Raw new ad shows the reality of early breastfeeding in all its messy, exhausting glory

Over my own 20+ years of motherhood, I've written a lot about breastfeeding. My mom was a lactation consultant, I breastfed all three of my children through toddlerhood, and I've engaged in many lengthy debates about breastfeeding in public.

But in all that time, I've never seen a video that encapsulates the reality of the early days of breastfeeding like the Frida Mom ad that aired on NBC during the Golden Globes. And I've never seen a more perfect depiction of the full, raw reality of it than the uncensored version that bares too much full breast to be aired on network television.

The 30-second for-TV version is great and can be seen in this clip from ET Canada. The commentary that accompanies it is refreshing as well. We do need to normalize breastfeeding. We do need to see breasts in a context other than a sexualized one that caters to the male gaze. We do need to let new moms know they are not the only ones feeling the way they feel.



First Breastfeeding Ad To Air During Golden Globes www.youtube.com


But there's something else this ad calls to mind.

There are many people who think breastfeeding in public is inappropriate, especially around children. Undoubtedly, some people had that same reaction to this ad. To me, that's totally backwards.

I want my kids to see babies breastfeeding. I want them to see it so often and in so many places that they internalize the fact that breasts serve an important purpose and aren't primarily a sexual body part. I want them to see breasts being used for feeding a baby so they don't grow up being weirded out by the idea or always seeing breasts as "inappropriate" due to the over-sexualization of breasts in our society.

Hiding away the reality of breastfeeding as if breasts are shameful while plastering advertisements with barely-covered breasts all over the place is a societal choice we've made. I'd honestly much rather show my children the full version of this ad below, bare breasts and all, than an ad for sexy lingerie that makes itself palatable by not showing nipples.

Nipples are how babies eat. We're so accustomed to seeing nipples as sexual and therefore inappropriate to look at that we have created a society in which breastfeeding moms have to bend over backwards to avoid showing even a flash of nipple when feeding a baby. That's ridiculous.

My hope is that people might see this ad and understand why making a fuss over breastfeeding in public is cruel to new moms. This ad shows not just the physical reality of learning to breastfeed (which is often harder than people expect), but also the flood of thoughts that go through your head at the same time. All of that is enough for new moms to deal with. Adding undue concern about not showing anyone any part of your breast when you're away from home and baby's hungry is an unnecessary layer of stress that nobody needs.

The double, fully bare breasts during feeding is something many new moms do at home for various reasons and I'm not suggesting that should be the norm in public. What I am suggesting is that having to make sure no one sees any breast or nipple at all, ever, is silly when this is the reality of breastfeeding for many moms.

(If you really can't handle seeing breasts at all, you'll want to go ahead and skip over this video.)

Frida Mom | Stream of Lactation www.youtube.com


I have been through every single argument anyone could possibly make about breastfeeding in the presence of others, and the bottom line is always this: If you don't want to see breastfeeding, you don't have to. You have eyeballs that move freely inside your head, and if someone is feeding their baby in your vicinity, the easiest thing to do is for you to move your eyeballs a quarter inch. That's it. No one is ever forced to watch someone breastfeed, ever.

If a breastfeeding mom wants to find a private place or use some kind of covering to make herself more comfortable, great. She should totally do that if it helps her feed her baby more comfortably. But if she feels compelled to hide away or cover up because she feels pressured to do so by a society that can't differentiate between using breasts for sex and using breasts to feed a baby, she shouldn't. We use our mouths for sex, too, and no one has a problem seeing people talk and eat with their mouths all day long, right?

Good for Frida Mom for making such a realistic commercial reflecting the truth about new motherhood and the early weeks of breastfeeding. It does get easier (usually) but it's so important for everyone to understand the reality and see what it really looks like. Having a baby is blissful and beautiful in many ways, but it's also overwhelming and exhausting. Since the challenges of this stage of motherhood are rarely seen from the outside like this, let's remember that support for new moms—not just from loved ones but from society in general—goes a long way.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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