Update on the Facebook vs. Breastfeeding Moms Debate

2.15.09: An interview with Best for Babes


Weeks after the virtual protest of Facebook'’s decision to take down some photos of nursing mothers, the debate continues. The group "Hey Facebook, Breastfeeding is Not Obscene" is now over 200,000 strong, and the controversy has recently been covered by CNN and the Dr. Phil Show. The group is planning a second protest on Feb. 21st.

Our poll shows that more than 79% of our readers agree that breastfeeding photos are not obscene. Yet, our reader comments and responses to media coverage around the globe suggest there are still unanswered questions. We asked the Best for Babes Foundation to weigh in with their thoughts on the controversy.

FP: Why do mothers post photos of themselves breastfeeding?

BfB: We think the main reason is that they are so proud of their achievement and so amazed at what their bodies and their babies can do! New moms today face more obstacles to breastfeeding today than our grandmothers did, so moms who succeed want to share their accomplishment, just like a runner in a race. There is also a great deal of awe and joy any new mom or dad feels watching the baby nurse and it is natural that they want to share it with friends. Finally, our Facebook photos reflect what is going on in our lives, and breastfeeding photos are no different--especially in the first few weeks, when mom and baby are working intensely to establish breasteeding, there is a whole lot of nursing going on, so it is hard to ignore!

FP: Should Facebook back down?

BfB: We understand that Facebook has a right to set their terms, and we very much appreciate that Facebook has issued a statement agreeing that breastfeeding is beautiful and natural. For us, the issue is consistency: while some of the breastfeeding photos removed clearly violate their terms, many do not. As moms, we have a much bigger problem with our kids seeing photos on Facebook of teenagers behaving suggestively, obscenely, callously or dangerously than we do with our kids seeing photos of moms nursing babies. Do some photos of nursing moms cross the line and make even us squirm a bit? Sure. But it still doesn'’t bother us in the larger scheme of things.

FP: What about people who are uncomfortable with breastfeeding in public? Shouldn'’t they be respected too?

BfB: Absolutely'—we understand because we used to be uncomfortable with it too! After all, breastfeeding in public has been taboo until recently. It might help to view it like other cultural changes: it took a while to get used to the bikini, or seeing people in their workout clothes. Americans are very flexible culturally--consider that Hummers used to be cool, now they are not, because we are more aware of environmental damage (it'’s hip to '“go green'”'—and breastfeeding dovetails perfectly with the environmental movement, it'’s the original organic!) We hope that with a little effort, soon breastfeeding will not only be tolerated as normal, but will be celebrated, admired and supported.

FP: Is there some good that can come from this controversy?

BfB: Although we do think it'’s great that this issue has put breastfeeding back in the limelight, we are sad that once again women are being pitted against one another and truly wish there would be less emphasis on stirring up the '“Mommy Wars,'” and more focus on the '“booby traps'” that continue to trip new moms up and bring a painful --emotionally and physically-- and early end to breastfeeding for so many women. The Facebook controversy is really a symptom of a much, much bigger problem that needs to be brought into the mainstream, addressed, and resolved; namely, that most new moms in America are not getting the help they need to succeed at breastfeeding and end up throwing in the towel long before they can even contemplate posting a nursing picture on Facebook! Too many of these women unfairly blame themselves for breastfeeding '“not working'” when, in fact, they have been set up to fail by a myriad of barriers including scores of hospitals and pediatricians who provide poor breastfeeding advice, lack of adequate health care insurance (lactation help is frequently not covered), poor maternity leave policies, and discrimination by employers, stores, airports, restaurants and the like. In this bigger picture, one can begin to understand that some of the '“militancy'” or extreme behavior comes about from frustration at the overwhelming odds stacked against moms who want to nurse. If we want militancy or extremism to diminish, than we all need to work together to remove the barriers, stop judging each other, and become more accepting of mothers who nurse discreetly.

FP: What can readers do who want to support breastfeeding moms?


1) Be gentle. Come from a place of acceptance and compassion; most mothers are far more open to hearing your experience than they are interested in being lectured to or told what to do. 2) If you see a mom nursing in public, give her a '“thumbs up'”! We usually just say '“Good for you!'” or '“Great job!'” as we pass by. Many new moms are very nervous about nursing in public and your encouragement gives them a confidence boost and sets a good example for others. 3) Ignore misbehavior. Yes, there are some moms who go too far and are looking for attention, but let'’s face it, flagrantly whipping your boobs out is not like showing that you are not wearing underwear or something! Most moms prefer to be discreet but it'’s not always easy with a squirming baby. 3) Join us to help bring about mainstream change. Best for Babes has a group and cause on Facebook, you can help spread the word and raise funds to educate more mothers about how to avoid the '“booby traps'” and help fight the barriers that are tripping them up. Breastfeeding protects against dozens of diseases, yet most of these diseases have millions more supporters and dollars than any breastfeeding organization. It'’s time we all stood up for the '“mother of all prevention,'” right under our nose!

For everything you need to know about breastfeeding, don't miss our Ultimate Guide to Breastfeeding.

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