A revealing breastfeeding ad — an edited version of which will air during Sunday's Golden Globes — earned hot-and-cold reactions for presenting the emotional reality for many moms.
Frida Mom's ad titled "Stream of Lactation" was published on YouTube this week to promote a new line of breastfeeding accessories. It follows exhausted women attempting to nurse their crying babies throughout the night. "Is it too early to contact a lactation consultant?" asks one mother, frustrated by a small amount of pumped breast milk. "Am I bad mom if I stop now?" asks another. "Good moms should know how to do this." One mother attempts to unclog a milk duct in the shower using an electric toothbrush (a tactic recommended by some doctors); another pulls cabbage leaves from her bra, a home remedy that can relieve breast engorgement as women wean their babies.
"Whether starting or stopping, breastfeeding is an emotional and physical journey full of highs and lows that many new moms are unprepared for," reads the YouTube caption. "We're lifting the veil on the challenges new moms (and their breasts) face as they DIY their way through lactation woes…"
The unexpected part? The ad doesn't censor the women's breasts — at all. "It’s the first ad to show lactating breasts on television and the most breast ever shown in this prime time slot," a spokesperson from Alison Brod Marketing + Communications, tells Yahoo Life.
Social media, as usual, didn't back away from a debate. "The good/bad/ugly truth of breastfeeding," one person wrote on Twitter. "It's nice to see someone show the reality of these things that are often tucked away," tweeted another. While on Reddit, comments ranged from "This made me cry. Very cathartic" to "I feel like they had a secret camera on me to film that commercial" and "Currently watching this while on all fours pumping to (hopefully) remove a clogged duct."
The reception was mostly enthusiastic but some didn't like the message. "I appreciate the representation, but as a [first-time mom] due in a few weeks, the hellish way in which lactation and breastfeeding is consistently depicted scares the shit out of me to the point of making me not want to try," someone wrote on Reddit. "… It’s good that people don’t sugarcoat the challenges, but can we get any positive messaging around breastfeeding and stories of anyone who had a positive or at least neutral experience?"
Someone added, "Just like the toxic positivity version of portraying motherhood, this message of martyrdom and struggle is equally as unhelpful to new mothers who are more likely to feel overwhelmed and discouraged by this message than understood and supported." And a doctor on Twitter pointed out that breastfeeding is made more difficult by a lack of support — the United States is the only nation among 41 that does not mandate paid family leave — and unrealistic expectations about breastfeeding. Another called the ad "predatory" adding, "Families need breastfeeding support, not gadgets."
According to Jennifer Meyers, a certified nurse midwife and Mayo Clinic spokesperson, the ad was realistic. "Many moms feel very alone in their postpartum experience, while struggling with pain, fatigue, sadness and anxiety," she tells Yahoo Life. "Breastfeeding adds another layer to that because it's not always easy."
She adds, "We also need more ads that show the uncensored female body to normalize breastfeeding. Sadly, our society is comfortable seeing breasts barely covered up by a bikini top, yet a woman feeding her child in a restaurant is viewed as 'disgusting.'" Meyers was pointing to numerous examples of women getting kicked out of stores and cafes for breastfeeding, despite the legalization of public nursing.
In a statement sent to Yahoo Life, Frida CEO Chelsea Hirschhorn says, “The reality is that women are blindsided by the physicality of breastfeeding — raw nipples, uterine contractions, painful clogs — no one tells you that it can be as painful as your vaginal recovery. It’s all part of the postpartum physical experience, but it never gets any air time because the end supposedly justifies the means. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.”
The ad's director Rachel Morrison, a cinematographer for Marvel’s Black Panther and the first-ever woman nominated for a cinematography Oscar (for her work on Netflix’s Mudbound), tells Yahoo Life in a statement, "As a mom I have never experienced a rollercoaster ride with such extreme highs and lows as the first few months after giving birth. My goal with the work is to highlight the fever dream incessant undulation that is a universal truth for postpartum care.”
Frida also took a risk last year with an ad for postpartum recovery products, showing a woman using the bathroom while wearing mesh underwear and a sanitary pad (which can help with postpartum bleeding). While the ad was banned from airing during ABC's 92nd Academy Awards show for being "too graphic," Frida released it on YouTube. "It's just a new mom, home with her baby," read the disclaimer.
“More specifically, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences guidelines say that the ‘advertisement of the following is not permitted: political candidates/positions, religious or faith-based message/position, guns, gun shows, ammunition, feminine hygiene products, adult diapers, condoms or hemorrhoid remedies’ during the broadcast,’” Hirschhorn told Yahoo Life at the time.
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