Facebook is normally under fire for invading your privacy, but this week it’s in trouble for trying to get people to cover up.
Lactation activists – dubbed lactivists – have been protesting at its headquarters after it apparently labelled 30 photographs of a breastfeeding mother as ‘obscene’ and ‘sexually explicit’
The social network has defended its position, saying that it only censors photographs that show an entire breast. But it’s whipped the pro-breastfeeding lobby into a fury and reignited the debate about when it’s appropriate to feed a baby in public.
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I think Facebook is in the wrong, but I also think mums make a mistake when they share pictures of their breastfeeding babies. Here’s why…
Getting something off my chest
Almost every moment of my son’s short life has been photographed; his first bath, first time in a high chair, first meal, first smiles. I even photographed the washing line the first time I cleaned his little vests.
But in the nine months I’ve been a mother, there isn’t a single photograph of me breastfeeding. This has been a conscious decision and it isn’t one I regret.
Breastfeeding is an intimate, bonding time that I cherish but so is changing my son’s nappy; we laugh, I kiss his tummy, I sing. I’m happy to do either of those things in public, but I also wouldn’t take pictures and put them online.
[Related video: Breastfeeding in public: right or wrong?]
One day, my little boy will be a teenager and then an adult. He could easily be mortified by finding pictures of himself breastfeeding – and once you’ve uploaded them to Facebook, you can never guarantee they’re not online somewhere. Some friend will print them off and plaster them all over his 18th birthday party one day.
Admittedly, Facebook hasn’t dealt with this well. A baby clamped onto a boob may be many things to many people – charming, offensive, natural; but it is not sexual and should not be taken down.
But before you do share pictures, please remember that your beautiful giggly baby is going to become a surly teen at some point. Photos of themselves suckling Mum’s nipple are probably grounds to leave home.
Ready to do breastfeeding battle
I have a lot of reason to be grateful to lactivists. Because of their campaigning there’s greater awareness of breastfeeding and it’s made life easier for me.
Café staff have brought me glasses of water, strangers have nodded supportively, elderly people have given up their seats.
[Related story: Does breastfeeding improve a baby's life chances?]
On one occasion, a man walked towards me frowning and I braced myself to do battle, but it turned out that I had dropped my bag and he was returning it. I was actually a little disappointed
The breastfeeding mafia
But while I may be grateful to lactivists who paved the way for my public breastfeeding, I have no time at all for the militant milkers who place even more pressure on new mums.
I’d say that roughly half of my mum friends breastfed to six months or more. The other half either chose not to, or found it too hard, and most of them still feel guilty.
One mum couldn’t get her baby to latch on and so pumped milk for her instead. For the first few months she spent half her day pumping and the other half feeding the baby what she’d pumped. Yet she felt guilty when she finally stopped at five and a half months.
[Related video: Does breastfeeding help you bond with your baby?]
Another mum-to-be friend of mine confessed that she didn’t really like the idea of breastfeeding. The way she lowered her voice, it was as if she was confessing to having chain-smoked throughout pregnancy! She should not be feeling that kind of pressure, it’s formula not rat poison!
Motherhood seems to be one long stretch of guilt, strung together by nappy changes. I shouldn’t watch TV with the baby in the room but I do, I should cook all his meals instead of cheating with Ella’s Kitchen, I should sing and chat in the morning instead of staring blankly into space while he eats a banana.
It’s up to the NHS to show that breast is best for babies; mothers should leave other mothers alone.
Censorship or just good taste?
So what do you think? Have you uploaded breastfeeding pictures to Facebook? Have your friends? Should Facebook be allowed to censor these kinds of images? Are they offensive? Has support for breastfeeding has gone too far? Share your views in the comments below.