I've spent years as a breastfeeding advocate, so my son's negative reaction to seeing a nursing baby totally threw me.

I had just finished writing an article about breastfeeding in public and was searching for a photo to add to it, when my 8-year-old son looked over my shoulder. He gazed at the image on my screen of a mom breastfeeding a baby with a confused look on his face. "What is she doing?" he asked, his brow furrowing. "That looks weird."

Photo by Johan Ordonez/Getty Images.


I tried to hide my surprise as I explained that she was just feeding her baby, but inside, I was floored.

I have spent most of my 17 years of motherhood advocating for breastfeeding moms. I've written multiple articles about breastfeeding. My own mother is a retired lactation consultant. All three of my kids — including my weirded-out son — nursed through toddlerhood.

How did that statement really come out of my child's mouth?

After a few minutes of reflection, I recognized where we'd gone wrong.

My son is the youngest child in our family and one of the youngest among our circle of friends. My older two kids had the benefit of seeing their younger siblings breastfed, in addition to seeing many of our extended family members and friends who had nursing babies. Because of that fairly constant exposure, they'd never blinked an eye at breastfeeding.

Photo by Ezequiel Becerra/Getty Images.

But I realized my son, by sheer circumstance of birth order, had rarely seen babies nursing. And seeing breastfeeding is the key to normalizing it.

A simple lack of exposure, plus immersion in a society where breasts are highly sexualized everywhere we look, equaled a kid who saw a baby on the breast as "weird."

It didn't matter that no one in our family had ever made breastfeeding out to be anything other than the natural way babies eat. It didn't matter that his father makes it a point to never make sexualized remarks about breasts. It didn't matter that he himself nursed until he was 3.

My son thought breastfeeding looked weird because he had not regularly seen babies breastfeeding. Not seeing it is what mattered.

Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

It's hard to believe that in 2018 it's still controversial to see a baby eat the way pretty much every mammal on Earth eats. But it is.

People can get way up in their feelings about breastfeeding in public. I've got the hate mail to prove it.

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post diplomatically refuting every argument I've ever heard against women breastfeeding in public. It has received hundreds of comments — the vehemence with which some people argue that moms who breastfeed in public are disgusting, immoral, looking for attention, or half a dozen other offensive, unsavory qualities is kind of unbelievable.

[rebelmouse-image 19346772 dam="1" original_size="682x460" caption="One of the angry responses to my suggestion that women not feel shamed for breastfeeding in public. Who knew that nursing mothers were responsible for crime, poverty, and divorce? Screen shot from Motherhood and More." expand=1]One of the angry responses to my suggestion that women not feel shamed for breastfeeding in public. Who knew that nursing mothers were responsible for crime, poverty, and divorce? Screen shot from Motherhood and More.

One lengthy email I received accused moms who feed their babies in public of "feminist tyranny," "digital lynchings," and a host of other transgressions. It's worth a read, if only for the jaw-dropping entertainment factor of it.

[rebelmouse-image 19346773 dam="1" original_size="604x469" caption="This is a mere excerpt. You can read the whole thing with my responses here. Screenshot from Motherhood and More." expand=1]This is a mere excerpt. You can read the whole thing with my responses here. Screenshot from Motherhood and More.

While extreme, these comments are also a window into how some people really feel about breastfeeding.

Society will never accept seeing breasts as anything other than sexual if we don't see more moms breastfeeding in public.

Yes, breasts have a sexual function. So do mouths, but no one has an issue seeing mouths being used for other purposes.

Breasts are not, primarily, sex organs. (And they are not genitalia, which is why comparisons with seeing penises in public are moot.) Their primary biological purpose is feeding babies. And if we don't see them being used for that purpose — regularly and out in the open — we will continue to see breasts primarily as sex toys, and people will continue to be uncomfortable with breastfeeding.

Photo by AFP Contributor/Getty Images.

That discomfort can have a detrimental effect on breastfeeding rates. Moms have all kinds of reasons for choosing not to breastfeed, and we all need to respect that. But feeling uncomfortable because breasts are hypersexualized should not be one of them.

Some people argue against breastfeeding in public because children might see it, but I would argue that kids are the ones who should be seeing breasts used for their original function without fuss or fanfare.

Please, moms, if you are choosing to breastfeed, and you're comfortable nursing your babies in public, do it.

Kids who see breastfeeding their whole lives don't see it as weird. But they do need to actually see it in order to counteract the constant messaging in advertisements and media that breasts are sexual.

Photo by AFP Contributor/Getty Images.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

Your weekly roundup of internet sunshine.

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If you need a respite or distraction from all that, we've got you covered. If immersing yourself in cute animal videos and feel-good stories of human awesomeness is wrong, who wants to be right? Nobody, that's who.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

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1. Fair Trade Woven Dark Gray Alpaca Blend Scarf

Celinda Jaco selects a cozy blend of Andean alpaca for this handsome men's scarf. Classic in style, it features fine stripes of white and black woven through the dark grey textile. Hand-tied fringe completes a distinguished design.

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