14 Jun Punk Mom Hannah McFaull’s Clothing Line Empowers New Mothers
by Marisa Torrieri Bloom
I’ve always prided myself on being this cool, nonconformist chick who plays guitar and loves feminist 90s rock icons. Yet all of my punk ideals went right out the window the moment I stepped foot into Buy Buy Baby for the first time in March 2012, six months pregnant.
There, in the section with breast pumps and nursing pillows, I discovered an entire aisle filled with “coverings” and nursing shirts I could register for to ensure that no one could see my bare boob as I fed my babe. In that moment, in that setting, it seemed like a good idea. “The pattern’s kind of cute,” I thought, as I registered for a few frumpy floral frocks.
Hannah McFaull, the founder of And Out Come The Boobs, totally gets me on that one. In fact, it’s exactly why she and best pal April Hobb launched their apparel line, a collection of seriously cool, upcycled/repurposed band and sports T-shirts with well-placed, discreet little zippers (across the chest or on the sides of the body) that make it easy to pop out your boobs and feed your baby. All while looking super cool and rock n’ roll (and not like a spring flower, if that’s not your thing).
“I was feeling like ‘I hate all these clothes,’ and ‘I hate that I have to fit into these boxes of ‘feminine’ and ‘floral’ and ‘pastel’ clothes,” says Hannah, who is based in Oakland, Calif., where she and hubby/Pirates Press Records cofounder Eric Mueller (aka “Skippy”) live with their two kids. “Those terrible options of clothing did nothing for me. [My friend] April was like, ‘hey we can sew zippers in shirts and see how that works for us’ since she was nursing at the same time.”
But the shirts aren’t just cool looking – they’re also part of a broader movement that emphasizes individuality, empowerment, and giving back. The AOCTB ‘Lactate with Love’ shirt’s profits go toward benefitting black doulas and lactation consultants through organizations like Roots of Labor, a doula collective, and Every Mama Matters, a black maternal Health Organization.
An added bonus: Rockmommy readers who use the code ROCKMOMMY20 at checkout get a 20% discount now through August 31!
We recently caught up, via Zoom, with Hannah, whose kids are 4 and 6, to learn more.
Rockmommy: Hi Hannah! Can you tell me about how and why you started And Out Come The Boobs?
Hannah McFaull: You don’t become a whole new person when you become pregnant. There are still things that are incredibly important for you, and it was hard finding voices on having those two identities at the same time. Two books were helpful to me: My Mother Wears Combat Boots by Jessica Mills, who played saxophone for Citizen Fish… and a zine collection [book] called The Future Generation by China Martens. They were two of the only voices out there talking about being a punk and being a rock n roller and being a parent at the same time.
When we first started AOCTB I was really pregnant with my second kid, and we did like 8-10 punk rock flea markets a year. And the amount of people who said, ‘we want to expose our kids to some really rad creators, but we don’t know how or where,’ got us really encouraged. We met some amazing people with some amazing punklings, and it definitely gave me a feeling of community as a punk parent.
And when we first got started, that was the same thing me and my business partner April, who has two older kids in their late teens, early twenties, and a little one in between the ages of my kids, who are 6 and 4, [felt].
Rockmommy: When did that moment come when you KNEW you needed to do this?
Hannah McFaull: That moment came not long after my first one was born, when I was feeling there was nothing out there for me. My background was working for nonprofits, such as prison abolition nonprofits, and human rights and women’s rights. And I intended to go back to that when my kid was born… but then I realized that I would be taking up space and resources — those organizations are small and scrappy for a reason. A lot of the work I was doing was getting up at 4 in the morning to drive to a prison to do medical advocacy… and I didn’t see how I was going to do the same work I was doing and be as impactful as I was before kids.
Around the same time, I was feeling like ‘I hate all these clothes,’ and ‘I hate that I have to fit into these boxes of ‘feminine’ and ‘floral’ and ‘pastel’ clothes. Those terrible options of clothing did nothing for me. April was like, ‘hey we can sew zippers in shirts and see how that works for us’ since she was nursing at the same time.
And so we tried it out. And at that point we’d go to parent-and-toddler music sessions, and instantly it was like ‘where’d you get that shirt?’ ‘Do you have ‘Etsy?’ It took us like two years to go from talking about it to being like, ‘OK let’s make this happen.’
Rockmommy: Even though I was progressive before kids, I found myself feeling pressured to use coverings. I didn’t think there was another option out there!
Hannah McFaull: There’s so much societal shame attached to women’s bodies, like menstruation, and keeping things a secret, and having code names, and we come from such a history of that. And yourself, looking back, you weren’t presented other choices. No one said, ‘you know what? You don’t have to be under cover!’ With my first kid, I had this black-and-white-striped cover that [my baby] would not nurse under. She would just grab it and rip it off, and she had trouble with latching that was made harder when I couldn’t see her. And I thought to myself, ‘None of this is helping! This cover isn’t helping. There definitely is a liberatory sense of, ‘you don’t have to making [bodyfeeding] a shameful or secret event.’
Also, I found a lot of the mainstream nursing clothes are really low cut, so not only do you feel weird when you’re bodyfeeding your kid but after you feel weird the rest of the time. I’m a large-chested human, so for my second kid, having the shirts we sell and wearing them on the go was a game changer. Also, I had a two year old, so there is no time to just sit quietly under a cover…
Rockmommy: How do we encourage and present bodyfeeding as an option that’s accessible and convenient (without making others feel ashamed of choosing other feeding styles)?
Hannah McFaull: One of the things I feel is done better in other countries is support from lactation consultants. Another factor is that we don’t have any paid parental leave in the USA. Americans are coming back six weeks after work, and for many birthing parents, you are still healing, have body parts that are producing brand new liquids for the first time…
There’s so much that could be done, but sadly profit and getting people back to work is a priority. You can’t really talk about promoting bodyfeeding without talking to those bigger issues. We have a shirt that is a constant fundraiser, the ‘Lactate with Love’ shirt… and all the profits go to expanding access to Black doulas and lactation consultants… through organizations like Roots of Labor, a doula collective, Every Mama Matters, a black maternal Health Organization. The organization we made the first donation to from our Lactate with Love shirts was Roots of Labor Birthing Collective based in Oakland.
Rockmommy: That’s a good point. If my son’s daycare teacher didn’t have to come back to work in two weeks, she might consider the benefits of bodyfeeding.
Hannah McFaull: Pumping in the workplace is another area where legislation could make a difference in ensuring people have access to somewhere safe and clean to pump, and that there’s somewhere to store milk as well. Another public policy thing to think about is traveling with pumps and breast equipment. I am thinking about a show called Emily’s Wonder Lab, and my kids absolutely adore her show. The first season was made when she was 8 months pregnant, which is really great visually for kids to learn that pregnant people can do amazing things. She just had her second kid, and the TSA prevented her from flying with breast milk. The guidelines for TSA agents are incredibly unclear. This shouldn’t have happened. If you don’t pump when you’re away from your baby, you’re at risk of mastitis.
Rockmommy: Another thing I wanted to talk about that’s cool is reusing and recycling fabrics! Can you tell me about that?
Hannah McFaull: We started with our own secondhand shirts. We are those people who go to shows and buy the black band T-shirt with the logo on them. All of a sudden I couldn’t wear them because I couldn’t get my boob out on time. So it was like ‘OK, everyone is sitting on clothing that doesn’t fit them or suit their needs right now. And we started out and bought 10 shirts on EBAY… and we spent ages curating these first ten! And now, we release four or five upcycled collections of shirts per year depending on how quickly we can sew. And we like to have a good size range through 4x — we have other lines that go up to 6X — and we try to be really intentional. We want to make sure we have a good size range. Now we find them a bunch of different way to get the shirts, we used to do a lot of thrifting before the pandemic, but some of that stopped.
Rockmommy: Can you do custom ones? Like if I wanted you do one of my band for a friend who is expecting?
Hannah McFaull: Yes, we’ve done some for people who are like, ‘this was my band in high school and this is for my drummer who’s having a baby!’ Some people will say, ‘we just want Dolly Parton,’ and we’ll send them six options and we’ll customize it. We release customs in batches.
Rockmommy: Do you take shirts back when they’re done bodyfeeding?
Hannah McFaull: That’s on my board for this year, to set up some kind of trade route where people can connect with each other. I’d like to see that happen more often!
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.