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Facebook is Against Breastfeeding

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Guest blogger Rachel Sarah: What is Facebook's problem?

facebook breastfeeding

Facebook has been "pulling" profile pictures of babies nursing. The pictures have been reported as "obscene" and have been removed. The posters were warned not to repost or fear being kicked off of Facebook.

Really now. Nursing a baby is the most simple, natural thing in the world.

Angelina Jolie was featured on the November cover of "W" breastfeeding her twins. (The photo was taken by Pitt as she nursed one of them.) And the public seemed to take it quite well.

That's the point: breastfeeding photos are not obscene, they are inspirational. (And if you're on Facebook, surely you've seen some photos that really qualify as obscene.)

But mothers are speaking out. A group called, "Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!" already has more than 54,000 members, including yours truly.

The group asks: "What about a baby breastfeeding is obscene? Especially in comparison to many other pictures posted all over Facebook that really are obscene."

Members will change their profile picture to that of a nursing mother on Dec. 27 -- that's the day women will protest in person in Palo Alto at 11 AM. (The picture doesn't have to be a real mother -- it can be a mammal and her young in the act of feeding.)

The group will also be holding a "Nurse-In" at the Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California on Dec. 27 to prove that breastfeeding is not obscene.

For the record, I breastfed my kid for more than two years. I even made it into the Guinness Book of World Records for being one 1136 women in the SF Bay Area who simultaneously breastfeed her baby in the same place. (Woo hee!)

So you know where I stand. It's time for some "Lactivism!"

How about you? Should Facebook revoke its ban? Or this company policy good for business? Comment in the momlogic community.

Rachel -- the founder of Single Mom Seeking -- has an essay in the forthcoming Unbuttoned: Women Open Up About the Pleasures, Pains, and Politics of Breastfeeding (April 2009, Harvard Common Press)

Check out these other breast-feeding stories that made headlines:
Video: 8-year-old Breastfeeding
Salma Hayek Addicted to Breastfeeding
Angelina Poses For Mag While Breastfeeding

next: "Broke" Celebs: Kiss Our Ass
23 comments so far | Post a comment now
Trina December 19, 2008, 4:20 PM

I would ask: Is this Facebook policy, or is it Facebook caving in to a bunch of members who find these photos “obscene”? After that big stink a few years ago about a parenting magazine putting a photo of a nursing baby on the cover — a parenting magazine! — I’m no longer surprised that there are loads of people out there who are so prudishly squeamish about breastfeeding that they call it obscene.

Liz December 19, 2008, 4:25 PM

beastfeeding has been the main source of feeding an baby since….the dawn of time it’s worked for the last billion women who walked the earth why is suddenly wrong-facebook your insane!
it’s a women’s choice to breastfeed
but as for me
i’m all for breastfeeding a BABY!

abbysmom December 19, 2008, 5:31 PM

Aw Facebook, get a life

geen December 19, 2008, 9:30 PM

are you serious? a “nurse in”? what is that? if it is what I think it is, then that is a little too much and will not do anything to change facebook.

Mary E Tyler December 20, 2008, 11:48 AM

It is very likely that FaceBook’s policy is against the law in that state where FB’s headquarters is located. All but about 11 states have pro-lactation laws outlawing the harassment of nursing mothers that was all too common in the past. A legal angle might provoke as much action as a relatively quiet 54K person protest. Someone affected might contact LLL about making noise about bringing a suit.

Erich December 30, 2008, 12:57 PM

must confess that this controversy is fascinating to me… enough that I found myself reading posts from a number of sites (including Mashable) on this topic.

On many sites there is a large group that is quick to note that the company has the right to set policies as it sees fit. But on closer review of the story, I don’t think that fact was ever disputed by MILC. Those who are protesting are among the site’s users / customers. And history shows that many, many customers have leveraged either the power of protest, boycotts, or the prospect of generating unfavorable publicity to bring about change.

In the 1980’s, for example, many stockholders and customers pressured their companies to divest in stocks with any ties to South Africa as long as the country supported apartheid. Rosa Parks took what was once a perfectly acceptable “ban” in the Montgomery, Alabama bussing business—against black persons sitting in the front of the bus—and helped lead the charge that challenged the company and our country to think differently.

While restricting breastfeeding publicly (or banning it from publicly posted photographs) may not quite rise to the level of outright gender or race discrimination in the minds of many, there are significant reasons why women feel the need to rally for the freedom to celebrate breastfeeding on the screens of their Facebook pages.

It has to do with challenging a mindset I encountered on many blogs discussing this topic: that while breastfeeding may be a healthy way to nourish infants, it should be private.

The reasoning—which I can understand if not fully agree with—could be analogized to how most feel about using the restroom. It is natural. We all use restrooms. But we don’t wish to be reminded of it or have our children see pictures of people using restrooms on Facebook.

However, I believe such considerations are greatly outweighed by what MILC is trying to accomplish. And that is to mainstream breastfeeding itself. While there are moms who have posted that they breastfed their own children (hooray!) but would still insist on it being done in private, the fact is that you can only have so many times where a breastfeeding image is labeled “bad” before breastfeeding itself is viewed as “bad.”

How many blog posts that describe witnessing the activity as “disgusting” will there be before that becomes the mindset of future moms? It has taken millions of dollars and countless hours of public education and hospital instruction to convert a culture with “Leave it to Beaver” notions that even private breastfeeding is okay, and indeed better for the baby.

All the while, powdered formula companies chuckle on their way to the bank knowing that despite occasional “breastfeeding is better” reminders in their promotional literature, many moms will opt for their product out of embarrassment, in addition to situations where formula is necessary.

Perception drives practice. Only when we can be more matter-of-fact about the depiction of this healthy bonding between mom and her newborn will more moms will be matter-of-fact about nursing.

Paula January 7, 2009, 8:38 AM

This is so stupid I can’t believe it. We can watch cold-blooded murder on TV every day but we can’t post photo of a mom nursing her baby on Facebook…! What’s wrong with this world!?

This really upsets me. You can’t find a study anywhere showing the benefits of NOT breastfeeding a baby; but a huge amounts of benefits from doing it. It is natural and healthy and we are made for it! How can it be obscene?

Ella March 9, 2009, 1:38 AM

BFing is disgusting and wrong, and should be banned. Good for facebook, and putting an end to the stupidity of having a “parent” do that to their child.

Ella March 9, 2009, 1:40 AM

Good thing facebook banned. Nobody needs to see trash like that. A real parent would never even consider doing something like that to their child.

jane March 17, 2009, 2:58 PM

Breastfeeding is natural and healthy and best, but why do mother’s push it on others and post pictures of it! I am a huge advocate of nursing, but I breastfed my baby for a year and NO ONE saw my breast but my baby. I fed him in private, in the car when I had to, in dressing rooms, and at home. When I needed to, I pumped and gave him a bottle of expressed breastmilk in public. It’s not a big deal to keep it private. For Gods sake people don’t want to see pictures!! Take them and keep them for your own private memories of a special time and don’t put them on the internet. What celebrities do on covers of magazines has nothing to do with what you post on facebook, so don’t use that as a precident to say that it’s ok. FB has every right to call these pictures obscene, WHICH IS NOT TO SAY THAT BREASTFEEDING IS. Just keep it to yourself.

FBisstuuuuuuuuuuuuuuupid March 18, 2009, 6:35 AM


Nadia April 13, 2009, 2:41 AM

it is so gross. Don’t ban facebook. We need to keep it.

SA May 12, 2009, 8:00 PM

Did they pull all the pics, or just the ones that were a profile picture? The profile picture shows up everywhere on Facebook, and frankly I don’t want to see it myself. They are well within the right to keep others from being forced to look at someone else’s breasts. Get over it.

tanya May 12, 2010, 9:25 AM

i think facebook should have the right to decide whether it wants to sow those images of not. you don’t own facebook, you are using their service. you shouldn’t be able to force them to display somehting they don’t want to. if you want to share those pics, print them and mail them to friends and family, or email them, or post them all over your house. why do people think they have the ‘right’ to do anything on facebook??? i don’t think there is anything wrong with the pictures, but i do think that facebook should have control over what is on THEIR site. imagine you created facebook, and you were uncomfortable with any nudity and felt strongly that children shouldnt have to see it (keep in mind that profile pics are visible to everyone) now imagine people FORCING you to show these pictures on YOUR site! it’s not very fair to me….

tanya May 12, 2010, 9:37 AM

i totally agree with you. i breastfed my daughter privately as well. it is a private moment between you and your baby! i hate seeing other women with their breasts hanging out at the table next to me while i’m trying to enjoy my coffee. you have the right to breastfeed, but i have the right to not have you exposing yourself in public places! what is wrong with expressing some milk into a bottle before heading out? or if you MUST nurse every single time for some odd reason, cover up! i’m sure your baby will appreciate it as well. April 5, 2011, 2:49 AM

Facebook_bans_breastfeeding_ph.. Slap-up :)

Pharmk385 April 6, 2011, 10:44 AM

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Facebook_bans_breastfeeding_ph.. Neat :) June 2, 2011, 5:19 PM

Facebook_bans_breastfeeding_ph.. Corking :) June 2, 2011, 10:22 PM

Facebook_bans_breastfeeding_ph.. Keen :)

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