Do you Brelfie?

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So by now we all know what a selfie is, right? I’m sure you’ve seen hundreds of your friends and have probably taken a few yourself. But how about the brelfie? Recently, some social media users have been tossing out the term “brelfie” to refer to their own photos of themselves nursing their babies. Frankly, while I’m not a big fan of funny word mashups, I am a huge fan of these photos.

do you brelfie?

In the past few months, the “brelfie” has taken the Internet by storm and has stirred up quite the controversy. Super model Gisele Bundchen shared this beautiful photo back in December of 2013. Doutzen Kroes, a Victoria’s Secret model and a woman who many might say epitomizes the idea that women’s breasts are for sexual appreciation, has also been spotlighted in this discussion, since she has shared a number of photos of herself breastfeeding or using a breast pump. She went so far as to  clearly depict the juxtaposition of what people find acceptable and unacceptable when it comes to her breasts in this particular photo, quoting Iris Marion Young: “Breasts are a scandal because they shatter the border between motherhood and sexuality.”

Kathie Lee and Hoda weighed in on the matter, indicating that they disapproved of the trend. Kathie Lee implied that nursing is a personal, private matter not to be shared with the public. Hoda agreed, calling breastfeeding photos “TMI”. As a result, the Today Show found themselves the focus of a very public outcry and “nurse-in” in Rockefeller Plaza. While each woman is entitled to her opinion on the topic, such public figures speaking out against breastfeeding photos only serves to remind us that we’ve been conditioned to believe that breasts are only to be viewed publicly as sexual objects, not as biological vessels for feeding our children.

Once upon a time, generation after generation was breastfed with pretty much no other option. You could even make a career breastfeeding other people’s babies if you were particularly good at it! Society didn’t see public breastfeeding as perverse, or something to be hidden, because they saw it for what it truly is: feeding a baby. We didn’t shy from it; we painted pictures of it! We didn’t hide away to feed our babies; we went about our daily lives! Breastfeeding was normal.


Then, in the early 1900s, the breastfeeding mother came under assault. The attackers were well financed formula companies, and they won. Formula, once a fantastic advancement of modern technology for cases when breastfeeding wasn’t an option, suddenly became the BEST option for all moms (according to them). They convinced us that formula was healthier than breastmilk. They convinced hospitals to promote formula over nursing. They convinced society that bottles were normal and breasts were not.

Facebook, which has long been attacked for their weak stance on breastfeeding photos, has finally come out in support of the breastfeeding mother and will no longer remove a photo of breastfeeding (assuming the photo does not violate other standards). This is important, because the removal of breastfeeding photos implies that breastfeeding is something to be done in private, or worse, something akin to pornography. It’s not. It’s biology. It’s nature. Breastfeeding should be so normal to us that we don’t bat an eye at it, and that, right there, is why I love the emergence of the brelfie.

Photos of breastfeeding mothers are our own grassroots, modern-day response to those well financed formula campaigns. They bring nursing back into the public eye. They show breastfeeding for what it truly is: feeding a baby with the means that our bodies gave us. They normalize it. Breastfeeding is not exhibitionism. Taking a photo while nursing is not attention seeking. The brelfie is simply photographic evidence of everyday life for hundreds of thousands of mothers around the world.

So I say yes to the brelfie! Parents, take pictures of your newborn in her crib for the first time. Take pictures of them sleeping. Take pictures of that first spaghetti disaster and of those first steps. And take pictures of your nursing journey. It’s your life, right now, and you probably want to remember it just as clearly as all of those other precious baby moments.

Kate Cunha lives in the Pacific NW and is a huge supporter of the #normalizebreastfeeding movement.


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