liberal circles) that it never occurred to her that she could have a break.

          And yep, the Internet is forever, The kid will find this someday.

  11. Barbara Delaney
    November 3, 2015 at 2:40 pm #

    Selfies are one of the most regrettable side effects of camera phone technology. At what point did the owners of this technology decide that the world out there is uninteresting compared to the fact that they were living breathing organisms whose every mood and move was worthy of documentation?

    It’s not too surprising that with the advent of “maternity photography” these same women would feel the need for endless photos of themselves performing a biological function. I await with dread the bowel movement selfies. They can compete for largest, loosest, best-formed, interesting colors, (beets anyone?), and a host of others. I weep for this world.

    • Roadstergal
      November 3, 2015 at 3:22 pm #

      Exactly. I adore photography and do a ton of it, but I don’t ‘do’ selfies and I fully do not get selfies or brelfies (barf). A picture, to me, is meant to capture a moment of beauty or importance in the outside world, not smear our own faces all over the Tubes of the Internets.

      • Blue Chocobo
        November 3, 2015 at 6:20 pm #

        Well, there’s photography-as-art and photography-as-record. Family photo albums, full of actual candid shots, can be absolute treasures.

        Putting a “brelfie” alongside all the other candid shots of your family life, as just another in a line of your family’s experiences, is giving breastfeeding the respect it deserves. It’s a thing that happened a lot in a phase of the family, and if you’re recording everything else it’s fair game too.

        • KeeperOfTheBooks
          November 4, 2015 at 8:55 am #

          Agreed here.
          My only good memory of breastfeeding is captured in a picture, and one that I’ll treasure forever–though not post all over my Facebook wall!
          As soon as DD was checked out post-CS (like, within a few minutes), my OB had her put on my chest to nurse while he closed me up, as I’d told him I wanted to breastfeed. I got to hold my daughter for the first time, she got some yummy colostrum, and the lovely OR nurses piled a bunch of warmed blankets on top of us. Once my OB was finished stitching me, he came over and took a selfie of him, DH, me, and DD with DH’s phone. DD was still nursing away, and giving the camera the stink-eye. I do love that pic!

          • Megan
            November 4, 2015 at 9:09 am #

            I do have one brelfie on my phone that I took, just for me, as a way to remember the few happy breastfeeding moments DD and I had. I knew deep down that our breastfeeding relationship wouldn’t last and I wanted it, just for me to remember. I’d never post it on the internet. It’s far too special to me to cheapen it that way.

        • Roadstergal
          November 4, 2015 at 11:20 am #

          I agree, but I still think there’s a good chasm between a candid personal family-album-style shot and a brelfie.

          And the brelfie thing also hits all the beefs I have with selfies. I go to a cool event or a nifty place, I might take a picture of it to share the coolness/niftiness I see, but so many people want to turn the phone around and take a picture of their face in front of it. Maybe I’m old and cranky before my time, but that bothers me. It seems narcissistic.

          • Blue Chocobo
            November 4, 2015 at 1:20 pm #

            I have a bit of a bias, as I am the picture taker in the family, so if I don’t take selfies with the kids there would be very very few pictures of me with the kids.

            The bragging tourist selfie is a bit different.

          • Kelly
            November 4, 2015 at 1:27 pm #

            I think there is a huge difference between that and the person who does it to put it on social media. Intent is huge. Same with the brelfies. You doing it to remember that relationship or to demonstrate how amazing you are for breastfeeding?

          • Blue Chocobo
            November 4, 2015 at 4:23 pm #

            For me it’s not about remembering the relationship (you don’t forget that you cared for your kids no matter how you fed them, but different people have different preferences for what they want pictures of and I respect that), but having images to reminisce over and show the kids later. “This is what you were like when you were small”, “Mom was young once, too”, “Remember that old house from you were little?”. That kind of stuff.

            It occurred to me one day that there were *no* pictures of me after my wedding photos, and I got worried that if I died early the kids wouldn’t even remember what I looked like or have any visuals of my caring for them. So my selfies are selfish in a way (they make ME feel better), but not the shallow bragging that selfies can be (that feeling better is from me making things for me, not from publication and other’s admiration).

            I’m not bowing to the lactriarchy, I’m treating my selfies as I do all the rest of our family pictures. I don’t actually have any pictures of any of the kids eating as babies (breast or bottle, me or anyone else holding them) outside of the high chair, though. Feeding wasn’t interesting until they got to solids.

    • Gozi
      November 3, 2015 at 3:24 pm #

      I am surprised that some of this “maternity photography” hasn’t caught anyone pooping or vomiting.

    • Liz Leyden
      November 6, 2015 at 3:08 pm #

      Selfies are as old as art. There’s probably a cave painting of a hunter man with a dead mastadon out there somewhere.

  12. Megan
    November 3, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

    I don’t know if brelfies are transgressive or not but I know they certainly made me feel bad when I was unable to breastfeed. Maybe that was my own insecurity at the time but the photos just seemed to scream at me, “You’re failing and they aren’t!”

    • LizzieSt
      November 3, 2015 at 2:54 pm #

      Whenever I feel inadequate in comparison with my friends’ Facebook-edited lives, I look at this article and I feel instantly better. No one’s life is as wonderful as they claim on social media.

      • Megan
        November 3, 2015 at 3:24 pm #

        Funny. This is one of the reasons I avoid Facebook (the biggest reason is professional). I see enough stuff without it. Now, of course, I’m so happy we switched to formula that brelfies don’t affect me the way they did my hormonal, postpartum, breastfeeding flunkie self. I admit, I still feel a bit wistful for the sweet moments of nursing (which we did continue for comfort for quite a while), but nothing beats seeing my child thrive and grow.

  13. crazy grad mama
    November 3, 2015 at 2:22 pm #

    I don’t know about breastfeeding selfies in particular, but there’s no question that BabyCenter promotes “traditional views of thin, white, well-off women whose proper place is attached, literally to her children.”

    • demodocus
      November 3, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

      I noticed. ugh.

    • Megan
      November 3, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

      It always did bug me how the illustrations of the pregnant belly with fetus inside week-by-week only showed a woman with only the barest hint of a bump and super-thin otherwise. I do realize that not all women have large bumps but it felt like a testament to their “traditional views of thin, white, well-off women.”

    • Bugsy
      November 3, 2015 at 3:58 pm #

      It does, and yet when you read the forums, you get this odd mix of 30-something attachment parents and teen/young 20s moms. As a non-attachment caucasian 35-year-old, I often feel pretty out of place…although the debates/arguments on the forums never cease to entertain me.

      • crazy grad mama
        November 3, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

        I lurked on my “birth club” forum and found it quite entertaining… until I realized that it was actively contributing to my PPD.

      • Liz Leyden
        November 6, 2015 at 3:07 pm #

        I only stay on BabyCenter for the forum about my daughter’s heart problem. I seem to be the only poster who doesn’t talk extensively about how my faith in Jesus has sustained me in my journey as a “heart mama.” Whatever works for them. I was leaning toward agnosticism long before I got pregnant, but when the cardiac surgeon talked about my daughters “God-given heart” during the pre-op consult for operation #2 then end his spiel with “God is good” (the same God who gave my daughter half a heart?) pointed me toward atheism.

  14. Mel
    November 3, 2015 at 1:31 pm #


    My mom and aunts all breast-fed to some extent or other during the 1980’s and yet we have no extant photos of any of them with an infant attached to their chest as the main subject of the photo. I think we do have some candid spontaneous photos (i.e, here’s a picture of my young brother and cousins covered in mud running around) where someone is breastfeeding on the outer edges, but it was never photographed as a life-changing event.

    For them, it was such an average thing to do (small babies need food pretty damn near continuously) that no one thought to snap a photo nor waste the money developing it for a rather boring pic. You saved pictures for important things like family gatherings or cute cousin moments.

    • SporkParade
      November 3, 2015 at 2:02 pm #

      My husband’s family is the opposite; no one thought not to take a photograph just because there happened to be a boob involved in the feeding.

      Now, part of the reason I had no qualms about breastfeeding in public was because it was a statement that women shouldn’t be confined to the home just because the have a baby.

    • demodocus
      November 3, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

      There is one of Mom feeding my sister, but I think that was as much because my toddler self was pretending to feed my doll the same way as anything. I will deny this picture ever existed, though.

    • November 4, 2015 at 2:26 am #

      I was born in the early ’80s and there are a few pictures of me nursing… which promptly went in the family album here they belonged.

      • November 4, 2015 at 2:27 am #

        It’s worth noting that the one I remember most is a close-framed shot of me latched on… just a tiny newborn eating, and not about my mom.

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