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!
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. . .