Can of Worms {a note from the mother behind the MotherWise photo controversy}

29 Apr

So, a funny thing happened yesterday.

I have been a part of the MotherWise community for awhile now.  I periodically share photos, stories, or links to “This Woman’s Work” with them.  Yesterday, a story and photo of mine was shared.  At first, the comments were sweet and supportive.  Parents shared the picture on their timelines with comments like, “Awww!” and, “What a sweet story!”  The more it was shared, however, the more people outside of the MotherWise community saw the post.


“Breastfeeding my 14 month old daughter, Olive on the ferry. A little boy was walking by with his mother and stopped to look. “My mommy gives me Na-Na’s too.” He said. His mother smiled. I asked her how old he was, and she said 5. He then walked right up to us and touched her head and said, “I bet your Na-Na’s make your baby smile. They are warm and sweet.”

“Yes, she loves them.” I replied, “You are so lucky to have such a loving Mommy.”

Seeing mothers normalizing breastfeeding, especially full-term, gives me hope for our future generation. Keep it up, Sweet Mamas. Keep it up.”

I mean…as of this morning, the post has been shared over 2000 times from a variety of pages (that I can see), thousands of comments, thousands of “likes.”

Which, I think is great.  Really.  I expected there to be mixed reactions.  I expected people to be shocked.  I expected ignorance, hateful comments, and for the trolls to get in on the action.  I KNOW that nursing in public is still a controversial issue.  I KNOW that full-term breastfeeding is a hot topic.  I KNOW that whenever a breastfeeding picture is shared, for some reason, formula feeding gets brought into the conversation (I still don’t get why, however).  I KNOW all of this.  Which is the exact reason the picture and story was shared.

Several of my mommy-counterparts have differing opinions as to why breastfeeding, breastfeeding in public, and especially breastfeeding full-term bothers (also downright disgusts) a large part of American society.  You can think it’s gross.  You can think that 5 years old is “too old”.  You can think that it should be done in private.  You can think that full-term breastfeeding is perverted.  You can shout about how everyone has an opinion, and that yours is just as valid as mine.   But the difference between your opinions and mine, is that mine are based on facts (I will lay out those facts shortly).  You want to know the root of all of these skewed ways of thinking?  All of it?  It all started with the sexualization of breasts in this country.

Compared to EVERY other country on this planet, the U.S. has an unnatural fetish with breasts.  I am going to give you all a little Women’s Studies lesson here.  Every generation and every culture has its own idea of what is considered beautiful.  Its own idea of what is considered sexual.  In the 1800’s, American women were afraid of being too thin.  Food products were made to “plump up” women so they would be more appealing to the opposite sex.  Then, in the 1920’s flat breasts and a slender figure were all the rage.  Bra’s were invented to flatten out a women’s bosom.  Now, here we are, in the height of the plastic surgery obsession to obtain the largest breasts as possible, all while having the tiniest of waists– which happens to be a completely unattainable figure to accomplish without the help of a scalpel.  What perpetuates what is fashionable, what is considered attractive, what is considered sexy?  The media.  We are bombarded at a young age with Victoria’s Secret ads, Girls Gone Wild infomercials, magazines, and the entertainment industry that breasts are for SEX.  That’s it.  Bottom line.

The truth of it is, breasts aren’t for sex at all.  You don’t use breasts to reproduce, you use breasts to nourish the offspring as a result of reproduction.  They ARE NOT sexual, though they are being classified as such.  Yes, breasts are part of what makes a woman “female,” but they are only a reproductive organ because they make milk.  If all of a sudden, the sexual stigma of breasts was removed from society, who do you think would be the biggest group of people trying to KEEP the sexualization of breasts alive?  The media.  The porn industry.  The lingerie industry.  Without the allure or mystery of breasts…without that taboo…they would lose billions.

In all reality, breasts are just for feeding children.  That’s it.  Other cultures get it.  Carolyn Latteier, author of::  Breasts, The Women’s Perspective on American Obsession said,

Well, we do have a peculiar obsession with breasts in this culture. A lot of people think it’s just the human nature to be fascinated with breasts but in many cultures, breasts aren’t sexual at all. I interviewed a young anthropologist working with women in Mali, in a country in Africa where women go around with bare breasts. They’re always feeding their babies. And when she told them that in our culture men are fascinated with breasts there was an instant of shock. The women burst out laughing. They laughed so hard, they fell on the floor. They said, “You mean, men act like babies?”

If you remove the idea that breasts are for sex, and therefore should be covered up…all of the issues with breastfeeding fall away.  There would be no reason to feel the need to nurse with a cover, or nurse behind closed doors.  Mothers wouldn’t feel the need to hide away, or sit behind a pump for hours just so they can bottle feed in public…even though they have it ready, right on tap.  People wouldn’t put an appropriate “age” on children breastfeeding…because it would never get “weird.”  What is “weird” about breasts being used for what nature intended?

As for the whole age ordeal, which seems to be the issue causing the most uproar, human’s natural age of weaning is 2-7.  The world average is 5 years old.  The comments on this issue made my brain literally ache.  “So, the mom just shows up at his kindergarten class for lunch time?”

“If the kid can ask for it, then the kid is too old.”

“Once they get teeth, they don’t need boob anymore.”

Yadda, yadda.  The insanity continued.

First of all.  After about the first or second year…children’s diets are mostly food.  Like…95%.  Maybe more.  The child may breastfeed before nap and bed and that is it.  Maybe just once a day.  Maybe a couple of times a week.  The psychological and neurological benefits for full-term breastfeeding are numerous.  As are the physiological benefits.

I hear from most mothers of toddlers how picky they are when it comes to food.  According to Australian Physician Sarah J Buckley breast milk provides toddlers with up to one-third of their daily energy needs, two-thirds of their fat requirements, 58% of their vitamin A requirements and nearly a third of their calcium needs.  It’s no wonder why our children are so sick!  They are weaned much too early, then expected to function on a diet of synthetic “food” and a different mammal’s milk.  How backward is that?

If the kid can ask for it, the kid is too old?  Seriously?  My child was asking for it minutes after she was born.  The World Health Organization recommends exclusively breastfeeding until at LEAST 6 months (before offering solids), then continuing to breastfeed until at LEAST TWO AND BEYOND.  According to The American Association of Physicians “If the child is younger than two years of age, the child is at increased risk of illness if weaned.”   Jen Davis explained in a 2007 edition of Le Leche League’s (LLL) New Beginnings:

“Even after 12 months, babies continue to benefit from human milk. At one year of age, a baby’s immune system is functioning at only 60 percent of adult level and because formula has no live antibodies, it is strongly associated with high rates of infection (Huggins 2007). A child’s immune system isn’t functioning at adult level until age six (Dettwyler 1994).”

These are facts, people.  Test yourself a little.  Peel away the beliefs you have that the media and society has ingrained in you.  Look at nature.  Look at anatomy.  It is simple.  It is so easy to understand.  It isn’t some convoluted issue with grey areas.  It is a woman using her breasts to nourish her offspring.  Only the child knows when they are no longer reaping the benefits from the breastfeeding relationship…whether nutritional, physiological, or psychological.  Trust your body.  Trust nature.  Trust your child.  Contrary to popular belief…your children aren’t out to manipulate you.  Promise.

Breastfeeding moms…keep on keeping on.  The more you fight this social taboo, the more the taboo melts away.  Maybe, just maybe, by the time our children are having children…the crazy idea of nurturing your child the way nature intended will be a thing of the past.


132 Responses to “Can of Worms {a note from the mother behind the MotherWise photo controversy}”

  1. Jordan May 2, 2013 at 10:45 am #

    My daughter is almost 17 months and she is still breastfed, she really loves it and I don’t see her weaning anytime soon. She has been so healthy. She got sick for the first time just a few weeks ago, and it was only minor. Breastfeeding comforts her when nothing else will, for that it is truly amazing.

  2. On This Journey May 2, 2013 at 6:47 pm #

    I am working on a Full-term Breastfeeding blog myself – should be up soon. I love this article. And the picture and story are wonderful! Here are some articles on Nursing in Public:
    Here’s my blog post on Nursing in Public with my husband’s view blog post embedded within:
    and a great article for controversial thought-provoking ideas about the modesty issue:

  3. Mary May 3, 2013 at 5:11 am #

    I think you are a B!$*&# and not because you pride yourself on breastfeeding in public. Throughout your article you equate those who dont agree with you as ignorant, hateful or misinformed. Then you pretend to be the bigger person, the martyr because you say you KNOW this is controversial. You attempt to make your reader believe that by understanding, your opinion somehow is worth more. You say others are allowed to have their opinions but you don’t mean it because in the next breath you try to explain how anyones opinion who differs from yours is wrong and they are ignorant and hateful. Breastfeeding in public makes me uncomfortable. My opinion is based on NOTHING but that fact that seeing it MAKES ME FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE. I dont need to know any other information or facts about it to know how I feel. that doesn’t make me ignorant. Or uneducated. I don’t care what you do with your breasts or your children. Just like YOU dont care that it makes ME uncomfortable.

    • lindsaykarns1 May 3, 2013 at 5:12 pm #

      Your ignorance and hatred for things that are outside of your small minded bubble is glaring in your vicious comment. I hope that someday you open your eyes and free your mind to new thought processes and ideas. Change doesn’t happen making people feel comfortable.

    • Lilygirl May 3, 2013 at 5:51 pm #

      Mary, yes you are entitled to your opinion but it is just that…an opinion. 65 yrs ago in this country (USA) people were “uncomfortable” with blacks drinking from the same water fountain as whites. It was considered taboo because there was ignorance surrounding people of African American descent. The same hold true to breast feeding. The article never mentions hate other than to say she received hateful comments. She never says that she hates people who do not breast fed or believe differently, she is just trying to educate people about breast feeding & her beliefs. If you do not agree then do not read articles about breast feeding or breast feeding in public, it is that simple.

    • Tim May 4, 2013 at 8:11 am #

      Mary, why should anyone care about your comfort level? The only individual who is responsible for your comfort level is you, no one else. You think that because you find something distasteful others should placate your fragile and misplaced sensibilities? How about taking responsibility for yourself instead of inconveniencing others around you.
      Look away. Move on. Shut the hell up.

      • Jennifer May 5, 2013 at 12:31 am #

        This. All of this.

    • On This Journey May 6, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

      But I think that is the point. You being uncomfortable should not be her concern – it should be yours. You need to become educated about the facts. You need to see more breastfeeding so you will become accustomed to it and it will not make you feel so uncomfortable. You are uncomfortable because you did not grow up with it. You were not exposed to hundreds of women breastfeeding around you. If you were, you most likely would not be uncomfortable with it. That is one of the many reasons why we would like to normalise breastfeeding. Children who grow up seeing breastfeeding all around them just take it for granted as being normal and the thing to do. Overall, this will be great for the health of the nation as more women feel comfortable breastfeeding wherever and whenever and for however long they like.
      Basically, you need to rethink your thinking. Just like all prejudices, those types of thoughts need to be thought through until you arrive at the reason why you feel psychologically uncomfortable with breastfeeding. This is your psychological issue, and psychologically, you should think about dealing with your breastfeeding prejudice.

      • mandalynn252 September 5, 2013 at 8:21 am #

        No one should have to DO anything they don’t want to do. I didn’t bf in public b/c it made me horribly uncomfortable. Do I mind if you do it? No. But this author wants to make woman who don’t feel guilty or horrible about their choices not to. And blaming the media is such a cheap shot! Take some personal responsibility here! The media doesn’t make anyone do anything. We all have freewill and can make decisions for ourselves. If you chose to bf in public that’s your business. I won’t make you feel bad or guilty about it, but in the same breath you better not try and make me feel guilty for choosing not to bf. I didn’t bf in public b/c I felt horribly uncomfortable with it. These are my bits and if I don’t want to whip them out in public that is MY choice. It has nothing to do with the media sexualizing breasts. I am just a private person. Stop the hate and guilt trips! Moms face enough of that in this world, we don’t need to be hating on each other. We should be supportive of each other, b/c we know how hard being a mom is! BF or bottle, it is a choice. I am grateful women have the choice. Unlike those third world nations that you are glamorizing those women don’t have a choice. It’s breast or starve to death. At least we have choices.

        All this hate stems from what’s trendy! It comes and it goes. 50 years ago, bottle feeding was trendy and now it’s turned back to breast feeding. If you can and do breast feed then good for you. If you bottle feed then good for you too. You’re taking care of your baby. Breast feeding doesn’t guarantee that your baby will be smarter or more successful. There is so much more to parenting then that. Get off your high horses and stop the hate. I would have preferred if the author had tried to use her words to encourage mothers to bf and not spread hate and guilt to prove her point. Educate yourself and do what feels right for you and your baby. Trying to force yourself to be something you’re not will not only be misery for you, but your baby too. Kids can pick up on our emotions so don’t try to guilt yourself into this. When mom is happy and comfortable so is baby!

      • lindsaykarns1 September 5, 2013 at 8:29 am #

        I completely agree with you that no one should have to do anything they don’t want to do.

        I am quite confused at your response because, not one place in my article do I ever bash women who do not breastfeed, cannot breastfeed, or don’t feel comfortable to breastfeed in public. I am standing up for the rights of women who DO breastfeed and are constantly criticized for doing so in public. That’s it.

        From the anger in your comment, I think you have a bone to pick with breastfeeding advocates….which is too bad. They are doing some good work.

    • J September 14, 2013 at 12:59 am #

      So look the other way. It’s that simple, you are a human being with the ability to move your f-ing eyeballs. If I told you that seeing you eat your lunch in public made me uncomfortable, would you stop eating in public? I bet not. You have every right to be uncomfortable, but you have 0 rights to impose your will on others because of that feeling. No mother is going to let their baby starve just to save you a little bit of discomfort. Grow up!

  4. Chelsea May 3, 2013 at 9:17 pm #

    Thank you for writing this article.

    The ironic thing is that if your photo didn’t have a caption about breastfeeding, probably no one other than another breastfeeding mama would even know what you are doing. It’s not like your boob is hanging out.

    I actually was talking to my husband the other day about a theory… That men like huge boobs so much so that after birth, when life is crazy stressful and there is a lot of work and not a lot of sex, her porn-star-like engorged boobs will biologically entice him to stick around. 🙂 (It’s a shoddy theory, I know…)

    Also, unrelated to the article… Are you wearing a teething necklace in that photo? I just found out about these and am very interested in opinions, though this might not be the place to discuss such matters…

    Just another breastfeeding mom keeping on. All the best to you & your little Olive!


  5. luma May 4, 2013 at 1:23 pm #

    excellent thank you for this and here’s a good one for you!

  6. Hope May 4, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

    Yes, yes, yes! I’ve been saying for years how irritating it is that women feel they have to hide away to nurse their babies. They feel that way because America has way over-sexualized the breast. BREASTS ARE MADE FOR FEEDING BABIES!!! I appreciate this article very much!

  7. beanbrigade May 30, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

    You have got all the support in the world from me! Good for you, standing up for yourself. Sorry for how cruel people get on the subject. Im all for it. Its been the best decision for my family and two boys.

  8. Chris Webb May 30, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

    Reblogged this on Live Nakedly and commented:
    As a breastfeeding activist, this is an important topic I’ve discussed as a male outsider. Our dysfunctional relationship with the human body forces us to justify the most normal of acts. This writer, as one who can nurse, says it better than I ever have.

  9. Nancy Tanner May 30, 2013 at 8:45 pm #

    I breast fed both of my children, and at one point was tandem nursing. I am not a breast feeding activist, but I did enjoy LLL in rural Wyoming and Montana. A great group of ladies with a great sense of humor. I didn’t hide from the public when nursing my children, If my children were hungry I fed them. It didn’t seem like such a big deal, I never got weird looks, and no person ever said anything nasty to me. This was only 15 years ago. I wonder what has changed so much?

  10. Mama Mia June 15, 2013 at 6:53 pm #

    I just wrote a post on a similar topic–the fact that I’m nursing my twins (who will be three in September) AND my almost 1 year old. My twins took a break from nursing for a while so when we started up again I just did it at home privately. I didn’t even realize I was witholding from them in public until the other day at the park I finally nursed one of the girls (she’d gotten really hurt) and it felt strange… I couldn’t believe that I (someone who is a big advocate for breastfeeding in public) could have been “hiding” my toddler-nursing! Societal pressures really can sneak up on you without even being aware of it!
    The more people who normalize it (by doing it in public and talking about it in public!) the better!!!

    And I thought that little boy’s comment was super sweet ❤

  11. avatarsambell July 18, 2013 at 6:23 am #

    “NaNa” is the oral motor movement to squeeze the breast milk from the nipple. This oral motor motor skill launches the concept “mother” and propels an infant into consciousness on the earth plain as they had just arrived from the spiritual plain. Loving maternal emotions shape and guide earth pilgrims on two levels….our birth mum and Mother God.
    You and all you loved ones are always in my prayers, Samuel Joseph Bell
    For a spiritual reading/advice email me at

  12. Cait L September 6, 2013 at 5:15 am #

    Rock on, mama! My daughter turns two in about a month and we’re still going strong at nap time, bedtime, and occasionally overnight. We’re trying for number 2 and I’ll tandem feed 🙂

  13. Supportive Father September 6, 2013 at 7:30 am #

    Do you have any advice for women who work? My wife was planning on nursing of as long as our first baby needed. While she had no problem breastfeeding in public, she was a little more shy about pumping in public. When she requested a room to pump, she was given a wide open room with windows and a door that did not lock. (this was the suggestion made by a female administrative assistant). Since she was a short-term contract laborer- it would not have been a good idea to raise a huge deal out of it, but she still didn’t want to pump in front of virtual strangers she had just started working with. Unfortunately, she lost her milk and we had to put our son on formula before his first birthday. For all of the reasons you state, she has never forgiven herself.
    She is pregnant with our second and we want to try to keep this from happening again, but we have no idea how to do it. Do you have any suggestions?

  14. Kathy Salkeld Bonilla September 6, 2013 at 3:11 pm #

    Thirty-six years ago I nursed Jaime until he weaned and potty trained himself at approximately 2 1/2 years. Guidito thirty years ago, and he weaned himself at eighteen months. Every child is different. What wonderful mothers you all are!

  15. Elsie September 7, 2013 at 10:39 am #

    I think people are hypocrite, They are infatuated or obsessed with breasts and act stupid if they see breast or even the mention of “boobies” but if they see a baby attached to the breast it automatically becomes disgusting and the most offensive thing on the planet. .why? I don’t know. .people! open your minds a little bit! breast were meant to nurture babies! not for sexual purposes and for grown men sucking on them! ha . .just my opinion 😛

  16. Lilly September 13, 2013 at 9:57 pm #

    I really don’t see where this article is bashing anyone who formula feeds. Um whoever said that needs to pay attention to what they are reading! I for one loved all your facts. I am disgusted with the way America has shamed bfing mommas into a restroom or dressing room or a freaking hot cover in the summer! Screw that, if you can formula feed your baby in public I can bf my baby in public! Look and stare and feel as uncomfortable as you’d like, my kid will not starve because your grown a** can’t stop starring at my baby eating! Stop jiggling your boobs around for men and maybe things will be different. It’s so sad that women will look down on other women due to bfing! As for ff moms, you chose to ff and that’s ok bfing is not for everyone and no one is bashing you for that do what’s best for yourself and your baby. Btw I find cows milk disgusting, its being excreted from a cow whose nutrition is unknown!

  17. Rony September 14, 2013 at 12:02 am #

    Definition of sexual: 1. Of, relating to, involving, or characteristic of sex, sexuality, the sexes, or the sex organs and their functions.
    2. Implying or symbolizing erotic desires or activity.
    3. Relating to, produced by, or involving reproduction characterized by the union of male and female gametes

    You cannot be serious when you say breasts aren’t sexual. I’m for breastfeeding but not in public. Using the “it’s natural” excuse is utter bullshit because there are PLENTY of acts that are natural but are considered entirely unacceptable publicly, I don’t think this requires specifics.

    Just like it’s unacceptable to have sex or defecate in public, it shouldn’t be acceptable to breastfeed in public, because honestly, some people view things on the same level. OF COURSE there are going to be declarations of ignorance or hostility towards my comment, but don’t act like breasts aren’t sexual and breastfeeding should be accepted because it’s “natural.” Piss poor excuse

    And it’s very clear what’s going on in the image without seeing it in full size. Just because it wasn’t obvious to some of you doesn’t mean it’s unclear to everyone else

    • Kristen September 14, 2013 at 8:03 am #

      I can’t believe I even have to say this to you Rony- breastfeeding provides FOOD and NOURISHMENT to a child! Having sex in public isn’t necessary. No one will die or get sick from not having sex in public- but that can happen with breastfeeding. Defecating in public is not allowed because there are bathrooms everywhere and it is dirty and unhealthy to do so anywhere you want. Breastfeeding might make you uncomfortable, but it is not in any way unhealthy to do so in public- it is quite the opposite. It is not a piss poor excuse- you just aren’t thinking.

      And touting a definition is unnecessary- especially when it doesn’t say ANYTHING about breasts. The breast is not a sexual organ- it cannot reproduce. It has become sexualized, but it is NOT sexual by nature and by literal definition.

      And I gotta ask- why are you okay with breastfeeding in private and not in public?


  1. Reblog: Normalizing Breastfeeding | Live Nakedly - May 30, 2013

    […] Can of Worms {a note from the mother behind the MotherWise photo controversy} […]

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