A person’s life dramatically changes once they become a parent, but that’s not to say new parents become completely new people or lose their sense of self as soon as they welcome a little one to the world.
…And Out Come The Boobs co-founders Hannah McFaull and April Hobbs started the company as two punk moms who had trouble finding clothing to feed their babies that also made them feel like themselves. They knew other people must feel the same way and started the company, named for the famed Rancid album, to help lactating parents reclaim their punk identities, one customized, up-cycled shirt at a time.
We caught up with McFaull to chat more about …And Out Come The Boobs and creating space for new, lactating parents to express and embrace themselves.
I’m curious what the road has been like for …And Out Come The Boobs from when you first started to now?
What’s the steepest learning curve you can imagine? It’s been a bit like that. We started with our own personal need for clothes to wear that made it easier to get our boobs out. Neither of us had run a business before. I worked for prison abolitionist nonprofits in fundraising and communication; April was a seamstress, bartender, pin-up model—she’s a human of many talents!
We had a good idea—one that makes an actual difference to people’s lives—and we’ve been trying make it work ever since then. Throw in more babies, moving houses, pandemic punk parenting (and grand-parenting), homeschooling, and all kinds of other shenanigans—our road from when we first started to now has been one step forwards and a cartwheel back. For about four years now.
We kicked things off with 15 customized, up-cycled shirts and a poorly designed Etsy store. We bought shirts we liked from eBay and picked a pretty mainstream punk collection. We joked that the first shirt to sell was going to be our least favorite musically—and no joke, the first one to sell was a navy blue Blink -82 shirt that we cut and sewed two vertical zippers into.
Since then, we’ve sewn over 1000 zippers into band shirts, sports shirts, and other rad shirts we thrift, find or are donated. Some of our shirts come from the wardrobes of our friends. We started printing some of our own when we struggled finding sizes to up-cycle bigger than 2X. It’s rare to find band shirts bigger than that. I know from friends who wear 4X or bigger shirts, it’s near-to-impossible to ever buy merch that fits. We’ve worked with five women artists and photographers to release our own designs. We have plans for more.
One of the raddest things we’ve done is partner directly with the bands to customize batches of shirts. The collaboration we did with War On Women was probably my favorite. I asked Shawna Potter (War On Women singer) if the band would be interested and the next week a massive box of shirts arrived, in a great range of artwork and sizes. We customized them and the band helped us get them on the bodies of their breastfeeding and chestfeeding fans.
We’ve made missteps and mistakes along the way. A lot of the time we’re frustrated because we just don’t have the bandwidth or time to put into place the amazing ideas we have. That’s what happens when care of your tiny humans is your full-time gig—Everything else becomes what you do in nap time or after bedtime. We’re mostly DIY and self-taught when it comes to the “running a business” side of it all. We’re lucky to have a bunch of smart and talented friends who have our backs and help us make our ideas happen.
Ultimately, we’re just making this up as we go along. We’re trying to stay true to our values and what we believe is important (like moving away from gendered language towards more inclusive dialogue about lactating bodies and families). We try to work with other parents of young children when we can, a group that experiences many barriers to the workforce. We donated a portion of our profits this year to an organization that supports increasing access to Black birth workers, doulas, and lactation consultants, because the Black maternal health crisis in the U.S. needs to be taken seriously. We expanded our shirts to include 6X and are continuing to pressure shirt manufacturers to do better in their sizing options. We know we’re making a difference to how people feel about themselves. It’s fucking rad.
On a related note, what has the reception been like? Obviously I’m sure a lot of lactating parents really gravitate toward this and being able to express themselves authentically, despite the fact that they might have a little one.
Clothing options for pregnant and lactating parents are mostly shit. They lean toward the pastel, the floral and the yuck. At a time in your life when your body is undergoing significant change, and how you feel about it is changing all the time, being forced to wear terrible clothes is an awful feeling. When we had our babies, we realized that there was a significant need for clothing options for punk, metal, goth, alternative parents. We customized some of our own band shirts to make them easier to get your boobs out. Turned out that other people needed them, too.
As with anything good, at the heart of it all is community. As Uncle Joe teaches us, “Without people, you’re nothing.” We have found a community of misfit parents, just like us, who love music, punk rock, and are just trying to raise kids who aren’t assholes. We have been with some of our customers through their first and second pregnancies; we’ve been the first thing they’ve worn in the hospital after labor; we’ve seen our shirts passed from one friend to another and to another. It’s fantastic.
When we launched our custom service, it was in response from people asking for up-cycled shirts from genres that weren’t our thing, or bands we’d never heard of. We probably do about 10 custom orders per month for bespoke one-off shirts. We’ve done Dolly, Prince, Selena, Biggie, Notorious BIG… You name them, we’ve sewn zippers into them! And some customers started with us on their own lactation journey, and now buy them as a baby shower gift for all their friends. We need to start a loyalty scheme!
Anything that makes it easier and more welcoming for people to live their true authentic lives is good by us. And that’s us helping new parents feel more like themselves while they feed their babies. Life doesn’t stop when you have a kid. You don’t stop being who you are, or liking what you liked before your punkling arrived. Your clothes shouldn’t hold you back from that at any point of your life.
Especially after immersing yourself in this space and from your lens, do you find that the space for new nursing and pumping parents being able to express themselves is improving, or would you say it’s still kind of boxed in or limited?
It only became legal to publicly breastfeed in all 50 states in 2018. Until very recently parents could legally be told to go somewhere else or cover up if they wanted to feed their kiddo. There’s still a long way to go in changing the culture around boobs and what they are used for and how we feel about them.
Until breastfeeding, chestfeeding, and pumping is encouraged and supported, then the life of lactating new parents continues to be tough, particularly when you consider the lack of paid family leave and the return to work for most new parents around six weeks post-partum. The USA is one of only a couple of countries in the world that prioritizes profits over health in this way, demanding the return to the work force and the separation of parent and baby within a timeframe usually considered too cruel to remove puppies or kittens from their litters.
New parents will only be truly able to express who they are, when they live in a world that is welcoming of their choices—about their lives, their kids, their bodies, all of it. Yes, there are more “pumping pods” at airports, more representation of lactating parents in TV and in movies, and fewer pastel options in the maternity section of Target. But until the needs of all parents are catered for—regardless of size, gender, race, or class—then what we’re doing is just the tip of the iceberg.
Do you have anything you are looking forward to in regard to …And Out Come The Boobs in the future?
One thing we have been working on is helping parents at the end of their lactation journey pass their shirts and experience on to other parents. Parenthood can be a very isolating place. Being connected with other punk parents can help remind you that you aren’t alone. Building community and supporting each other is something punks are great at.
Upcycling shirts is one way that we play a part in fighting fast fashion, however another is encouraging people to invest in second-hand and gently loved clothes. Another dream we have for …And Out Come The Boobs is a punk vintage boutique for lactating parents and their punklings. When we get the time, we’ll make it happen!
Is there anything else you’d like to touch on or add?
We try really hard to be as inclusive in our language as we can—we rarely talk just about nursing or breastfeeding, but instead use chestfeeding and pumping as well. We talk about parents, not moms and dads. It’s important to us to honor the experiences of trans and nonbinary parents, especially as so many other businesses don’t even try to. As a business owned by two white women, we also recognize that we exist in a space that has systemically devalued, delegitimized and dehumanized the knowledge, wisdom and experience of women of color. We made a commitment to donate profit from every item in our Lactate With Love range to financially support changing this.
We curated a series of playlists called GATEWAY! How to hook your kids on punk rock. Family friendly music that will help you grow the next generation of punks. The next one in the series is out now, in collaboration with our friends at Allegedly Records.
Photo courtesy of …And Out Come the Boobs and Hannah McFaull