A resource to inspire, inform and empower parents.

A Badass Is Born: Breastfeeding Advocacy

In March 2012 I started a Facebook page called The Badass Breastfeeder. 10 months later there are more than 14,000 fans, growing business opportunities, Mama Tribes around the world and a steady stream of Mamas reporting that they receive a unique type of support from this community. I spend my days monitoring comments, writing blog posts about my adventures in Attachment Parenting, studying the world of breastfeeding support and trying to fill the gaps, providing support on the page and brainstorming with my Admins on how to better support the Mamas. As the page grows so does our collective imagination on how to manage our time, reach a wider audience and more effectively plant the seeds of gentle parenting in parents around the globe. I didn’t mean for this to happen. It’s difficult at times for even me to remember how this all unfolded.

When the page reached 10,000 fans my Admins and I took a moment to reflect on this journey. Each Admin remembered various stages along the way. Kristin and Amy remembered the page when it had about 5 fans and when we met for the first time at the zoo on a pouring rainy day. Dare and Alice reminisced about my call to them to join me on this mission. I developed a bond with them on the page very early and brought them in still having never actually met them. I had this feeling about them and I was right. Karen reminded me of my first blog post that inspired her to follow along and eventually become part of the team. I can recall very early on when Danielle messaged me asking if she could be an Assistant Admin when the page “got really big.” Secretly I scoffed at her, “sure, Danielle, whatever you say.” Amanda remembered the photo…  Ah, yes, the photo.

Abby Theuring, The Badass Breastfeder, breastfeeding in public.

When Jack was a few months old a friend of mine created a private mommy support group on Facebook. She added me to this group and I quickly became obsessed. I had never heard of such a thing. We could post whatever we wanted and no one would see. I could actually talk all day and night about my baby and these people actually wanted to hear it! Being a new mother can be isolating, I didn’t know many people who had babies, now suddenly I could post a question or comment and a fury of moms going through the exact same thing would respond. I logged into Facebook every time Jack nursed and eagerly looked through the recent posts excited to comment about my experiences. I got to know names of moms and their babies, we bitched about people, shared our difficult times, traded secrets and gave product reviews. I remember feeling like I could be in that group all day. I was hooked.

As I struggled with breastfeeding I learned that I had to use other resources on top of this group as not every mother there breastfed. As I ventured out into the other on-line breastfeeding resources I learned of Attachment Parenting. Parenting began to click for me; I found myself in this philosophy and made other connections with Moms who shared my enthusiasm. I still enjoyed visiting the group that my friend created and brought some of my new knowledge in as a part of the discussions. It was clear we were all feeling our way through these early days of parenting, each person still searching for their niche. It was not a group of like-minded mamas as we say. We were still trying to figure out what that meant for us. However, all the moms there were as enthusiastic as I was about parenting and there was a level of support there I had not found in other groups.

I was a regular at a salon and had become close with my hair stylist, Rebecca. I would show up early in the day and not leave until late afternoon. Tipsy from wine; massaged, waxed, painted, plucked, conditioned and colored from head to toe and everywhere in between. We cracked up the whole time and caught up on each other’s lives since the last time we spent the day together 6-8 weeks before. I used to send her e-mails about various things in between appointments. When I saw her again she would tell me how funny my e-mails were and what a great writer I am. She is always so nice to me, always showering me with compliments. When I became pregnant our relationship changed a bit because I no longer sipped unlimited glasses of wine or snuck out back with her to smoke cigarettes while the color set in my hair. However, my stories and e-mails had new life. I had too many stories now to fit into our appointments. With this new challenge my sarcasm and unique observations escalated. She was the first person to tell me to start a blog. She made me take notes about my stories while in her chair. It sounded like a lot of work.

I decided to quit my job as a social worker and stay home with Jack. Josh and I agreed to live off our savings for a year. Then I would think about caring for some neighborhood kids for cash. I could finally relax about the future. With this new found relief I decided to write my birth story. I relived the experience several times as I went through many drafts. It was therapeutic, emotional and exhilarating. It was difficult to finish because I kept getting off track. I had so much to say, so much to write about, so much I wanted to get down on paper. I told Josh that starting a blog might actually be a fun thing to do. It still seemed a bit outlandish that anyone would read it, but I was getting more interested in this idea. I started to jot down ideas of things I wanted to write about. My notes were now longer than the birth story itself.

Then Jack got sick. It turned out to be a stomach virus, but it was terrifying. We spent hours at the hospital watching Jack go through test after test. He was poked and prodded and strapped to x-ray machines. When it looked like he was getting better his temperature nose-dived and we ended up in the emergency room. More tests, more torture, more terror. It was the worst weekend of our lives. But we returned home with good news and we could finally relax. That week the weather got unseasonably warm. I spent every day outside with Jack. Life was sweeter than usual. I looked at life and Jack differently after that. This is all so delicate and vulnerable. There are no guarantees.

One of the days that week I was in the park with some friends. I asked my friend to take my picture while nursing Jack. This picture was special to me. It represented the positive outcome of that horrible weekend. The beautiful weather, the park, my Starbucks coffee, new mama friends, and my healthy breastfeeding baby boy. I decided to post it in the mommy support group. It was my introduction into the ugly world of breastfeeding controversy. The photo was overwhelmed with comments like “I’m all for breastfeeding, but I don’t need to see your boob,” “Why can’t you do that inside?” “I don’t get why people take pictures like this.” I was stunned. I was embarrassed. These were mothers talking to me like this, mothers that I had developed a bond with. Other moms had posted photos of their babies sitting on couches or chairs with a bottle balanced on the arm so that mom could walk away while her baby ate, but my photo was causing a huge stir. Photos were posted of babies crying it out in their cribs, but I was out of line. My heart raced and I could feel a lump growing in my throat. I wanted to cry, yell, curl up and hide. What was happening? As much abuse as I took under this photo there was plenty of support as well. Women swooped in to defend my photo. It was Facebook chaos. The unique thing to me still remains that this was a private group of only mothers. How could these women treat me like this? Even if they didn’t breastfeed or want to see the photo surely they could just scroll past it.

Then the photo disappeared. It was taken down. It had caused “too much drama” according to my friend and creator of the group. This caused another round of chaos. Breastfeeding supporters were furious. She messaged me that she was upset, felt attacked and heard rumors that I had planned an attack on the group. I had an adrenaline rush all day. I sat staring at the screen waiting to hear back from my friend who was clearly angry at me for wrong information she had received about me. I messaged her several times trying to convince her that I had not planned some attack on the group. I posted over and over in the group about random things trying to bury the posts. I went above and beyond, much more than I would do now, to smooth things over and convince her I was just trying to share a special moment. Things died down and I went to bed. I felt horrible. That yucky feeling of confusion mixed with anger mixed with shame. The next day the group was gone, completely shut down, and she “unfriended” me on Facebook. I messaged her asking what was going on. She was nasty and dismissive. She told me that it’s not that big of a deal, to get over it, that we have different lifestyles and can’t be friends. I had no idea that emotions ran this deep in the mommy world. I was new to this. I had no idea that breastfeeders and formula feeders couldn’t be friends. I certainly did not feel that way and still don’t.

It seemed wrong to me that people had to suffer this type of harassment for posting a breastfeeding photo. These were my favorite photos. Breastfeeding was and will always remain the thing I am most proud of as a mother. When I see a problem I fix it. I was upset about this incident, but I never wallow in my feelings. I have always dealt with my feelings with action. I had a fire in my heart. This blog that I wanted to start could have a public Facebook page. Women could share breastfeeding photos and be free from harassment. And beyond that I would share my own photos to normalize breastfeeding and advocate for other mamas. I would monitor the page myself, delete and ban anyone who looks crooked at us. I would share Attachment Parenting articles. I would write blog posts about breastfeeding and Attachment Parenting and share them on the page. It would be a small tight-knit group of like-minded breastfeeding Mamas.  My private motto would be “my way or the highway.”

Amanda said “You should call it The Badass Breastfeeder.”

Abby Theuring, MSW, The Badass Breastfeeder