Facebook vs. Breastfeeders: A Silver Lining & Bigger Clouds

By now you may have heard about the huge flap over Facebook removing photos of women nursing, the ensuing online protest on December 27th (Reuters) as it is being debated throughout the media, i.e. the Times, ABC News, the NY Times and lots and lots of blogs.  Discussions center on the issue of public breastfeeding, and whether Facebook can control social media information (SF Gate).  

Facebook is not budging on the issue but let’s look at the very fat silver lining.   In serving the interests of a few squeamish about nursing, Facebook’s tactic has backfired and breastfeeding is unexpectedly back in the limelight.   In the past few days, groups and causes have been sprouting up on Facebook like weeds—some nasty, but many very nice—in support of breastfeeding.  

Expecting Models Jessica Hebert

Expecting Models Jessica Hebert

 By the way, the glam photo of Best for Babes’   breastfeeding cover girl has not been taken down from Facebook, but it doesn’t violate their terms either, as far as we can tell!

Even non-profits in the breastfeeding movement, most of which have not yet dipped their toes into the potential of social media, are jumping into the ring and gathering fans.   We are thrilled to see the members of “Hey Facebook, Breastfeeding is Not Obscene” ratcheting up to 160,000 plus.   Those numbers may still be a long shot from other wierd random groups, but let’s give it a little time!   This issue is clearly striking a chord with women all around the world who have been made to feel embarrassed or ashamed of breastfeeding, as I was, even if it was just discreetly, under cover, around family.   
Let’s hope this latest internet furor, combined with the recent excitement over Angelina Jolie nursing on the cover of W magazine, or the birth of another daughter to the fabulously outspoken breastfeeding celeb Jennifer Garner can brighten the prospects for new breastfeeding mothers, or those on the fence.   Like Demi Moore did for pregnancy, we think that Angelina, Jennifer, Gwen Stefani, Jada Pinkett Smith and Heidi Klum could normalize breastfeeding quicker than you can say “Annie Leibovitz and Vanity Fair”  –but unfortunately it is harder to reach them than the pope.

If we get lucky, and breastfeeding gets a Bono, there is a chance that the media will shift the spotlight away from the Facebook/public nursing debate (is it just another “mommy war”?), to the insidious barriers that are clouding the breastfeeding experience and success of so many women.  The media has done a fantastic job covering new scientific studies about the benefits of breastfeeding, and we’re certainly glad that they have been covering the Facebook controversy, and mostly siding with breastfeeding moms.

We just wish they’d take start asking questions, like “why is breastfeeding more difficult in the U.S. than in other industrialized nations?”   Same species, same boobs, right?  The answer is a different culture. 

The sad fact is that that most U.S. women quit breastfeeding exclusively–despite their best intentions–long before they can even try nursing in public, or are even thinking about taking a photo of themselves and posting it on Facebook.   Many women throw in the towel within days or weeks of giving birth.   The social and cultural obstacles to breastfeeding are huge:  the disapproval of family and friends, the shocking fact that only 3% of U.S. maternity centers follow a protocol proven to result in breastfeeding success, the worst maternity leave policies of any industrialized nation, and workplace and health care discrimination, to name just a few.   Some doctors make herculean efforts to support their patients to breastfeed (despite being squeezed between health care paperwork and malpractice lawsuits); many doctors give it lip service (pun!) at best.   Despite clear evidence that the first few hours and days in the hospital can make or break breastfeeding, news that most hospitals perform poorly on breastfeeding support barely makes it across the mainstream radar, and is quickly forgotten if it does. 

In the meantime, we’re happy to have Facebook give breastfeeding moms all the face time in the media that we can get.



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1 Comment | Last revised on 01/12/2009


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One Response to Facebook vs. Breastfeeders: A Silver Lining & Bigger Clouds

  1. Ariana says:

    The last link seems to be broken.

    I could not agree more with your last few paragraphs. While I find promoting the benefits of breastfeeding to be wonderful, I’m ever so saddened by women who WANT to breastfeed but because of poor advice in the minutes, hours, days after baby is born have an incredible uphill battle. I feel that proper training and education of medical personell (especially those in maternity centers) would increase breastfeeding numbers more than anything.

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