Facebook’s War On Breastfeeding Mamas Continues

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International breast feeding logo

International breast feeding logo

When Emily was a newborn I had an open gash on my right nipple the size of my little finger tip.  It refused to heal no matter what I did.  It opened up all over again every, single time I nursed her, and she nursed practically all day, every day.    The exquisite pain tainted my mood and maternity leave to the point where I would cry nearly every time Emily latched on (and did I mention she latched on like all day, every day?).

I surrounded myself with people to support me in my goal to breastfeed my daughter.   In addition to the amazing support, education, and encouragement I received from an IBCLC (AKA my patron saint of lactating moms), I had a network of over 5,000 women on a breastfeeding support group on Facebook.

I would post to this group at all hours of the day or night.  There were many times when I thought I would give up nursing my daughter completely, but continued, boosted by the kind words of strangers around the world.

I remember posting at one point from my bed, in hysterical tears.  My husband was giving the baby a bottle in the other room because I was in so much pain, and so exhausted that I just could not put her to my breast.  Because of the trauma to my nip, I had not been able to pump, so he was giving her formula.  I wrote a post filled with anger, sadness, and self-recrimination.  So many warm and compassionate moms wrote to me on that night and it is no exaggeration to tell you that they gave me the strength to continue.

Emily will be two years old next month, and I still nurse her a few times per day.  I treasure every moment we share this unique bond, knowing it will not last much longer.  So, that makes nearly two years I’ve been a member of the Facebook group.  Sure, it is not the only group on Facebook for breastfeeding support.  I was a member of a few others, but this one was my favorite.  There was something genuine, empathetic, and non judgmental about these gals- all 5,000 of them.  Any mommy group has the potential to be rife with controversy and drama, but the admins did a super job keeping things cool and calm.  I also made a couple friends there, with whom I have maintained communication outside of the group and have been so thankful for their presence in my life.

I haven’t posted a lot at this group lately, but read the posts of others, and enjoy lending a word of kindness or support to other moms who share similar experiences to mine.  I never intended to leave the group, even when my breastfeeding journey came to a close (someday…).

Yesterday, I learned through a post over at Raising Mama that Facebook deleted this group of breastfeeding sisters and those who would support, encourage, and educate one another there.  The author of this post wrote so eloquently why this is such a loss for so many.  Apparently, Facebook’s rational for deleting the site was that people had posted “pornographic” photos.

The photos that were posted on the Breastfeeding Support page were photos posted by mamas of their babies nursing!

I never post photos of my self, kids, or family, but in honor of this BS, here is a pic of my beautiful nursling Emily at 22 months.

I never post photos of my self, kids, or family, but in honor of this BS, here is a pic of my beautiful nursling Emily at 22 months.

If a person thinks that a photo of a breastfeeding mom and her baby is pornographic, that says something much more damning about that person than about the nursing mom.   A human baby suckling at a human breast has to be one of the most natural and beautiful sights in the world.  (For that matter, animal nurslings are pretty adorable too, but I digress…)

Apparently, it is nothing new for Facebook to delete or remove women’s breastfeeding pictures.  Some women have even been banned or suspended from their Facebook accounts due to posting innocent photos of their babies nursing.  While it has never happened to me personally, I have heard many women talk about their frustration with Facebook over this issue.

Breastfeeding is not a “private act” that needs to be covered up and hidden.  It is a normal and necessary part of everyday life.  It is how babies were born to eat.  Breastfeeding has been imperative for the survival of our freaking species!  In my opinion, it is important to see and share pictures of nursing babies because it helps to normalize something that has become almost taboo in our society.  The very fact that someone would consider a breastfeeding picture “pornographic” is the very reason why we need to see more breastfeeding moms.  I’d like to see the backlash Facebook would experience from big pharma and the manufacturers of artificial infant milk (aka formula) if they tried to ban photos of moms giving bottles.

This isn’t a debate over breast vs. formula.  I’ve said it before, and I will say it again:  I don’t judge anyone for giving formula to their babies.  Heck, I mix fed with my son, and had to supplement with my daughter as well.  I am not an extremest when it comes to breastfeeding, but I do believe that breast is best, and I’ve got the science to back me up.  Unfortunately our society makes it very difficult for many moms to succeed at breastfeeding, whether due to lack of education and support, pushing formula on them from the moment they give birth, or insufficiently short maternity leaves to establish and maintain a nursing relationship.   For Facebook to further complicate this issue by deleting one of their largest (and in my opinion BEST) support groups for breastfeeding mothers is not just a shame.  It is aggressively insulting, harmful, and hurtful.

Support groups are essential for breastfeeding success.  Online groups are particularly important for moms living in isolated or rural communities where they may not be able to get to an IBCLC.

Somewhere out there, at this very moment, there is a nursing mom who has a question or concern and no one to talk to.  There is a mom in pain who does not know if she needs to seek medical help for a burning sensation deep in her breast tissue that could be thrush or mastitis.  There is a mom who is exhausted after nursing a babe through a growth spurt and questioning if she should give it up because she can’t take any more cluster feeding.  There is a mom who does not know that cluster feeding is normal and is questioning her supply, wondering if she should supplement with formula and not knowing she risks sabotage of her nursing relationship.  There is a woman who’s mother in law belittled her for nursing who just needs to vent.  There is a woman who has a history of sexual trauma who is being triggered every time baby comes to breast and she needs someone out there to tell her it is okay.  All these women will have to go elsewhere, or will have to be alone in their moment of fear or frustration.

I feel loss, and rage, and disappointment.  I wish I could tell the admins and other women how much they helped me, how grateful I am for their support that allowed me to continue with my own breastfeeding relationship.  I wish I could tell the members how much I loved seeing their beautiful pictures of their milk-drunk babies.  I wish I could tell them to hang in there because it gets so much better and they will never regret it.

I have friends all over the world on Facebook that I would not otherwise be able to connect with on such frequent basis.  So, will I leave Facebook?  Probably not.  But I will complain.  And I will continue nursing in public, posting my nursing pictures, and rocking my breastfeeding bumper stickers in peaceful protest.

Please feel free to share this post on Facebook and with any other breastfeeding mamas who may have been maligned by Facebook’s discrimination against nursing mothers and babies.  Because their ignorant and aggressive stance on breastfeeding is the truly disgusting, unnatural, and disturbing thing here.

Thanks for listening.  Momaste ya’all!

Author’s note:  I was later informed by one of the group’s admins that Facebook did not actually say they removed the group for pornographic content, simply that it did “not comply with their standards.”  Regardless, this writer believes that there was still a lot of hypocrisy and misogyny involved. . .  

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/daily-prompt-expression/

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18 responses »

  1. I am not even on Facebook but it is not the first time I heard about such things. I will never understand them: they have no problem with violence, bullying (we had several cases in Europe of teenagers committing suicide after cyberbullying), sometimes pornography but breastfeeding, OMG, so devious! Sometimes I wonder if it could have something to do with the fact that it bring them nothing in terms of advertising. Maybe we are too easily forgetting that the world leaders in baby formula and food are the world leaders in industrialized foods anyway and have big interests in social medias…. I hope from the bottom of my heart that those 5’000 moms will find other ways to be informed and taken care of and send them all my love

    • Horay for full-term nursing! I am beginning to think that my daughter is going to nurse forever. On one hand I love it, on other hand I’m not sure how long I really want her to. Thanks for the kind words.

  2. Thank you for yet another beautiful post! I’m sorry about the face book thing, that’s completely ridiculous. I don’t understand why a natural thing is such a big deal…

      • If it’s a group that not everyone sees (if that’s really a BIG deal) why bother. I just don’t get it. What is the big deal about breast feeding being so bad? It’s the most beautiful thing ever that we’ve been doing from when we were first created; it’s what we are made to do. It seems like it’s all over the media bashing it. And it eerks me.

  3. Pingback: Silly Sunday– A Photo For The Hypocrites at Facebook | momasteblog

  4. I totally feel you through this post! I am also part of a fb breastfeeding support group, and that group has helped me keep my sanity from day 1! In the ealy days, if I was having some sort of problem in the middle of the night, or baby was wide awake at 3 am, there was always a sympathetic and understanding voice to be found in that group. We supported each other not only through nursing, but baby growth and development and all the typical things that new parents freak out about (a 99 degree fever! just nursed 20 minutes ago! won’t sleep unless he’s on my chest! won’t sleep longer than 30 minutes! my gawd I’m delirious and losing my mind!).

    I do not understand facebook’s agenda against breastfeeding, as, like you said, it’s a normal, biological function, necessary for keeping this species alive. Maybe they have board members from Enfamil or Similac or… who knows. But what I do know is that there’s a whole lot of offensive, sexualized nudity all over facebook, and that stuff never gets taken down or deleted. It seriously irks me to my core!

    • Hi Hannah! Thank you so much for your kind and supportive words. Just tonight as I nursed my toddler, I was thinking of a question I wanted to ask the group, or rather, I fear weaning days are in the very near future and just wanted some support around this, and then I remembered, oh no!! They aren’t there! I’ve never experienced a loss out here in cyber space, so it is kind of a weird thing. I’m glad that you had a sympathetic and empathetic group as well. It is so important to the success of breast feeding for many moms. Thanks again and again for checking in with me- I love hearing from you!! xoxo.

  5. Thank-you so much for your kind words and accurate portrayal of the mysogeny involved (although they never explicitly stated it was pornographic, just that it didn’t comply with FB standards.. Unfortunately it seems that all of this is never going to get the group back. We have created a new group that I only hope will someday be as large as the original (although that took 7 years). Any mamas who need our support feel free to request to join.

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/216763495151419/219295988231503/?comment_id=219317761562659&notif_t=like

    Alison Kennedy

    • Thanks to YOU Alison. It is crazy that something that took 7 years to grow is just. . . gone. . . I’ve only been there for two years, so I can’t even imagine what it was like for you. After 7 years, you must be used to seeing a certain cycle of new moms with the same issues, questions, concerns, yadda yadda yadda, and yet you and the others always manage to stay interested, compassionate, and supportive. I don’t understand how breastfeeding pics can’t comply with Facebook standards, yet all kinds of other creepy, racist, mean, sleezy stuff is cool beans. Anyhoo, I’ve joined your new group and will try to contribute when I can (my now toddler-baby and 6 y/o son consume pretty much every second of my time when I am not working or sleeping… ) I always like to pay it forward, in respect to you, June, Liza, and the others who helped support my bf journey so much. I also blog a lot about nursing, nursing a toddler, nipple trauma, cluster feeding, the joys of bf after the rough stuff, and all sorts of other nursing related stuff, so that is also my pay it forward mentality… I think my next cycle or writing will relate to mourning once my lo weans, although she still loves her mama milk, I can almost sense her need starting to wane… we shall see. Anyhoo, thanks again!! xo!

  6. Interesting, when my first was born I also had a sore develop that was completely open on my nipple. It was so bad, it felt like someone was stabbing me with a knife when my daughter latched on. In short, I only nursed her on my left breast while my right nipple was healing. I would hand express as best as I could to relieve the pressure and once the sore was healed I put her to breast for a little bit until my nipple was healed correctly. We when on to then deal with a horrible case of thrush that caused 15 months of pain before I figured out what to do about that pain. LOL, I am a stubborn mom. 4 children, 15 years of total time nursing along with nursing irish twins, hehe. My youngest is now 7 and I miss those nursing times dearly.

  7. It’s interesting that you posted this. There’s a page of a man hurting a dog, many different pictures of him torturing this animal. When I placed a complaint to Facebook to have the “page” removed I got a response back saying that these photos were not a breach of Facebook rules. Yet they take something as beautiful and harmless as breastfeeding and remove it on the grounds of Pornographic material??!! How is this “fine line” established? How can violence be okay and child rearing not? I hope this letter reaches all of those women who helped you out. Thank you for sharing!

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