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Uncensored birth: Instagram updates their policy around childbirth photos 👏

This story contains embedded images of real births.


It's one of the most beautiful, inspiring moments in the human experience. Birth is an incredible moment for a mother and all who witness it. While often portrayed in the media as a waist-up shot of a fully clothed woman sweating and screaming on her back in a hospital bed, real life images of the birthing process are more diverse, more beautiful and more complicated, and until recently, more likely to be censored on social media.

If you've ever had a snapshot of your delivery removed from Instagram or Facebook, you know what we're talking about. Luckily, times are changing as #uncensoredbirth just delivered a whole new era of social media.

A spokesperson for Instagram tells Motherly the social network's "nudity policy is evolving to allow for photos and videos of childbirth. Over the past several months we have worked with birthing advocates and women's health experts to help craft this policy update that we believe better categorizes birthing imagery as educational and celebratory."

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Instagram admits its policies have sometimes been more blunt than they would like "which results in restricting content that is shared for legitimate purposes," but the people who power the popular social network have been listening to the moms and photographers in the birth community in hopes of refining technology and processes to make them more discerning.
Basically, the future of social media involves defining policies that keep birth and breastfeeding photos up, while still taking pornography and other images that violate terms of service down.

Katie Vigos is a mama, nurse, doula, and the influential Instagrammer behind the popular account @empoweredbirthproject. She has played a pivotal role in the evolution of how we share birth stories on social media, and her popular change.org petition was likely a factor in Instagram policy change.

"People are tired of being silenced and having all these really raw and real aspects of motherhood pushed into the shadows," says Vigos. "That doesn't service anyone, that doesn't do us any good. Definitely, over the last several years people have just been more and more hungry for reality and accepting of it. It's now basically culminated in uncensored birth."

Above: Postpartum doula and mother Lauren Archer made headlines last year after her birth photos (captured by Brian Archer) were removed from Instagram. The photo at the centre of the controversy was posted to Katie Vigos' @empoweredbirthproject and prompted a change.org petition.

Still, Vigos says she was hardly the David in a fight against a corporate Goliath. She credits the folks at Instagram (especially the women and mothers on staff) with recognizing the power of realistic birth and breastfeeding imagery and fighting with her, not against her, for years. "I started the Empowered Birth Project in 2014 because I wanted to show people what birth actually looks like, or at least present a real-life portrayal of birth, because it's always bothered me, the portrayal of birth in film and television," Vigos tells Motherly.

She says she was aware of what lines she shouldn't cross in order to avoid having photos removed, and while she "would push the envelope" from time to time, she really did try to play by Instagram's rules.

Above: Showcasing diverse birth stories is an important part of the @empoweredbirthproject.

"I was trying to comply but it was frustrating because they would still censor it when it didn't actually show genitalia, just like the suggestion that it's there. Or one time they took a photo down for a sliver of areola," Vigos recalls.

That's why some were surprised when, in 2015, Vigos says Instagram contacted her not to discuss removing her work, but to actually celebrate it in a very public way. "They hand-selected a few dozen people, Instagram users, to display a photo at a gallery in LA, and they selected a photo from my page of me breastfeeding my son. It was like you could see my whole breast, except for the nipple in his mouth, so it was a very bold statement on their part," she recalls.

Above: Instagram selected this picture for a gallery exhibition at a time when #normalizebreastfeeding and #freethenipple were trending and breastfeeding photos were frequently removed from various social media platforms.

She says once at the gallery, she met with Instagram's then Director of Public Policy, Nicole Jackson Colaco, and the COO, Marne Levine, "and they conveyed to me how much they support the birthing and motherhood community on their platform."

Shortly after that, Vigos says she was informed Instagram had added "an extra layer of protection" to her account, that would keep her photos (many of which are not hers, but rather photos from other mothers and photographers whose work she is amplifying) from being removed. "I would still occasionally get censored," she says, noting that she still expects some photos to get removed or flagged as Instagram moves forward with new network-wide protections, as that requires perfecting processes and basically teaching technology how to tell the difference between a photo of a nude person in the context of birth, and a nude person in the context of pornography.

Vigos believes her petition helped tip the scales in favor of the change, but credits a lot of the work to those behind the scenes—the women who've been working in the Instagram offices for years—bringing her cause up at meetings and in boardrooms. "I think what people don't realize is how much these powerful women in positions of influence at Facebook and Instagram—and most of them mothers themselves—what people don't realize is how much these women have been advocating for this change all this time."

In a statement to Motherly an Instagram spokesperson says, "We are always working to create better policies for our global community and we believe this update is a great example of that."

We believe it's an example of what happens when women, and mothers, are allowed to both be in positions of power, and tell our own stories.

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The bottle warmer has long been a point of contention for new mamas. Hotly debated as a must-have or superfluous baby registry choice, standard models generally leave new moms underwhelmed at best.

It was time for something better.

Meet the Algoflame Milk Warmer, a digital warming wand that heats beverages to the perfect temperature―at home and on the go. And like any modern mama's best friend, the Algoflame solves a number of problems you might not have even known you needed solved.

As with so many genius gadgets, this one is designed by two parents who saw a serious need. It's currently a Kickstarter raising money for production next year, but here are 10 unexpected ways this brilliant device lends a hand―and reasons why you should consider supporting its launch.

1. It's portable.

Every seasoned mama knows that mealtime can happen anywhere. And since you're unlikely to carry a clunky traditional milk warmer in your diaper bag, the Algoflame is your answer. The super-light design goes anywhere without weighing down your diaper bag.

2. It's battery operated.

No outlets necessary. Simply charge the built-in battery before heading out, and you're ready for whatever (and wherever) your schedule takes you. (Plus, when you contribute to the Kickstarter you can request an additional backup battery for those days when your errands take all.day.long.)

3. It's compact.

Even at home, traditional bottle warmers can be an eyesore on the countertop. Skip the bulky model for Algoflame's streamlined design. The warmer is about nine inches long and one inch wide, which means you can tuck it in a drawer out of sight when not in use.

4. It's waterproof.

No one likes taking apart bottle warmers to clean all the pieces. Algoflame's waterproof casing can be easily and quickly cleaned with dish soap and water―and then dried just as quickly so you're ready to use it again.

5. It has precise temperature control.

Your wrist is not a thermometer―why are you still using it to test your baby's milk temperature? Algoflame lets you control heating to the optimal temperature for breastmilk or formula to ensure your baby's food is safe.

6. It's fool-proof.

The LED display helps you know when the milk is ready, even in those bleary-eyed early morning hours. When the right temperature is reached, the wand's display glows green. Too hot, and it turns red (with a range of colors in between to help you determine how hot the liquid is). Now that's something even sleep-deprived parents can handle.

7. It's adaptable.

Sized to fit most bottles and cups on the market, you never have to worry about whether or not your bottles will fit into your warmer again.

8. It's multipurpose.

If you're a mom, chances are your cup of coffee is cold somewhere right now. The Algoflame has you covered, mama! Simply pop the wand into your mug to reheat your own beverage no matter where you are.

9. You can operate it with one hand.

From getting the milk warmer out to heating your baby's beverage, the entire wand is easy to activate with one hand―because you know you're holding a fussing baby in the other!

10. It's safe.

Besides being made from materials that comply with the FDA food contact safety standard, Algoflame boasts a double safety system thanks to its specially designed storage case. When put away in the case, the built-in magnetic safe lock turns the milk warmer to power-off protection mode so it won't activate accidentally. Additionally, the warmer's "idle-free design" prevents the heater from being accidentally activated out of the case.

To get involved and help bring the Algoflame Milk Warmer to new mamas everywhere, support the brand's Kickstarter campaign here.

This article is sponsored by Algoflame Milk Warmer. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Toxic masculinity is having a cultural moment. Or rather, the idea that masculinity doesn't have to be toxic is having one.

For parents who are trying to raise kind boys who will grow into compassionate men, the American Psychological Association's recent assertion that "traditional masculinity ideology" is bad for boys' well-being is concerning because our kids are exposed to that ideology every day when they walk out of then house or turn on the TV or the iPad.

That's why a new viral ad campaign from Gillette is so inspiring—it proves society already recognizes the problems the APA pointed out, and change is possible.

We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film) youtu.be

Gillette's new ad campaign references the "Me Too" movement as a narrator explains that "something finally changed, and there will be no going back."

If may seem like something as commercial as a marketing campaign for toiletries can't make a difference in changing the way society pressures influence kids, but it's been more than a decade since Dove first launched its Campaign for Real Beauty, and while the campaign isn't without criticism, it was successful in elevating some of the body-image pressure on girls but ushering in an era of body-positive, inclusive marketing.

Dove's campaign captured a mainstream audience at a time when the APA's "Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Girls and Women" were warning psychologists about how "unrealistic media images of girls and women" were negatively impacting the self-esteem of the next generation.

Similarly, the Gillette campaign addresses some of the issues the APA raises in its newly released "Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men."

According to the APA, "Traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males' psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health."

The report's authors define that ideology as "a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence."

The APA worries that society is rewarding men who adhere to "sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power that also restrict men's ability to function adaptively."

That basically sounds like the recipe for Me Too, which is of course its own cultural movement.

Savvy marketers at Gillette may be trying to harness the power of that movement, but that's not entirely a bad thing. On its website, Gillette states that it created the campaign (called "The Best a Man Can Be," a play on the old Gillette tagline "The Best a Man Can Get") because it "acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture."

Gillette's not wrong. We know that advertising has a huge impact on our kids. The average kid in America sees anywhere from 13,000 to 30,000 commercials on TV each year, according to the American Academy of Paediatrics, and that's not even counting YouTube ads, the posters at the bus stop and everything else.

That's why Gillette's take makes sense from a marketing perspective and a social one. "As a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man," the company states.

What does that mean?

It means taking a stance against homophobia, bullying and sexual harassment and that harmful, catch-all-phrase that gives too many young men a pass to engage in behavior that hurts others and themselves: "Boys will be boys."

Gillette states that "by holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behavior, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal 'best,' we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come."

Of course, it's not enough for razor marketers to do this. Boys need support from parents, teachers, coaches and peers to be resilient to the pressures of toxic masculinity.

When this happens, when boys are taught that strength doesn't mean overpowering others and that they can be successful while still being compassionate, the APA says we will "reduce the high rates of problems boys and men face and act out in their lives such as aggression, violence, substance abuse, and suicide."

This is a conversation worth having and 2019 is the year to do it.

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No one decides to be a stay-at-home mom for the paycheck—but if we were to earn one, it would put us in league with some CEOs. Although it doesn't do much for the bank account, a survey that calculated what the average salary would be for a stay-at-home mom is mighty validating. (Remember this next time anyone asks what you do all day.)

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Anna Faris understands that divorce isn't the end of a family, it's just the evolution of one.

Faris shares her 6-year-old son Jack with ex-husband Chris Pratt, who took to Instagram Monday to announce his engagement to Katherine Schwarzenegger.

When Pratt posted the good news Faris was quick to show up in the comments section with kind words. "I'm so happy for you both!! Congratulations!" she wrote on Monday.

Still family after divorce

Faris and Pratt announced they were separating in back in August 2017.

In a joint statement made at the time the two actors stressed that it wasn't an easy decision to come by, and that while they were no longer a couple, they would always be a team for Jack.

"Our son has two parents who love him very much and for his sake we want to keep the situation as private as possible moving forward. We still love each other and will always cherish our time together."

Not long after they separated, Faris was publicly linked to her new boyfriend, cinematographer Michael Barrett, and in December 2017, Pratt filed for divorce. It was finalized 10 months later in October 2018, making Faris and Pratt both legally single.

Pratt and Schwarzenegger have reportedly been dating since the summer of 2018, although neither acknowledged a relationship publicly until December, when Pratt posted a romantic birthday message for Schwarzenegger on his Instagram.

People reports the two couples spent Halloween together, taking Jack trick-or-treating, and on a recent episode of her podcast, Anna Faris is Unqualified, Faris shared that she and her ex-husband have been very mindful of how their post-divorce relationship can impact Jack.

"Chris and I work really hard 'cause we have Jack, that is sort of the long game idea and making sure Jack is really happy, which makes us really happy," Faris said. "We have sort of the luxury of circumstance. You know, we are both in other loving relationships."

The long game

For Faris, Pratt and so many other parents who are no longer coupled, Jack's current and future wellbeing is so much more important than their past relationship problems.

Research suggests joint physical custody (which Faris and Pratt have) is linked to better outcomes for kids than divorce arrangements that don't support shared parenting and that divorced couples who have "ongoing personal and emotional involvement with their former spouse" (so, are friends, basically) are more likely to rate their coparenting relationship positively.

Simply put: Shared parenting is good for kids, and getting along after a divorce is good for shared parenting.

An evolution, not an end

As clinical hypnotherapist Susan Allison wrote in her book, Conscious Divorce: Ending a Marriage with Integrity "It's time to replace terms like 'broken' or 'split' family for terms like 'bi-nuclear' or 'blended' family, showing that the unit is not lost but restructured, that the bonds of kinship continue long after a divorce."

They really do. A couple can uncouple, but they will always be co-parents. It's a different kind of bond, but it is still beautiful.

Writing for Motherly, Tara Rigg, whose parents divorced when she was 10, explains how she is now so thankful for the way her parents made co-parenting a priority and a consistent practice after their divorce.

"From the very beginning, special days were spent together. My dad would come over to my mom's house for our birthday dinners. He was always with us on Christmas morning when Mom would make a big brunch and we'd open presents together. We walked out together, one parent on each arm, at halftime in the Homecoming football game when I was a member of the court. Everyone was present and sitting together at my graduations," Rigg wrote.

Now a mother herself, Rigg refers to her parents divorce as beautiful, but admits, "This isn't to say there was never tension, or that everything was perfect. Even so, I knew deep down that my parents really did care for our best interests and were trying hard for us kids. I knew because of the way they treated each other in front of us."

Like Rigg, Faris isn't pretending that her divorce from Pratt didn't hurt, and that they haven't had tough moments since deciding to split. On her podcast, Faris made sure to acknowledge "that there is bitterness and pain with all breakups." There is pain and hurt, but there's also love—for Jack, and for each other.

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It's official: There is nothing Joanna Gaines can't do, because the mom of five who is juggling multiple businesses and plans for her own TV network is now launching a children's book (which she wrote with help from her kids—13-year-old Drake, 12-year-old Ella, 9-year-old Duke and Emmie Kay, age 8).

On Monday morning Jo posted the first public images of the book, called We Are the Gardeners, to Instagram. She noted that while it doesn't officially launch until March 26, it's available for pre-order now.

"We wrote this children's book together to tell the story of our journey in the garden—a story of trying and failing and trying again and never giving up," Jo captioned her Instagram post. "We hope it inspires you and your little ones to get outside, get your hands dirty, and grow something great!"

This is Jo's first foray into children's literature, but the woman knows her way around a best-seller list, having published Homebody: A Guide to Creating Spaces You Never Want to Leave and Magnolia Table: A Collection of Recipes for Gathering, as well as The Magnolia Story, which she co-wrote with her husband Chip.

Joanna Gaines has a way with words, and we're excited to be able to share those words with the next generation.

"The garden has always been a place that inspires me. There's something about digging deep into fresh soil or watching new life burst from what was not long ago just a tiny seed that reinforces what a gift life is," Jo said in a press release Monday. "I think that's part of why my kids have come to love spending time in the garden just as much as I do. It can be a great teacher, if we pause long enough to notice all there is to learn. Where every day can be a lesson in hard work, and sometimes even in failure, but where there's also growth worth celebrating. This book is our way of sharing what the garden means to us, and the many adventures we've had along the way!"

The 40-page hardcover book ($20 USD) is full of lessons on resiliency as the Gaines kids "chronicle the adventures of starting their own family garden" and all the challenges they face (like bunnies who eat their crop) while learning to grow their garden.

As Karen Petty, a professor of early childhood development and education in the Department of Family Sciences at Texas Woman's University wrote for Texas Childcare Quarterly, "Books that tell stories of characters faced with challenges or problems to solve are best because they can become the background for talks about the elements of resilience."

Basically, parents can help build resiliency in their kids just by reading them books that tell these kinds of stories.

"Helping children to become more resilient may be the most important thing that caregivers can do in providing a buffer against emotional hardships," Petty explains, noting that choosing story books in which characters are resilient in the face of some kind of adversity is a really simple, low effort way for parents to do this very important thing.

Some of Petty's recommended reading for parents looking to raise resilient kids includes The Invisible String by Patrice Karst, Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems, Blackout by John Rocco, and How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night? by Jane Yolen and Mark Teague.

We can't wait to put We Are the Gardeners on the shelf next to those modern classics.

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