Disclaimer: Post contains sensitive content and uncensored, real depictions of women breastfeeding.
One of my most powerful memories of breastfeeding takes place in a dingy, poorly-lit bathroom in the Army Reserve Center where I was at weekend drill, trying to pump milk for my 5-month-old daughter at home. I stood in front of the sink attached to a whirring pump while I carefully laid out all the necessary supplies on the counter: my special bottle warmer without an auto-shutoff, a digital thermometer, a stainless steel bottle, and a plastic bowl full of icy water.
Other soldiers trickled in and out in silence, the drone of the pump temporarily drowned out by the sound of toilets flushing, my strange setup earning me many curious glances.
After months of cluster feeding and colic followed by struggling to get my daughter to take a bottle, I had recently discovered my breastmilk contained an excess of lipase, an enzyme that helps break down fat. Mine was apparently so bad my daughter refused to drink my milk if it had been stored for more than an hour in the fridge.
In order to build up a decent stash to make it through my 12-hour days with the Army, I had to manually scald every single ounce. This involved heating the milk to the very specific temperature of 180 degrees Fahrenheit, carefully cooling it in an ice bath, transferring it into a bag, and finally refrigerating or freezing it.
I’ve always said that breastfeeding is a full-time job on top of the full-time job of being a mom.
It’s exhausting, frustrating, confusing, exhilarating, and defeating.
For me, it was not just time-consuming, it was all-consuming. It caused me hours of worry, doubt, and tears—and that was with two relatively “easy” breastfeeding journeys.
Above all, it was absolutely nothing like how I imagined it would be, or how it is so often depicted in the media, which seems to conveniently gloss over issues like clogged milk ducts, mastitis, sore nipples, engorgement, forceful let-downs . . . the list goes on.
So I wanted to stand up and cheer when I saw that an ad that normalizes both the beauty and difficulty of breastfeeding will air in tomorrow’s 78th annual Golden Globe Awards on NBC.
The groundbreaking campaign from female wellness brand Frida Mom features the tagline, “Care for your breasts, not just your baby.”
The ad was directed by Rachel Morrison (the cinematographer for Marvel’s Black Panther) and portrays breastfeeding moms in a truthful, messy, raw, loving, and vulnerable light.
It will also be one of the first times that semi-bare breasts, breastfeeding, and pumping have been shown on a network primetime show.
To which I say, it’s about dang time.
You can watch the full, extended version below:
The ad itself is one of the most realistic and relatable portrayals of breastfeeding I’ve ever seen. It features two real moms and their internal monologues as they struggle to navigate the challenges of feeding their babies.
“Latch . . . and latch better . . . and Oh, God, unlatch, unlatch!”
“Is it too early to call a lactation consultant?”
“And do I love my baby?”
“Am I a bad mom if I stop now?”
“Good moms should know how to do this.”
Frida Mom is using the campaign to highlight four new breast-related products targeted at postpartum women and to “lift the veil on the universal challenges that women and their breasts face,” according to the brand.
The 30-second edited version will run on NBC with nipples covered or blurred.
“It is an authentic display of motherhood and shows the essential but sometimes difficult act of feeding your baby,” an NBCU spokesperson said in a statement. “We partnered with Frida to share their message and protect their creative vision, while ensuring the ad complied with NBCU standards and other guidelines. We agree that the ad may push the envelope, but it is the context surrounding the visuals that makes this ad different, and we stand by it.”
Honestly, this rare glimpse of reality in advertising is a welcome change from the status quo, in which women’s breasts are often sexualized in the media instead of normalized for their essential function in feeding babies.
For me, the best part is the way the ad so beautifully reconciles the conflicting feelings associated with breastfeeding and motherhood in general—how something that is supposed to be “natural” often doesn’t come naturally, and how we can be simultaneously exhausted by caring for our children and completely enamored with them and dedicated to their wellbeing.
This is never more evident than in the final few seconds, as the women shift from talking about their struggles to the things they love about their babies:
“And I love his smell . . .”
“And wrinkled toes and . . .”
Suddenly, one of them is jolted out of a dead sleep at the sound of her baby’s cry, which causes her to knock over the pumped bottles of milk on the table next to her.
“Oh, f***!” she exclaims.
Because as every mom knows, crying over spilled milk is 100% justified.