Mama, there's no dress code for breastfeeding
Updated: Sep 28
BY HEATHER LIN, GUEST WRITER
I see the accepted narratives.
I see motherhood as society wishes us to see it. Wheat fields, flowing dresses, gazing adoringly at one’s child.
Not because I find those distasteful, not at all. But because I wish to challenge the norm. I challenge you to view motherhood differently.
Warrior. War paint. Armour.
The more voices, the better. The more varied perspectives, the better. The strength is diversity.
Tribal. Viking. Articulated finger armour.
“Should I wear my gold sneakers or my men’s shoes?” I asked Teresa, the edgy photographer sporting an envious, homemade undercut. “Men’s shoes,” she supplied without hesitation. Is it contrast that I wish to convey? Partly.
Strength, boldness, unapologetic presence.
Some people just give off “Don’t mess with me” vibes. The degree of intensity is a matter of personal preference, and I definitely wish to convey that sentiment. Don’t mess with me.
Because the world does mess with mothers.
Society exploits our anxieties as new mothers responsible for tiny, precious human beings. Society stabs mothers’ changing and ageing bodies. It stabs us through the heart with unrealistic beauty expectations.
Society wants to keep people, often women, afraid.
The more afraid we are, the less likely we are to challenge the systems of power that diminish us. The more afraid we are, the more willing we tend to be to buy, believe, accept the “solutions” to our “problems.” Keep them hungry. Keep them afraid.
To that, I respond, don’t mess with me. If you do, you’ll find this mother is ready.
She is ready with her thoughts and opinions examined, discussed and willing to change. She is ready with the company of women stronger and wiser than she, at whose feet she willingly listens.
She is ready with the vision of what kind of world her children will herald.
I did this photo shoot partly because I wanted to document a hugely important part of my identity, a breastfeeding mother. Partly because I am so proud of how much I’ve learned, how much I’ve learned to trust myself, and how simple a love between a mother and child can be.
I also did it because I wanted to normalise breastfeeding and working motherhood.
Don’t know what that contraption is? Find out. “That’s weird to see,” you thought. I challenge you to explain why. Is it because you’re not used to seeing it? Yes? Then why do you not see it? Why is it hidden? Why is it uncomfortable? Why is it confronting?
So, see it. Learn about it. Confront it. Celebrate it.
I am reminded of a male colleague who watched, in the staff room, as I gave the last bottle of milk I pumped to another pumping colleague, because my child had outgrown drinking it. He commented, “You ladies are amazing.”
Yes, we are.
I am heartened to know that this was his reaction and conclusion. See motherhood in all its forms. See it staring at you with war paint and armour.