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'We are the tree of life': Moms turn to app for unique breastfeeding selfies

Creators of the PicsArt app say they were alerted of a spike in downloads recently. Here's why.
/ Source: TODAY Contributor

It's the latest and most artistic take on the "brelfie" — the term given to breastfeeding selfies posted as a part of the movement to normalize public nursing. But the movement is fast reaching beyond breastfeeding and highlighting all kinds of baby-feeding methods.

Moms around the world are downloading PicsArt — a photo editing app — and creating "tree of life" selfies that depict their breast — or a bottle — as a system of roots, branching out into a tree in their feeding baby's mouth.

Samantha DeSanto created an image of herself and daughter Brea, 2. "Nursing her has been special to me because it's our time together," said DeSanto.Samantha DeSanto/PicsArt

"The photos are such a special thing to show the bond between baby and mother," said Caitlin Cornell, a mom who created one of the trending images. "It's amazing to watch my child grow through nourishment provided solely by my body...a movement like this makes me want to keep going through the hard days, odd stares and lack of drinking."

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Jenny Taranto created an image of herself and 6-month-old son, Felix. Taranto says she has been made to feel uncomfortable for nursing in public, something that led her to post her image on social media.

Caitlin Cornell and her daughter, Ophelia, 6 months. Cornell says she created the image to show others that breastfeeding is normal.Caitlin Cornell/PicsArt

"Women are incredible and we are the tree of life," said Taranto. "I am reminded of that every time I look down at my sweet boy, and my daughter. (Breastfeeding) is such a whirlwind journey — not always easy, but worth it. To be able to document the journey with a beautiful piece of art and also bring awareness to hopefully normalize breastfeeding is why I created and shared mine."

"Breastfeeding is something we should be proud of, not hide or feel uncomfortable about" said Jennifer Taranto, who took a photo of herself and son, Felix, 6 months.Jennifer Taranto/PicsArt

Amanda Mulherin is a YouTuber who focuses on motherhood and lifestyle posts. Mulherin recently stopped breastfeeding her son after a combined five years of nursing her two children, and says the PicsArt app provides a beautiful way for women to post a photo that may ordinarily be deemed controversial in a beautiful and artistic way.

Amanda Mulherin says she couldn't resist creating her own version of the trending photo, as she has always been fascinated with the relationship between mother and baby while breastfeeding.Amanda Mulherin/PicsArt

"Focusing on the tree that connects baby to mother — I love it," Mulherin told TODAY Parents. "I always speak to the breastfeeding relationship, and this app is highlighting just that."

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"I also love that mothers who bottle feed are using this app, too, because at the end of the day, a fed baby is a happy baby and that's all that matters," Mulherin added.

Meg South created an image of herself bottle feeding daughter, Waverly, 2 months. South says she has fed her children in a myriad of ways, from breastfeeding to formula to tube feeding and has come to the realization that "fed is best."

"However a baby is fed, that mother still pours her love, strength, comfort, calm, nurture and happiness into her little one," said Meg South, who captured a bottle feeding photo with her daughter with the app.Meg South/PicsArt

"I really just posted the picture to show that while breastfeeding is amazing and natural, not everyone can do it for various and valid reasons," said South "However a baby is fed, that mother still pours her love, strength, comfort, calm, nurture and happiness into her little one."

Mom Johanna Morton posted an altogether different take on the photos, creating a moving image of her 7-month-old daughter, Clara, who was born with severe heart defects. The image shows Clara's "trees of life," the pacemaker, feeding tube and oxygen she needs to survive.

"I wasn't able to breastfeed my heart warrior," Morton wrote in a Facebook post. "I was told my baby would not survive the pregnancy. I was told I should end the pregnancy, countless times. I may not have been able to give my heart warrior my milk, but...I did give her a chance at life."

Amanda Demeusy with son, Sebastien, 4 months.Amanda Demeusy/PicsArt

Megan Harmon is director of content at PicsArt. Harmon says while the origins of the trend are unknown, her company was made aware of the photos after seeing a dramatic spike in downloads of the PicsArt app. To date, Harmon says more than 500,000 woman have posted their "tree of life" images on social media.

Becca Kofonow says she created an image of herself and daughter, Finley, 20 months, because she felt it was "a lovely way to commemorate years of nursing."Becca Kofonow/PicsArt

"We just love when people are creative. And when people collaborate," Harmon said in an email. "We couldn’t be happier for the women who are able to share their special moments in such a beautifully artistic, yet simple-to-do, way."

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PicsArt recently tweeted a how-to video, instructing moms on just how simple it is to make an image of their own.

Samantha DeSanto created an image of herself and her daughter, Brea, 2.

"I love how the picture shows the connection and bond between mom and baby," said Danielle Solito, who created an image of herself and daughter Emma, 18 months, with the app.Danielle Solito/PicsArt

"I wanted something special to remember all the time that we (breastfed) together," said DeSanto. "Nursing her has been special to me because it's our time together with no one else, and no one else will ever have that kind of bond with her."