9 Media Depictions Of Breastfeeding That Every Breastfeeding Mother Hates

By
Share
Ad failed to load

I always knew I would try to breastfeed my baby when she was born, mostly because it seemed convenient and cost-efficient. I really had no knowledge about breastfeeding, other than what I had previously read online or in books. There was a dearth of media depictions of breastfeeding and, sadly, what was out there was usually played for laughs in adult-skewing shows and movies, or for teaching purposes in programs aimed at kids. Once I became a breastfeeding mom and looked around, so much of what I saw about breastfeeding in the media really pissed me off.

Whether breastfeeding is part of your experience raising kids or not, I think all moms can agree that American culture tends to judge parents on all methods of feeding their babies. However, I can’t recall seeing a mom in a non-reality television show get called out for bottle feeding her kid. Our culture seems to be more accepting of babies drinking from fake nipples than real ones, especially if you're to take what we see in film, television and journalism as an indication of how we, as a society, view breastfeeding.  

Thankfully, we are seeing more positive portrayals of breastfeeding in the media, but it's been a painfully slow process and those positive representations are few and far between. For every breastfeeding image I see that feels relatable, there are so many more that don’t resonate with me at all. I applaud the media for trying to get breastfeeding right, but the pictures they paint are either super sappy and cloying, or just out of touch. So, with that in mind and in the hopes of combating the unrealistic expectations of breastfeeding these images evoke, here are some examples of breastfeeding depictions in the media that moms, or at least this mom, absolutely hate and could definitely do without:

Ad failed to load

The "Madonna"

Pexels

Yes, I do think I’m doing "the most important work" when I’m nurturing my children, be it by keeping them warm and dry, soothing them after a nightmare, or breastfeeding. However, it rubs me the wrong way to see breastfeeding photos that depict moms "as holier than thou." First of all, I am not a saint. I am a mother who would do anything to ensure the safety and health of my child. For me, that included breastfeeding, but that is not an option for all moms (or dads), so to distinguish breastfeeding moms as more angelic than other non-nursing parents is unfair.

Second, breastfeeding simply doesn’t look like that. Yes, I would gaze tenderly at the baby in my arms and I totally felt the warm rush of bonding hormones flood my system when letdown occurred. However, I reached for the remote or something to read, or I nodded out on the couch for a bit. Breastfeeding was just part of our lives, so it wasn’t as if we stepped out into an alternate, dreamy reality for 45 minutes every three hours, every day, every night. Where are the “Madonna” pictures of the 2 AM feedings? Yeah, there's a reason those bad boys don't exist.

Mermaids

giphy

This may be subjective, but I don’t really get these breastfeeding mermaid images. What mostly bothers me about them is the fantastical depiction. Mermaids are mythical creatures, and I love them as such. Breastfeeding scenes in my life have never come close to those in a fairy tale. I think these mermaid images perpetuate this false breastfeeding ideal. If anything, it stigmatizes those who choose not to or who aren’t able to breastfeed their children. I appreciate the nod to breastfeeding being beautiful and honorable, but depicting nursing moms as fantasy characters denies the real challenges and hard won successes surrounding that choice.

Celebrities Killing It While Nursing

gisele on instagram

I get it. These women have careers too, and it’s wonderful to see other working moms in the world. Except, well, they’re not like me. I don’t get to bring my baby to the office to nurse him while I get my makeup done. I don’t have the financial security to turn down work so I can spend more time exclusively breastfeeding, instead of pumping at my job.

As inspiring as it can be to see beautiful, famous people behaving “just like us,” they’re not just like us. Show me one with an oversupply issue, like I had. Media outlets would be doing moms like me a much bigger service by showing the realness of breastfeeding, even as it applies to celebrities.

Ad failed to load

Those That Include "Helpful" Men

giphy

Is it just me, or are most moms creeped out by shots of breastfeeding women, with their male partners tenderly looking on while also touching them? I could not be touched while I was nursing my babies. Maybe it was some kind of innate defense mechanism, to prevent me from being distracted by anyone else’s needs while fulfilling my children’s nutritional ones. Either way, I didn’t want anyone close to me while I nursed. I needed to be in that space with just my child.

True, when I was nursing my second child, my toddler broke that rule constantly, but she was still so little that I didn’t have the same kind of visceral “get away from me” reaction. I get that partners want to be involved in the care of their children and breastfeeding is not conducive to that experience. It’s just, like, can you sit over there, dude?

The Ones That Show The Moms Only Using Her Arms To Support The Baby

Pexels

My breastfeeding pillow was literally my best friend in the first year of my babies’ lives. I could not imagine holding my little ones in my arms for the duration of their nursing sessions. My hands would fall asleep. I’d get cramps.

I appreciate that, as kids get older, they can sit upright a bit so pictures with older babies nursing may, logically, be devoid of support pillows, and nursing on your side is a great option, if you have the space. But come on; stop showing me pictures of a 3-month-old cradled in their mom’s arms as they are nursed, if you’re not also going to show me the mom’s face, distorted by her cramped discomfort.

Pictures Of Moms Nursing In The Sun

Pexels

It’s not recommended to use sunblock on babies under six months of age. Plus it’s hot in the sun, and I’m already quite toasty with my baby pressed up against me to nurse. I know sunlight is beautiful for photos, but shade is much more practical, and safe, for breastfeeding moms and babies.

Ad failed to load

Images Of Moms Nursing In Nature

Pexels

Part of the beauty of breastfeeding is that it can be done wherever you are, whenever the baby’s hungry and as long as you feel safe and comfortable. However, I see images of women nursing their babies in these meadows and I have to laugh. Grass is itchy. There are bugs crawling everywhere. Unless she has found herself stranded on a hike with her infant, what breastfeeding mom would choose to plunk down in a field for a good 20 to 45 minutes to nurse?

To be fair, I’m a city girl and maybe this is a scenario I could never relate to, but this situation just seems ridiculous to me. Breastfeeding is natural, but we don’t have to literally abandon signs of civilization and comfort to drive that point home.

Blissed Out…

giphy

When that wave of oxytocin hit with letdown in a nursing session, I felt invincible. Like everything was right in the world and I was on top of it. Five minutes later, that feeling subsided and it was business as usual. So, maybe I’m overreacting here, and all these images of moms giving these serene smiles while gazing tenderly at their babies are just capturing that one particular moment.

However, since not everyone experiences such positive effects from hormones during nursing, I think we’re over-representing the number of "happy" breastfeeding moms. I’m all for positive depictions of nursing, because my experience with it was mostly pleasant and I’d proselytize from the rooftops about it. Still, I can’t discount those women, and I know many, for whom breastfeeding was not an option, and should not be made to feel bad about it. They had to do whatever works, and most breastfeeding mothers are too; it’s just that, even things are working, we’re not usually grinning like Stepford Wives about it.

…. Or Totally Destitute

giphy

On the flip side, those images where moms are not conveying joy and serenity, they look totally haggard and stressed. Don’t get me wrong: there are nursing moms in dire situations and we need to see that realness. Stories on the hardships of mothers trying to do the best they can under extremely challenging circumstances need to be shared if we are, as a society, going to evolve our marginalization against women who breastfeed. I am not suggesting we deny space for these images.

We just also need to make room for the variety of emotions around breastfeeding. It is not all sunshine and lollipops, nor is it all selflessness and stigma. Women are complicated because humans are complicated. It’s OK to have different feelings about motherhood and all that it entails, including breastfeeding. There is too much polarized thinking, in my opinion, on how we feed our babies. We don’t all come with the same set of circumstances or family history or socioeconomic status or anatomy. However, we all want our children to be well-fed. If we breastfeed for a day, or a year, or never, and all our children are playing together at the park, do you think you would be able to tell how they had been fed as infants?

No mom should be shamed for her choices when they are made in the best interest of her child. And we should remember that even she has second thoughts about what’s best. I am glad to have been able to breastfeed both my children, but I don’t look back on those times with pure fondness. It made life hard sometimes. There were smiles, and there were tears.

I guess you really can have it all.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

8 Things That *Will* Go Wrong Every Time You Plan A Kid-Free Night

The last time my husband and I went out to dinner alone was… actually, I can’t remember. But I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen a movie in a theater in the last year. Before we had children we used to go out all the time. But even with …
By Liza Wyles

These Photos Of North West Then & Now Will Take You On A Sweet Trip Down Memory Lane

When Kim Kardashian welcomed her first daughter, North West, with her husband, Kanye West, in 2013, her whole life was changed. The social media and reality TV star became a mom for the first time and her Instagram presence took a very adorable turn.…
By Casey Suglia

11 Photos You *Must* Take During The Last Days Of Your Pregnancy

During my first pregnancy, I took a photo each week to document my growing belly. I stopped around 36 weeks, though. I hated how I looked in those pictures, and didn't think I'd want to relive those moments. I was wrong. My second pregnancy was a dum…
By Steph Montgomery

This Is What It Means If Your Pregnancy Test Changes Overnight

The time between when a woman suspects she might be pregnant and when it is confirmed for sure is the longest of her life. Regardless of whether you are hoping for a positive or a negative result, the odds are good that you are sweating bullets when …
By Shannon Evans

6 Red Flags To Definitely Look Out For After Your Baby Falls

The first time my infant son tried to take a few steps, he tumbled and bumped his head on the coffee table. My blood turned to ice in my veins and I froze. There truly isn't anything quite like the feeling a parent gets when their little one gets hur…
By Sarah Bunton

These 9 Instant Pot Recipes Will Make Even The Pickiest Eater Happy At The Table

Like any parent, I've had my share of parenting hits and misses, but one of my favorite "wins" is my daughter's diverse palate. I don't even know if I can take credit for it, but I would like to think I had something to do with her love for lentils, …
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Turns Out, Kim Kardashian's Favorite Mom Products Look A Lot Like Your Own Faves

Being a mom is really hard work, especially for the first few months, and Kim Kardashian West is no different in that regard. Now the mother of three, Kardashian says that there are a few products she just can't live without when it comes to raising …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

Soda Might Hurt Your Fertility, Study Says, & Here's What You Can Do

Who doesn't love sugary drinks? I stopped drinking soda years ago, but I still love gulping down those fancy Starbucks coffee beverages. I don't have a big sweet tooth, but I am a sucker for sugar-sweetened beverages every now-and-then. Turns out, th…
By Annamarya Scaccia

10 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 30s

If you're like me, you evaluate the pros and cons of any major life decision. When my husband and I were considering starting a family, I thought about my career, education, and financial stability. I wanted to know how a pregnancy and childbirth wou…
By Steph Montgomery

This Woman Thought She Had An Eyelash Stuck In Her Eye. Then It Moved.

I'm not a person who is easily icked out. As a kid, I collected bugs and thought I was going to be an entomologist and asked Santa Claus for ant farms and nets to catch bees. I'm still super curious about anything that flies and crawls, which might s…
By Karen Fratti

5 Red Flags Your Toddler Isn't Eating Enough

Toddlers are notoriously picky eaters, at least in my experience. You offer mashed potatoes, they want french fries. You give them crackers, they scream for chips. It's frustrating, to be sure, but it's usually their way of vying for independence. It…
By Candace Ganger

11 Ways Your Pregnancy Will Be Different If You Have A Boy Vs A Girl

If you've been pregnant before, you might start comparing your previous pregnancies to that of your current pregnancy. A lot of things can change from pregnancy to pregnancy, based on a whole host of different factors (including how well you remember…
By Lauren Schumacker

35 Moms Share The Most Disgusting Things Their Husbands Do

I'm a human being who revels in challenges. I like when people present me with one, especially if they don't think I can meet or succeed it, and I like taking a challenge on, especially if it's unexpected. So when I aimed to uncover the most disgusti…
By Jamie Kenney

How Having Kids In Your 20s Affects You Later In Life

For parents, like myself, who had kids in their 20s, there are a number of questions that come to mind. When you're deciding what your future will look like, you'll likely consider what this means for your health, career, and more down the line. Thin…
By Tessa Shull

12 Moms Share How They Stay Healthy During Flu Season

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of the roughest flu seasons in recent memory. And we’re not totally out of the woods, either. People around the country are still getting the flu, and, sadly, some of them are having to be hospitalized due to flu-re…
By Priscilla Blossom

8 "Mistakes" I'm Glad I Made During My First Pregnancy

As an adult, I've learned you never really stop hating being told what to do. When I was pregnant I was getting instructions at every turn, from doctors, relatives, and complete strangers on the subway. I would nod and smile but then go about making …
By Liza Wyles

Study: Drinking Two Glasses Of Wine A Day Is Good For Your Mind — Here's Why

There’s more scientific proof that a daily drink or two isn't necessarily a bad thing and could have a place in an overall healthy lifestyle. A new study out of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in New York found that — in mice, at le…
By Tiffany Thomas

Research Says Eating Carbs Can Lead To A Healthy Pregnancy, So Bring On The Pasta

In the world of me, no food is better than bread. I know it's supposed to be pretty terrible for you, high in calories, low in protein, and full of that modern-day demon, gluten... but guys, it's really yummy. Especially warm out of the oven, when th…
By Jen McGuire

These Photos Of Prince George Then & Now Will Give You Serious Baby Fever

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are expecting their third child in Spring 2018. With all of the excitement surrounding the new baby, it's easy to forget all of the good times that have already passed. The couple's eldest is already well into the sc…
By Azure Hall

This Is, Hands Down, The *Grossest* Thing Babies Do Inside The Womb

Your baby's life in the womb may be safe and warm, but it's also kind of grody. Seriously, the whole process of growing into a human being includes more than a few icky moments along the way. But this is the grossest thing babies do inside the womb b…
By Lindsay E. Mack