The Tree of Life Breastfeeding Photos are like the Confederate Flag, says ‘Dr’ Amy

I’ve been loosely following the Facebook explosions over the tree of life breastfeeding photos created using the PicsArt Studio app’s ‘blend’ tool and ‘magic’ filters. I’ve read lots of both ignorant and educated, random and intelligent, helpful and hurtful comments from folks on different sides of the issues raised. However, none has been quite as hateful, thoughtless, ignorant, shocking, disgusting, polarizing, deathly … you name it … as the one I came across on Amy Tuteur’s Facebook page yesterday (21 Dec 16).

The tree of life breastfeeding photos are like the confederate flag? Seriously? Are you kidding me? Is this for real … like for real, for real? My word, how far some folks seem willing to go to get unnecessary attention.

So, this is my reply to Amy Tuteur … one that won’t be buried in comments on her page or deleted.



Dear Amy,

We don’t know each other and we live oceans apart. I vaguely heard about you about 1.5 years ago or so during the Keep Britain Breastfeeding collaboration I participated in, to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week. What I heard, little as it was, was enough to help me decide that I couldn’t take your words seriously. Well, this morning, I came face to face with your words again, and I just can’t ignore it. How in the world can you compare the beautiful and magical tree of life breastfeeding photos to the ugly, hateful, and racist confederate flag?

Of all the symbols in the world to make your points, you chose a symbol like that? My word, what does that say about you. Is the your world that short of symbols that display pride, promote solidarity, and attempts to normalise certain acts / values / ideas / beliefs?

According to you website, you seem to be a very educated and worldly-wise person, with a degree from Havard and past employment in prestigious world-renowned institutions. You’re a writer, an author, a digital influencer … you’ve supposedly learned lots from folks “from every walk of life, every ethnic group, and every culture” during your medical experiences.

So, why was the confederate flag your chosen comparative image?

I’m not American, and even I know that this despicable symbol is one any sensible person will stay clear of.

I mean, what’s there to tolerate about this flag? Hmmmmm …. let’s see:

  • Denial of rights to some and horrific discrimination?
  • Hatred of the other: African-Americans particularly and all non-whites in general
  • Encouragement of the superiority of white people and champions of white privilege
  • Advocacy for a wicked and institutional system of oppression, dehumanization, unethical profiteering, forced labour, and so much more against black people in America

We are talking here about a symbol that was brought about to support, protect, and promote all the above and more. This includes the discriminatory application of the ‘one-drop rule’ – a nasty racist ideology that lives on today. You don’t have to look very far to see it action; check out what President Obama is called – the first black president of America despite being 50% white in his DNA, and even more in his upbringing. Let’s also not forget that the system on which this flag is founded is the remote cause of the need for the US Black Breastfeeding Week.

This is a symbol under which countless atrocities has been committed and continue to be; including rape and random / intentionally killing of those considered undeserving of equal life and rights based on their ethnicity.

We are talking about a symbol that represents the ‘rape’ of Africa by the West and the plundering of its culture, people, identity, land, and so much more. Let’s not forget the resulting troubled legacy of all these, which especially continues to impact the descendants of those affected by it, in different ways.

I mean, this is a symbol of death and destruction, one that considers one life as valuable over another, simply based on that which isn’t even chosen by the person… a very ugly symbol that now hides behind the preservation of heritage.

Amy, surely you know all these; right?

Now, let’s look at the tree of life breastfeeding photos:

They are expressions of individual women about a very important aspect of their motherhood journey. They spread like wildfire within a minority community that feels the disgraceful and unethical marketing and profiteering squeeze of humongous companies. And of course, the constantly scrutinizing gaze and the often unacceptable and ignorant expectations of the media and society.

To some, they are a beautiful (unattractive to a few) representation of triumph over pain, blood, lumps, leaks, soreness, engorgement, thrush, blocked ducts, mastitis, abscess, blebs / milk blisters, sleeplessness, bottle and formula pressure, the discomforts of pumping, nursing aversion, ignorant comments, inadequate support, ‘extended’ breastfeeding expectations… and so much more.

To others, they are empowering images to publicly and finally share a beautiful and selfless act they’ve been uncomfortable with sharing for so long, due to the fear of being misjudged and accused of judgement.

To lots, they are about normalising breastfeeding, the biological norm – sharing images to increase awareness and acceptance.

To most, they are about all the above, and more perhaps.

The tree of life represents the anatomy of the breast and some of its key functions. They are about the very special bond, confidence, and empowerment that these women have known through breastfeeding.

They represent life, joy, triumph, hope, and so much. Their heritage lies in human and animal survival over millennia. Oh yes, it hasn’t / doesn’t always work in particular cases, but generally, humanity won’t be here today without breastfeeding. Even our best modern alternative is sourced from animal milk.

Now, unlike the hateful flag you used, the tree of life breastfeeding photos did not arise from a place of hate, enslavement, oppression, discrimination, subjugation, superiority, and similar.

They showed women supporting, applauding, celebrating, and helping each other. Folks who could make the pictures helped those who couldn’t.

Indeed, I get how some women might have found the pictures painful to look at. We are humans, ‘hope deferred makes the heart sick. Not achieving a desired outcome doesn’t feel good, and when it comes to breastfeeding, for a range of reasons, the pain definitely runs deep for some. Also, if for whatever reason you feel judged, never mind if your perception coincides with the reality or not, encountering your judgement triggers will make you feel judged anyway, even if it’s not intended.

I have not come across any comment on a tree of life breastfeeding photo with a judgemental intention. This coming from someone who has seen lots of them on both Facebook and Instagram, including within my tree of life breastfeeding photos banter and gallery Facebook group.

Now, I’ve come across comments reacting to accusations of judgement and perceived misuse of the tree of life symbol. But to compare this with the confederate flag is unjustifiable, insensitive, and frankly speaking a case of white privilege.

I know you’ve deleted the image but it doesn’t make up for the harm you’ve done. Do you know how many African Americans see that image and shudder? What sorts of memories do you think they provoke and inspire, Amy?

And your apology … your edited apology … is supposed to make up for your lack of good judgement, insensitivity, and utter disregard?

You really “did not realise that it would be so distressing”? Really, Amy?

What was your comment on your 19.53 post on Tuesday, (no evidence given) that claimed that the tree of life breastfeeding pictures are “not normalizing breastfeeding”, but rather “normalizing bullying”?  Did you read the replies to it?

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It seems to me that you knew what you were doing … perhaps you were trying to gain more notoriety, as if you don’t have enough of it. Your thoughtless lack of consideration for those deeply affected by the hateful white supremacist image you chose is incomparable with any painful effect – individual and collective – the tree of life breastfeeding photo will ever have on anyone.

I need get some sleep for my VBAC, I hope you sleep well tonight. It’s so wonderful that the world now knows about your tolerance of white supremacism and your disregard for African-Americans, and indeed everyone who stands against all the confederate flag represents.

With pity, irritation, and annoyance,

An Afro-British breastfeeding and babywearing mother who highly hopes for a VBAC and plans to tandem nurse her toddler and baby, and wishes all mothers well in their mothering endeavours.


Is her apology enough?

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A letter to unDr Amy - the insensitive and thoughtless former OB telling her the difference between these images and making it clear that knowing how hurtful the later is clearly shows to any sensible and thinking person how incomparable it is with the former.

Is it Time to Stop the Breastfeeding Emotional Disclaimers?

You’re reading about someone’s breastfeeding experience … nodding in agreement or not … empathizing … sympathising … connecting with it on a range of emotional and intellectual levels …  then you get to the point or paragraph … the one that tells you about how the writer’s points are not meant to cause offence … how other options are okay too … and so on and so forth. Oh yes, bring on the tiring and unnecessary ‘breastfeeding emotional disclaimers’! Continue reading

My First Christmas as a Mum: What do we do for Christmas?

This is it, the last day of #12daysofparenting :-(. Today’s theme is: the first year Santa came / didn’t come / is coming. Thanks for hopping from Having a Baby and Living at Home if you did. 🙂 Massive thanks to Baby Bundle, Bambini & Me, Sand Art, Lycrawidow (Younique), Cuddledry, Fresh Photography, Gumigem, and Snooze Shade for our fab grand prize. Entries (UK Residents Only) are via the Rafflecopter at the end of this post. See the 12 Days of Parenting page for terms and conditions.

Christmas growing up when others are organising and making it happen for you, is one thing; making Christmas happen for others is something else. I can’t remember thinking of Christmas beyond my experience of the season when I was young, and even through university. Then zoom to last year with my 11 month old, my first Christmas as a mum … bring on the niggling about what Christmas should be like for us. Continue reading

I Love you Precious Sparkle, More Than You Know

Love Notes to My Son 1

Seeing the #NATIONALILOVEYOUDAY trending on Twitter has reminded me again of my almost 2 years old desire to write my Precious Sparkle love notes, and record more of our super special no-photograph little moments. It’s like I keep waiting for the perfect time to start writing, though I know there is no time like the present. Continue reading

I’m a Mum, Get Me Out of Here! Quick…

“I just fed you”, I dramatically said, as my little man tried to get at my food. I was so pleased he ate all I gave him earlier; I thought he was full up and I could just relax and have my dinner by myself. In exasperation and to my mother’s amusement, I heard myself say, Continue reading

The Un-signposted Quagmire of the Parenting Choices Supermarket

My word, no one tells you about all the different choices you have to make when you become a parent. You get comments about how simultaneously lovely and hard it is. But this is usually about labour pains and baby care.

As a woman who changed her mind about becoming a mother as often as she changed her clothes, what it might REALLY mean to be a parent didn’t even enter my horizon. My parenting experience was limited to distant observations of family and friends, and guesses about how some of my students might have been parented. I imagined how lovely my children will be without considering how this would happen. Continue reading

Rape is NEVER Right; No means No! #ConsentIs

The thought that someone could be forced, violently or not, to engage in a most intimate act, however this is expressed, confounds me. I can’t fathom the thought that anyone could possibly derive any real enjoyment from taking advantage of someone in this way. I can’t comprehend how and why someone thinks it okay to put another human being through such agonizing pain, humiliation, and shame. What a horrible exchange – a few moments of sick pleasure for such anguish.

When I learnt about the Crown Prosecution Service’s (CPS) #ConsentIs campaign, I had to get involved. My word, what part of ‘No means No’ do some folks not get? If it is not a clear ‘YES’, then it’s a ‘NO’!

No means No

You see, I’m a teacher and this part of the year includes seeing and hearing about many of my ex-students going off to Uni. It’s so wonderful to see them achieve so much and I’m always so excited for them as they start this new chapter of their lives.

This is unfortunately dampened with the fact that universities, with its irresponsible drink culture, now seem to be a place conducive to rape.

UK Universities, and indeed others around the world appear to have a so-called and disturbing ‘rape culture’. In the UK, about 1 in 3 female students are said to be sexually violated. In the US, it is 1 in 5, according to Lady Gaga’s really sad ‘Til It Happens To You’ video.

Sexual assaults, sexual coercion, groping, unwanted and forced advances, and other forms of sexual harassment are shockingly more common than one dares to imagine. How I hope that my ex-students don’t experience this ugly side of a place that is meant to be one of advanced learning and higher level thinking.

I hope they remember their brief lesson in RS about consent.

CONSENT is ONLY consent if and ONLY IF:

  • one is capable of giving it

  • one freely gives it

  • one is legally of age to give it

The CPS’ campaign also highlights that

“Consent may be given to one sort of sexual activity but not another.

Consent can be withdrawn at any time during sexual activity and each time an activity occurs.”


I will adjust my lesson this year to include these points, and I will spend longer facilitating a reflective discussion about consent, its purpose, its importance, its impact, and the effects and consequences of its violation.

I can’t even begin to imagine the cost of violated consent. As I said to my students yesterday, if we treat others the way we’ll like to be treated, the world will be a much better place. I doubt a rapist will want to be treated the way they treat those they prey on.

The Office of National Statistics’ annual report of crimes in England and Wales for the year ending March 2015, makes for grim reading.  Unlike the decrease in many areas of police crime records, sexual offenses and violence against people increased. The rise in sexual offences is the … GET THIS … largest year-on-year rise since 2002/2003 when the National Crime Recording Standard was introduced.

  • 88,219 sexual offenses were recorded by the police, 29,265 of this was rape and 58, 954 of other sexual offenses.
  • Recorded sexual offences rose by a whooping 37%, that is 23, 990 more than the previous year.
    • Of this, rape went up by 41%, and other sexual offences by 36%!

Some of the rise reflect the fact more victims are coming forward, especially in reporting historic offenses, and also the improvement in the recording of crimes. Sadly, there is also a rise in current sexually offenses.

See the Rape Crisis England & Wales for more relevant statistics, information, and support.

London’s oldest and largest Rape Crisis Centre, the Rape and Sexual Abuse Support Centre (Rape Crisis South London)” marks its 30 years anniversary this year. I’m sure a society where there isn’t a need for this kind of centre is preferable to most people. Rape victim referrals from the mental health services to their long-term therapy service has risen by 30%!

This centre and other related charities like Peterborough Rape Crisis Care Group rely on government funding and public generosity to fund their short and long term support services for Rape Victims. It’s crazy that their funding and that of other related charities are threatened, especially considering that the “reports of rape are at the highest levels they have been for 10 years”!

We live in a world where rape and other sexual assault is more common that our minds can bear to know – in places of education, on the transport system etc … a world where it is even used as a weapon in war. It affects children and adults, males and females, from every walk of life. It can happen to any of us and it’s NEVER the victim’s fault.

Let’s take action to embed the meaning of consent in our young and old, so that perhaps next year’s statistics isn’t so depressing. Let’s take action now so that less lives are destroyed. Let’s talk about what consent means and challenge any ignorance about it.

SEXUAL CONSENT is A RIGHT that we all have; it is MUTUAL, and not ONE-SIDED! No means no and sexual violation is NEVER RIGHT.

The National Rape Crisis helpline – 0808 802 9999 – is available every day of the year from 12 noon – 2.30pm and 7 – 9.30pm for confidential support and information.

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What do you think about this #ConsentIs
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Linkup: #SundayStars 18Oct15 (Amy & Heledd)

Breastfeeding to make my child clever, REALLY?

I recently came across headlines about a recent UK twin-based study that shows that breastfeeding doesn’t improve IQ. This of course reminded me of the Brazilian study earlier in the year that concluded that long term breastfeeding improves IQ, as well as education and financial achievements. These studies are considered to be more rigorous than previous related ones; they considered other potential contributing factors to intelligence like the mother’s social economic background.

I remember particularly avoiding articles about the Brazilian study when it was reported earlier in the year. In fact, I was quite dismissive of it because I didn’t feel it had anything to offer me. I however read a few blog responses to it; they mostly left me speechless, and some made me feel cornered.

In the main, these posts seemed to dim the light on breastfeeding mothers who might have felt jubilant upon reading about the research. I felt somewhat chastised that breastfeeding might possibly benefit my child in this way, because the study made those who weren’t breastfeeding for whatever reason feel bad. I walked away from most of these blogs without commenting; but I felt bad for their authors and hoped they found a way through how the study made them feel.

This new study particularly assures those who do not breastfeed for whatever reason, that their child is not consequently disadvantaged academically. A child’s performance on an IQ test is not determined by breastfeeding, hurray!

Breastfeeding to make my child clever

I’m intrigued by the silence about the funding source of the UK study, especially given its use of the term, ‘bottle-fed’ as opposed to ‘formula-fed’. ‘Why do I think this matters?’, you might wonder. Well, ‘bottle-fed’ does not rule out breast milk, and the study’s outcome challenges previously suggested causation or correlation between breastfeeding and intelligence. It is clear that the researchers mean, ‘formula-fed’, as opposed to ‘bottle-fed’.

This is not a problem in itself, but it would be if a formula manufacturer funded the research. It would look a bit dodgy … like they’re hiding behind a less emotional term. It would also raise concerns about the reliability and objectivity of the study … pumping money into studies with desirable outcomes is not uncommon.

I find it interesting that the NHS analysis post about the Brazilian study included references to breastfeeding problems whilst the one about the UK study didn’t. I wonder why. The basic results section of the UK study is also not as detailed, and there is no reference to the coverage of its implication in UK media like they stated in the Brazilian study. In fact the comment about our media’s response to the studies seems to imply a measure of bias somewhere along the line.

The reference to other benefits of breastfeeding in some of the articles about the UK study made me smile. It’s almost like they are saying, ‘just incase you’re breastfeeding to develop smarter children, don’t quit, breastfeeding has other benefits’.

I must confess that the headlines about the Brazilian study felt good. How lovely to think breastfeeding my child might mean that he would be smarter than if I hadn’t. I mean, who wouldn’t want this kind of secondary outcome for their breastfeeding effort, especially if you’ve had a difficult start like mine.

Even then, I know that the link between breastfeeding and cognitive development is problematic for different reasons. At the heart of it seems to be the difference between causation and correlation.

How can research clearly show that breastfeeding is the cause of better performance on IQ tests or higher earnings? Even then, how can studies conclusively rule out other nature and nuture factors that probably impact cognitive development?

I wasn’t planning on reflecting and recording my thoughts about these studies until I saw the ITV “Breastfeeding: Is it clever?’ post. You see I’ve never seen my breasts as a way to boost my child’s intelligence, however this might be measured.

As a teacher and lifelong learner, I highly value formal and informal education in my parenting. I also know that food – quality and quantity – can impact the readiness to learn, and indeed the interest in learning. Even then, I’ve never for one second seen my milk or the act of breastfeeding as a means to better cognitive development for my child.

In their post, ITV asked the following questions for their ‘Good Morning Britain’ show; below are my answers.

1. “Does this new research affect your opinion on breastfeeding?”

Definitely not. I have been breastfeeding for about 20 months before I came across this research, and indeed in spite of it. This study has no impact on the fact that breastfeeding is the biological norm. Knowing about the outcome of this research would have had no impact on my quest to make breastfeeding work for my little one and I during the difficult months of our feeding journey.

2. “Did you breastfeed because you believed it would improve your child’s IQ or benefit their intelligence?”

Definitely not. I wasn’t aware of any causal link or relationship of any sort between breastfeeding and IQ when I started breastfeeding. The improvement of IQ is too much of a dead weight for my humble but vibrant milk to bear. My milk has given my child so much already, and it continues to give him more than what some extra points on an IQ test could give him, or even an extra year of schooling, or extra pounds a year. My milk gives my child what money can’t buy – my presence, my warmth, and food especially made to order for him from me.

3. Was this “one of the factors that led to you breastfeeding?”

No. It would be interesting to see if any one breastfeeds because they think it would help their child’s intelligence.

4. “Have you never thought there was a direct correlation between breastfeeding and intelligence?”

Never.

So, what’s the overall implication of these two recent studies? I’m not entirely sure. They both make me feel like shouting from the rooftop that I don’t breastfeed to make my child clever. They definitely both have their limitations.

I suppose the Brazilian research potentially adds another smile line to the face of so-called extended breastfeeders like me, whilst the UK study removes a worry line for anyone concerned about using formula.

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What do you think of these studies? What are your answers to ITV’s questions?

BritMums Carnival: Breastfeeding and Work

Giveaway

MAM Baby UK is celebrating World Breastfeeding Week 2015 with you and I, and they are supporting my posts with a number of giveaways; including the MAM Breastfeeding Set for this Carnival.

Welcome to my first BritMums Carnival. It’s so exciting to be hosting my first blog carnival, and a World Breastfeeding Week 2015 themed one at that. 🙂

This is my first World Breastfeeding Week, and it’s been such fun and a lot of work celebrating it in different ways. Last week was all about the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt. I wrapped the week up by joining in with Emma-Jane Maternity Blog’s World Breastfeeding Week carnival, with my post about 5 Things to Make Breastfeeding at Work, Work. It’s also been fab hosting lots of breastfeeding products’ giveaway for you all.

I look forward to reviewing my engagement with this important Week, but I’ve got a Carnival to host first!

Carnival Posts

1. I (@aNoviceMum) blogged about my experience of breastfeeding after maternity leave. It’s an emotional issue that I really have to explore. I didn’t realise how important it was to be as prepared as possible for my return to work meeting, because I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t realise how emotional the process would be and how disempowered I could feel. The process touched on nerves I didn’t know were so raw, and in the end I had to find a different pathway to return to work. I’m so glad that I eventually found a way to make breastfeeding work for my family and I, as well as for my employers, after maternity leave.

BritMums Carnival b

2. Sian (@QFSheSaid) wrote about Working and Breastfeeding as part of her participation in the Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt. She rightly highlighted that the end of maternity leave doesn’t have to be the end of one’s breastfeeding journey. There are so many ways to continue breastfeeding when working mums return to work part-time or full-time. Sian’s experience about how she made breastfeeding her 11 month old work, with work is one to read. The NHS link she included in her post is also worth checking out.

3. @MummiesWaiting wrote about The Struggle of a Breastfeeder When Going Back to Work for this Carnival. Her childcare experience with feeding babies and toddlers prior to becoming a mum, and the impact of this on her thinking in relation to breastfeeding and work is one to read. She takes us through how she emotionally and practically maintained breastfeeding her 6 months old, after maternity leave. We need more stories of mums’ experiences of making breastfeeding work, at work. Her reference to coconut milk as her plan B, incase she didn’t have enough pumped milk got me researching.

4. @biscuitboxfox wrote about her new breastfeeding hashtag – #babygottaboob – for World Breastfeeding Week, to promote everyday brestfeeding images. She appreciates how the Week highlights unsensationalized breastfeeding stories that encourage support for breastfeeding mums and their families worldwide. She discussed the bad and good of recent exploration of breastfeeding in the news. Breastfeeding celebrity images are useful, #brelfies are beneficial; but there’s more to breastfeeding than the focus on its nutritional value which is common to these images. She challenges mums everywhere to join in with her new hashtag; another way to support each other on our breastfeeding journeys.

5. 4 of @PositiveAboutBF‘s bloggers shared snippets from their different experiences of making breastfeeding work at work. They summarised their journeys from feeling anxious about breastfeeding at work, to how they found ways to make it work for their family … from breastfeeding at a Bat Workers’ Conference to cancelling an early end of maternity leave … to long reconnecting feeds after work … to the option to express at work only if needed. Such encouraging and diverse stories are helpful reads, especially for working breastfeeding mums.

6. Julie (@juliecookies) blogged about Working Mom Breastfeeding Essentials. It’s so important for breastfeeding mums to know their breastfeeding at work rights. It enables them to plan how to continue their breastfeeding journey effectively and efficiently after maternity leave. Julie highlights things to do, as well as things to have, especially for mums who are planning to pump at work. Even though Julie writes for a mainly US audience, all working breastfeeding mums will find her tips useful. Her post makes me look forward to a time when breastfeeding breaks becomes statutory in the UK, in addition to normal work breaks. I’m also pleased that bathrooms are not acceptable designated places for washing breastmilk pumps in the UK.

Such useful posts, wouldn’t you agree? I hope you visit each of them to get the ‘full story’.

There will be future Carnivals, let me know if you would like to find out more.

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Do you think it is important for mothers to share their experiences about making breastfeeding work, at work?
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Giveaway

You can win a MAM Breastfeeding Set worth £75 whilst engaging with the carnival!

 

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5 Things to Make Breastfeeding at Work, Work

As we wrap World Breastfeeding Week 2015, I’m joining in with Emm Jane Maternity’s World Breastfeeding Week carnival, on this year’s theme of working mums and breastfeeding. They are also supporting this post with a giveaway of one of their Next Generation breastfeeding bras.

I gave little thought to breastfeeding when I was pregnant, much thought to returning to work after maternity leave, and no thought to breastfeeding when I did. Breastfeeding at work was something that didn’t even enter my mind. However, before I left the maternity ward after giving birth, I saw this NHS leaflet about breastfeeding and work and it got me thinking. Continue reading