If you're on Facebook or Instagram you may have noticed a new hash tag recently: #normalisebreastfeeding. As the name suggests, the aim is to capture images of women breastfeeding to show that it is part of every day life. There are already over 31,000 photos on IG alone, many of them selfies, taken with a spare arm and proudly posted straight to social media while the baby feeds on.
Blogger Katie Rainbird is a passionate breastfeeding advocate and has posted lots of breastfeeding ‘selfies’ on both Facebook and Instagram. "I want to help break down the stuffy social attitude to public breastfeeding," she says.
Katie believes that it is a "monkey see, monkey do" situation. "The more women that see breastfeeding, the more ingrained it will become in our minds eye as a normal and accepted part of motherhood," she explains.
As well as helping to "normalise" breastfeeding, Katie also notes that the photos are a huge source of support to women who are struggling with breastfeeding or not receiving support from friends and family.
Rachel Fuller, president of the Australian Breastfeeding Association, echoes these thoughts. She says that many women have never seen breastfeeding until they have their own baby and photos on social media can help.
"Social media allows mums to be access realistic images of breastfeeding wherever they are, even if they are remote, and can't access a breastfeeding education class or friends with babies," she explains.
Rachel continues: "Seeing breastfeeding shows that it is a normal every day act, which can add to the comfort of new parents when breastfeeding out and about."
Alana Taylor agrees and says that if breastfeeding was more widely accepted as normal and natural then more first time mothers would choose to breastfeed. "I have a lot of friends who put their babies straight onto formula due to untrue and very misguided information," she says.
"It’s important to normalise breastfeeding so that the younger generations don't second guess whether they should breast feed - it will just be the normal thing to do," explains Alana.
As far as the breastfeeding selfie trend goes, Alana says the more pictures the better. "It's making people think about it and evoking a response. It's beautiful and natural."
But some mums disagree, and think that breastfeeding photos should be kept private." This is driving me nuts," says Rebecca* "I breast feed and I don’t have any issues with breastfeeding, but I’m sick of breast feeding selfies!"
"It's clogging my news feed and I don't want to see it, I don't need to see it. Yes it's part of life but why does it need to be on Facebook? Some people just don't want to see it and some people are offended by it, so where is everybody's respect in this?" asks Rebecca.
Rebecca isn’t alone in her dislike for the trend. Stephanie* says that while she is happy to breastfeed in public she "doesn’t see the need to put it on-line!"
Some women have suggested that posting breastfeeding photos could be upsetting for women who struggled to breastfeed. But breastfeeding advocate and peer supporter Sally* says that while she sympathises with the upset it doesn’t make sense to stop posting breastfeeding photos because of this.
"If we spent our whole lives worrying about offending people we'd never do anything. It could be 'you can't post that photo of a chocolate cake because so and so is on a diet'," Sally explains.
For many women, breastfeeding selfies are simply a souvenir of their breastfeeding journey. Some, such as Lauren Orr take this one step further and have professional breastfeeding photos taken.
"Breastfeeding was a big part of my story about the start of my journey into motherhood," Lauren explains.
The photos were taken as part of a family shoot that included every day activities such as eating breakfast and doing the shopping. Lauren said that it seemed "completely normal" to include breastfeeding photos too.
"It only felt natural to include documenting something I found so special. I never want to forget this time and what a privilege breastfeeding is," she says.
"When my memory is bad, I want to look at the photos and remember what an amazing experience it was to breastfeed."
To get involved, post your breastfeeding photos on your instagram feed with the hashtag: #normalisebreastfeeding.