The Important Lesson Behind Those Celebrity Breast Pumping Pictures

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Credit: Instagram

As celebrity mums take to Instagram to share their breast pumping pictures, Caroline Scott explains why we should all be backing the breast pump selfie.

Why have we seen an explosion of stories about celebrities using breast pumps this week? Well it is silly season and in fact a debate on breast pumping feels like light relief compared to the depressing news of late. As the Publisher behind baby-magazine.co.uk, I was invited on to Mark Dolan’s show on talkRADIO to discuss the so-called “Mummy Brag”, prompted by a picture of Millie Mackintosh on her Instagram double pumping, while sipping on a glass of wine.

Personally, I was just as intrigued by her choice of rosé (Mirabeau, FYI) as her choice of pump (the super popular Medela Freestyle Flex), but frankly my reaction was “How sweet, she’s taking motherhood in her stride”. I haven’t met Millie, but I sense she’s a good egg. I was delighted that Mark Dolan also saw the positives in this image, saying “what a great picture of parenthood…that’s how to do it”. Indeed: Smile, go with the flow (pun intended) and make motherhood as fun as you can. If that means having a very small sip of your favourite summer drink, then (with guidance) go ahead.

 

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Multi tasking #motherhood 💗

A post shared by Millie Mackintosh (@milliemackintosh) on

So why are we now seeing lots of these breast-pumping pictures? It isn’t actually a new thing. Actress Rachel McAdams appeared on the cover of a magazine a few years ago draped in Versace, accessorised with a double breast pump. Celebrities no longer have the luxury of disappearing for 6 months, while they shift any unwanted baby weight, get their s**t together and then emerge looking remarkably refreshed… If they don’t post for more than a month, they will be TOAST in the influencer world!

So why do some people have violent reactions to these images? Well if you’re a man, it’s because you’re an unsupportive dinosaur. But there’s two types of women who don’t like these images. Those who feel it’s unrealistic, as most of us don’t look this glamorous pumping, and those who feel depressed about the fact that they can’t, or don’t wish to breastfeed and/or express milk.

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The reality is, being able to successfully breastfeed is something that some mothers wear as a badge of honour. Sadly, for some, it cannot be mastered by perseverance alone. And for others it’s not feasible for myriad reasons. I do not underestimate the negative impact that not being able to breastfeed can have on some mothers. Family Nutritionist Tanya Maher wrote a very moving account of her experience.

Are celebrities rubbing it in your face? No. And if you do feel like they are bragging, well it will prepare you for the prickly path that awaits, which is other parents showing off about their parenting skills and children – that they walk, talk, learn Mandarin and can code before yours can even greet you by your name. Trust me, my eldest child was still calling me ‘Dad’ while others his age were having full blown conversations with their parents. Now he speaks at length on any topic under the sun. And brace yourself, even your partner may suggest that they have superior parenting skills, as you sit there with your eyes closing over due to all-out exhaustion!

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These days celebrities have to be seen and present immediately and they’re simply not prepared to pretend there’s nothing awkward, difficult or messy about those early days and all that’s involved with breastfeeding or expressing milk. That’s not to say that it’s always this way, but it can be. Thank heavens they are doing their bit to normalise it. Hurrah for Millie and those like her – Pink, Chrissy Teigen, Stacey Solomon… the list goes on.

 

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I breastfed both of my children, one for 6 months until I returned to work, and one for 8 months, because I had a full year off. Did I express milk? No, I personally found the experience uncomfortable and after trying a few times, with both children, accepted that it wasn’t for me. In the same way that scuba diving isn’t for me (my PADI card is now gathering dust in a shoe box after a few scary incidents).

What did this mean? It meant I couldn’t be away from my babies for long amounts of time – a trip to get my highlights done was fraught with anxiety as I panicked about a hungry, crying baby at home. I also couldn’t really go out for an evening (I had to cut short my attendance at a dear friend’s wedding). And yes, I fully understand that being able to dedicate myself to my babies in this way was a complete luxury – I didn’t have to return to work immediately and I had a wonderful husband and super supportive network around me.

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I know it’s Father’s Day and all but my wife is pretty awesome. She’s taking me to dinner but still on mommy duty

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This is not the case for everyone. But I also encountered criticism, with people insinuating that I was dull because I left parties early. “Why don’t you just express? Are you seriously still breastfeeding? Why don’t you make your husband do the night feeds?”. None of your business!  And frankly, this is what parenting is about – doing it your way. What suits you, your family and what is best for your baby. Other parents, whether they are celebrities or your friends, are annoying. Get used to it!


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