The humble roots of the #treeoflife breastfeeding movement

When Californian new mom Cassandra stayed up all night editing over 400 breastfeeding photos, she had no idea of the viral trend she would wake up to the next day.

Over half a million women have flooded the internet with their #treeoflife breastfeeding photographs, in a grassroots movement that started with real people and continues to grow thanks to the breastfeeding women fighting to normalize what's normal.

The Meaning of Grace posted about the phenomenon on the night it emerged, in a story that has since been picked up by mainstream media and is spreading like wildfire on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

I crashed out at 5am, and when I woke up #normalizebreastfeeding and #treeoflife were trending on Facebook and Instagram.

A few people had mentioned seeing a similar photo concept months before, so I can’t claim that I created the first #treeoflife photo, but knowing I started this amazing movement felt incredible.

Cassandra had never shared a nursing photo before, and posted her #treeoflife pic to her breastfeeding support group on Facebook. She'd been part of the group since her daughter was born, and it had seen her through the many tears and trials of early breastfeeding.

She offered to edit photos for members of the group and was flooded with comments and messages. Cassandra stuck to her promise - she stayed up all night and has now edited over 700!

It isn’t just breastfeeding photos. I have edited pregnancy photos, bottles, donor milk and SNS systems. Women from all walks of life are coming together and sharing their journeys.

It all began with a plan to mark the 12 month anniversary of her daughter with a nursing photo to hang on the wall.

"I had recently learned about how breastmilk was considered a living organism and it fascinated me. I chose to try and incorporate that into our photo. We had a rough beginning when we started nursing with tongue and lip ties, so this was something that was truly special to me. 

 Cassandra's #treeoflife creation

Cassandra's #treeoflife creation

While nursing her one day, I took a photo of her on my cell phone and decided to play around. I was able to add a flower to the photo in the Picsart app, but didn't really like the way it looked, so thought I'd try a tree instead and just fell in love with it. I had originally intended to take a professional photo with my camera, but I really loved what I had created."

Cassandra is a professional photographer, has a teething necklace line called The Happy Teether and is now the champion of the #normalizebreastfeeding movement!

Many women had posted similar images to social media in the weeks leading up to the viral uptake, including Brigette from Denver, who was inspired by the Tree of Life mural on the walls of the salon she works at - The Roots Salon.

Brigette said, "I am so proud to have persevered through those first 5 weeks of my crying, cluster feeding, 'stuck to boob', 'make you want to quit' breastfeeding. We are now 4 months strong, and breastfeeding is one my most proud accomplishments as a mom.

I don't mind the sacrifices, because I couldn't be more in love with my little tree growing, all from mamas milk, mamas roots." 

"Strong roots produce beautiful leaves."

We couldn't agree more xx