Instagram is renowned for shots of perfectly groomed, manicured and toned mums #livingthedream. But, a recent Instagram post grabbed women’s attention for its honesty and relatability.
Finally, it wasn’t about being perfect.
The ‘skin stretch’
The post, uploaded by influencer Instagrammer megan_rose_lane, shows the reality of the ‘skin stretch’ post breastfeeding. Coined by some as #freetheripple, Megan’s post normalises how our body changes after babies and why we should embrace it.
“I’ve never really seen anyone talk about what happened to their boob skin after pregnancy and breastfeeding, but I’d like to share it with you because after talking to lots of other Mumma’s I’ve learned that it’s sooo bloody normal,” she posted.
“Our skin stretches to accommodate all of our glorious milk, and as our babies empty our boobies and they fill back up the skin gets stretched over and over again. It’s definitely the one thing that I’ve struggled to accept about my body changing since having Esmé, so I’m not going to pretend I love it. I don’t love it 😂 it makes me feel less sexy and a little more self-conscious.
“But it also makes me feel proud of myself, and reminds me that I fed my baby girl for a whole year. I wouldn’t change our magical breastfeeding journey for anything, I wouldn’t change the bond it’s given me and my little pud pud and I’d take this wrinkly ass boob skin for those big eyes looking up at me, sucking away and getting all of the goodness from my milk every single time.”
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I’ve never really seen anyone talk about what happened to their boob skin after pregnancy and breast feeding, but I’d like to share it with you because after talking to lots of other Mumma’s I’ve learned that it’s sooo bloody normal. Our skin stretches to accommodate all of our glorious milk, and as our babies empty our boobies and they fill back up the skin gets stretched over and over again. It’s definitely the one thing that I’ve struggled to accept about my body changing since having Esmé, so I’m not going to pretend I love it. I don’t love it 😂 it makes me feel less sexy and a little more self conscious. But it also makes me feel proud of myself, and reminds me that I fed my baby girl for a whole year. I wouldn’t change our magical breastfeeding journey for anything, I wouldn’t change the bond it’s given me and my little pud pud and I’d take this wrinkly ass boob skin for those big eyes looking up at me, sucking away and getting all of the goodness from my milk every single time 🥰 #breastfeeding #motherhood #boobskin
Acceptance isn’t always easy
My own experience of breastfeeding was sadly short-lived. Both my sons refused to latch on, and despite much stress and many tears, I finally accepted it wasn’t to be. But I’m no stranger to the body image issues that come with motherhood.
My less than toned tummy is a testament to housing my two boys, my breasts are far lower than they once were and comfort eating while sleep-deprived and stressed has not been kind to my bum.
I won’t lie and say that acceptance of this has been easy. It hasn’t.
It’s a problem for many mums.
Social expectations and pressures
Juliette Thomson is psychologist and manager of the Butterfly National Helpline, which offers support for those experiencing body image issues. She says social expectations can be “overwhelming” for new mums.
“Research shows that social expectations and pressures around body image for some expectant mothers may seem to suspend during pregnancy, but this tends to increase and become more overwhelming after the birth of the baby,” she says.
Thomson notes that around 70 percent of new mothers attempt weight loss within the first four months postpartum, and there’s an increased tendency for physical comparison at six weeks postpartum.
“During and after pregnancy, a woman may experience dramatic changes to her body which are completely normal,” says Thomson. “However, this may come as a surprise to many mothers as these changes are not widely spoken about.
“Instead, there’s often some shame and stigma attached to these changes, fuelled by unrealistic expectations that can be put on mothers by themselves, others and social media image comparisons.”
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You are a miracle. And that is not up for debate. You can spend the rest of your life prodding and poking and weighing and dieting and hating and judging and questioning your worth, but you will always be a miracle. @melrobbins said the chance of being born is one in 400 trillion. ONE IN 400 TRILLION. You already won!!! You won against the biggest, craziest most impossible odds. You get to be here! You get to live and breathe and walk and talk and dance and laugh and experience rollercoasters and Christmas, gorgeous food and family time, sunbathing, mountain climbing, snorkelling and flying!! If you zoom out a little, you can smile at the fact you’re on this giant ball of rock, hurtling through infinite space, existing in human form… that alone makes you a miracle, a work of art and a total wonder. Holy shit, we are S P E C I A L!!! And we think that we’re broken and flawed and wrong and ugly. Would you ever call the branches of a tree ‘flawed’? Would you point out the texture of a cliffside and call it ‘wrong’? Would you say overgrown, wild grass is ‘ugly’? There are no flaws in nature. AND YOU ARE NATURE!!! Your wonderful human body is supposed to change with the seasons of your life, your skin is supposed to stretch and ripple and age. Flaws aren't real. One of our biggest mistakes as a culture is accepting that we have "flaws". We do not have flaws. We have differences, just as nature does. And those differences are what make us so utterly unique and beautiful. There's no such thing as a flaw in a system where perfection does not exist. You are a miracle. The minute you begin to realise just how valuable you are, for a million reasons beyond the shape and size of your body, your entire life will begin to change. You will demand respect from the people around you. You’ll believe in yourself and chase your dreams because you know you deserve to reach them all. Everything is possible when you are your own best friend + biggest cheerleader. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ #life #happiness #bodyconfience #mentalhealth #motherhood #postpartum #selflove ❤️❤️❤️
Stand against pressure
While it’s not always easy, Thomson says that taking a stand against pressure can be extremely helpful, as is speaking to other mums about the reality of body changes.
She also notes that it can be helpful to cull groups and celebrity pages on social media that elicit a shame response.
“Follow some pages that highlight, celebrate and accept the changes and functions of a post-baby body,” she says.
It’s advice that I’m taking on board.
Like Megan, I’m starting to accept my body for what it is. My lumps and bumps are not a reflection on who I am. Rather, they’re proof of the life and love I have born. I have many a ripple to show for growing my perfect boys, so if #freetheripple is the way to go, then let’s just embrace it and let it show.