Breastfeeding selfies: Why brelfies are 2015's top trend
Parenting site Netmums has named breastfeeding selfies as this year's top trend. New mum Chrissie Russell explains why she's on board the 'brelfie' bandwagon
I am not an exhibitionist. I never sunbathe topless and even own 'modesty panels', prudish little triangles of material to slip into necklines I deem too daring. But I have no problem getting my breasts out for a brelfie.
In case you missed the hashtag, a 'brelfie' is the latest mutation of the selfie trend. We've had 'healthies' (snaps of folk in workout gear), belfies (bottom-themed selfies) even 'shelfies' (photos of bookshelves). Brelfies are pictures of mums breastfeeding, often self-taken with whatever hand isn't holding the baby.
Last week the babe-at-boob photography craze was hailed as the 'top parenting trend for 2015' by Netmums, now practised by one in five mums. As an online phenomenon, #brelfies were a backlash to Facebook removing an image of a British mum breastfeeding last year and recently gained more Twitter attention after a guest on This Morning branded snaphappy breastfeeders as 'showing off'.
My brelfies are not protest pictures. I'm not a 'Lactivist' or member of the 'Breastapo', to paraphrase Bono, these are not rebel brelfies, they're simply photos that capture moments I find beautiful.
I'll wager it's the same reason most women take brelfies - or any selfie for that matter - it's a happy memory you want to record.
I'm not under any illusions that I look great breastfeeding. I don't. My six-month-old son, Tom, is a big boy and the comfiest way for us to feed is with me slumped and him sprawled like a sky-diver on my chest. He flails his arms around, clutching at cushions, my face and anything else nearby. But sometimes it's at my breast when he is most calm and serene, and when I look down and see his contented little face it's a lovely moment. And even though I'm dressed in a stained dressing gown with unwashed hair and bags under my eyes he looks up at me like I'm the most ravishing thing he's seen. I want to bottle that feeling - so I take a picture.
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There were the early days and the 'I'm really doing this!/ My boobs are magic - they've sent him to sleep!' brelfies, followed by the 'I can't believe he's still feeding' brelfies where you've being lying on the sofa and he's been suckling for so long you feel compelled to document the experience. There's the 'we've made it outside!' brelfies where, after so many hours on the sofa, you're stunned by being out in the real world and want to commemorate the fact.
We live in an Instagram era and it's the norm to record every thought and action in digital format - so why not breastfeeding?
Because, unfortunately, a lot of people have complex feelings about breastfeeding, ranging from distaste and awkwardness to outright hostility.
While breasts are all very well on the cover of magazines and red carpets, they're to be hidden away if there's a hungry baby attached. Part of it is because it's seen as a niche pursuit - a report earlier this year found that Ireland has the lowest rates of breastfeeding in the world - but there's also the mammary minefield of 'shame' whereby taking pride in breastfeeding is often perceived as condemning those who don't.
To me this is the real shame, that any mum would feel she can't celebrate her own parenting choice - whatever it is - simply because it's different to someone else's. I don't see a baby in a sling and feel shamed for using a buggy. I don't think photos of babies in cloth nappies are there to make me feel bad about using disposables. As a new mother, I'm far too busy questioning my own decisions to even imagine telling any other mum hers are wrong.
And yet fear of being too contentious makes breastfeeding mums wary. I belong to a closed Facebook breastfeeding support group and through the shared stories of sore nipples and wakeful nights I've come to think of them as 'my new breast friends'. Nearly every day someone posts a beautiful brelfie saying 'this is the only place I'd dare share this'.
Until now I'd been the same, taking my snaps and hiding them away, but increasingly I'm convinced that the more we try to stick breastfeeding in the corner or cover it up and hide our photos away, the more it makes it look like something shameful or abnormal.
I say get your brelfies out. Let's face it, this baby wrangling lark is hard enough - why not let it bring out the breast in you?
Supermodel model Gisele Bundchen showed how to feed with flair when she tweeted a brelfie of herself being pampered by three stylists with the hashtag 'multitasking'.
Actress Olivia Wilde breastfed in a fashion shoot for Glamour last September saying "Breastfeeding is the most natural thing. I don't know, now it feels like Otis should always be on my breast."
This month's Vogue Netherlands sees Victoria's Secret model Doutzen Kroes breastfeed her five-month-old daughter.
Singer Gwen Stefani posted a stunning brelfie on social media, against the backdrop of the Swiss Alps, as she holidayed with five-month-old son Apollo last summer.
US actress Jaime King celebrated her son's eight-month birthday with a brelfie captioned: "Breast-feeding shouldn't be taboo and bottle-feeding shouldn't be judged".