The Breastfeeding Photo That Stopped Traffic

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What does it mean when a group of women step into the street and have their photograph taken while breastfeeding their babies? Here’s why a beautiful breastfeed photo went viral.

If you’re a breastfeeding mom and you’re on Facebook, chances are you’ve heard of The Badass Breastfeeder.  Abby Theuring used to spend her days as a social worker, helping abused and neglected teenagers and advocating for the rights of children.  Now – as a mother of 2, wife, writer, public speaker and activist – this dynamic woman devotes her time to advocating for and empowering fellow breastfeeding moms (while simultaneously tandem-nursing and parenting in a respectful, gentle way).  Abby’s passion for normalizing breastfeeding and helping women to feel confident in feeding their babies everywhere shines brightly and impacts many.

I came across Abby’s blog and Facebook page at some point along my mothering journey and loved her instantly.  If I lived in Chicago, I’m positive I’d try to be friends with her.  I find myself frequently sharing her articles and blog posts with the Holistic Parenting Magazine community, my clients and mama friends because her voice is so HONEST.  It’s so refreshing to hear a woman speak out on behalf of breastfeeding moms and babies in a real, true, empowering voice.

Recently, a picture in my Facebook newsfeed stopped me in my tracks.  A group of beautiful women, nursing their children, standing on an island in the middle of a busy Chicago street.  It was Abby – The Badass Breastfeeder – and her local badass friends.  There was something surreal about it…but simultaneously SO REAL.  I loved this picture and knew I wanted to write about it.  Looking into the eyes of these women, I see expressions of pride, determination, bliss, satisfaction, fulfillment and – of course- love.

What does it mean when a group of women step into the street and have their photograph taken while breastfeeding their babies?  To Abby, it’s about normalizing breastfeeding, keeping the conversation going and  “to show the mainstream that this is something beautiful and powerful, not to be hidden and not shameful.”  It’s simply 12 women and 13 children (love the tandem representation!) just doing what they do.  This picture is a magical moment forever frozen in time. These moms – all moms – are hardworking women who are devoting their time, love, energy and bodies to their children.

That’s exactly what Illinois photographer Ivette Ivans was going for: her goal is to capture a timeless picture to treasure forever – an image that makes you feel and relive the moment. As a mother of 2 and breastfeeding advocate, Ivette has a personal interest in creating images which convey the love and bond between mother and child.  When Abby suggested that they stop traffic for the pic – in an effort for a unique, out-of-the-box shot – Ivette loved the idea. The statement these women wanted to make was, “We are powerful, confident, and not afraid.”

Abby describes the excitement of the shoot best:

“The shoot was amazing and intense! We all gathered in front of the Tribune Building in downtown Chicago. We put our stuff on the side of the street and one of the mamas brought her teenage daughter to watch it. We marched to the median and got into position. The cars were going by and we were all so anxious and energized!

People started to gather and cars slowed down to see what was going on. Everyone was really excited. When Ivette had the shot we all cheered and ran back to the side walk. We were not in the middle of traffic endangering our children. The babies were cooperative, but I think they could feel the energy! One baby cried, but the shoot took about 5 minutes. There were no close calls with traffic – we were on the median.”

As a woman who’s struggled with an eating disorder for most of my life, motherhood has given my awful body image a run for its money.  I still struggle with negative thoughts and recovery is a choice I continue to make on a daily basis, but through growing and nourishing my children with my body, it’s given me a different perspective –  a new respect for this body I “have.”  My breasts are no longer just extra fat on my body that I wish would disappear – they are the amazing part of my body which has nourished (and continues to) my sons since their first hour of life.  Just as they are growing and thriving on my milk, I am growing, thriving and learning to like myself through their love.

As a doula, breastfeeding helper, mother and friend, I have a passion for supporting and encouraging other moms and empowering them to have faith and confidence in their amazing bodies.  I’m thankful for the strong, inspiring voices of women like Abby and passion and creativity from women like Ivette.

Support is huge. Abby said it perfectly, “I support all mothers, including mothers who use formula. But I do not accept that many mothers are led to believe that their milk is not good enough or in enough quantity to nourish their child.  This is usually an untruth and I stand firm in my advocacy for all mothers to be given the support they need to breastfeed successfully.”  I couldn’t agree more.

Even if you have yet to find your “mama tribe” in the real world, know that you are part of THE mama tribe – women birthing and nursing babies since the beginning of humanity.  All moms are hardworking women who are devoting their time, love, energy and bodies to their children.  This post and photograph are about breastfeeding….but whether you’ve never breastfed, nursed for 3 days, 3 months, 3 years (or more!), the definition of a mom is universal – constant, hardworking, unwavering love and devotion.

To be honest… there are many times when I feel more “touched out” than I can explain… and motherhood is definitely not easy… but when I stop and think that I will never again be so physically bonded to my children, I try to breathe and remember that these moments, though not always captured on film, will be forever imprinted on my memory and heart.

Abby wants to challenge the current cultural norms as as they relate to women’s bodies and keep the conversation about normalizing breastfeeding going.  As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  This one certainly speaks volumes – please share it widely and keep talking about it.  Keep supporting and encouraging the moms in your life.  Most importantly, keep feeding your babies everywhere!

abbybadass

 


6 thoughts on “The Breastfeeding Photo That Stopped Traffic”

  1. I breastfed two children. Despite the leaky breasts and unrelenting calls for my attention at all hours of the day and night it was the most marvellous bonding experience I will ever have. Despite the inconvenience, I close my eyes sometimes and wish that I could go back and begin the parenting process all over again.

    I’m sure you’ll call me old fashioned, but I don’t get today’s attitude that breastfeeding mothers not only must feed in public, but also expect to have it accepted. I’m not a prude, but it’s our bonding experience. The general public isn’t interested except in a negative way. What about their rights? It’s not their beautiful experience.

    There’s a lot said about not getting in the way of hungry babies. That’s when electric breast pumps come into it. Bottles can be kept for at least a week in the fridge and a couple of months in the freezer.

  2. I think it is great to have breastfeeding acceptance and visibility. I’m proud of these mamas for standing up for their right to breastfeed. Yet, this picture also reminds me how far we have yet to go to represent the diverse moms out there. As a butch breastfeeding mommy, breastfeeding in public carried its own array of dealing with assumptions (that my more traditionally feminine wife was the one nursing) and even concerns for my safety (flights to the conservative midwest). Poor women, women of color, etc. face similar hurdles. I’d like to see them represented here too, instead of what appears to be a mostly white, mostly traditionally feminine (perhaps intentionally emphasized) representation. Personally, this kind of representation is why I’ve never felt very comfortable in most breastfeeding support spaces. That said, I’m super proud of the way I’ve been a nursing mom to my little love.

  3. First off, I fully, 100% support Breast Feeding in public.

    Second, I respect an artist’s personal choice on how to best create and display their art.

    That being said, I find this photo a little sad. I understand that the subjects are Abby’s friends, but it certainly appears to say “Breast feeding is ok – for whites”. Perhaps there are people of mixed ethnicities present, but that’s not what first pops into my head).

    Frankly, I’m also surprised the photographer didn’t point this out while composing the shot (also, you misspelled her name. It’s “Ivette Ivens” not “Ivette Ivans”. (http://www.ivetteivens.com/)

  4. I love the message and I would completely love the image if it consisted of a racially diverse group of women breastfeeding their children. The message would have been 100 times more powerful. Too often white women unintentionally exclude women of color in their attempt to change US policy and culture. You’re not in this struggle along. Reach out to us to work with you.

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