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Why SEEING breastfeeding on Facebook, and in real life, is important (Guest Post)

I'm heading in the direction of slightly warmer weather this week and will be bringing you a few guest posts from authors and activists whose voices and work I adore. First up is breastfeeding advocate Emma Kwasnica talking about the continued harassment of breastfeeding women by facebook staff (which I first wrote about more than three years ago).  Protests at facebook offices around the world are being planned for February 6, 2012. Please welcome Emma with a message about the importance of seeing breastfeeding and a personal challenge to you.

Montréal Breastfeeding Challenge 2009 "in the park". Torrential downpour for the event, but that didn't stop us. I am 42 weeks pregnant with Chloë *to the day* in this photo; Sophie (2.5 years old) nursing on cue for the official latch-on at 11am. (Photo courtesy of Rowan Smith)

Why SEEING breastfeeding on Facebook, and in real life, is important:
My personal challenge to you

I'd just like to talk a bit about the bigger picture here. When Facebook takes this stance against breastfeeding images, it stigmatizes breastfeeding women, and shames women into thinking that their breasts are much, much less than the amazing life-giving source they are. Nipplephobia has reached epic proportions here in North America, and this is to the supreme detriment of babies everywhere.

Just think for one moment, how many more women would breastfeed, or for how much longer, if only we rid society of the harmful practice of over-sexualizing women's breasts! And how much this, in turn, could benefit the BABIES.

I've said this before, and I'll say it again: as a childbirth professional, but also as a woman, in general, it is absolutely crucial that one support ALL women to breastfeed their young.

Quite simply, this is about re-normalizing breastfeeding.

The more we hide it away, classify it as obscene, shame mothers into covering up while feeding, and encourage women to retire to "private" rooms in order to breastfeed the baby, the less we see of it in public, and the less and less people are comfortable with the very idea of nursing in public. This is the sad reality of this pathologically hyper-sexualized (yet sexually repressed...) North American culture of ours.

The solution seems quite simple to me; breastfeeding (and/or images of breastfeeding) need to be seen every day. I am convinced that SEEING more breastfeeding, wherever possible, is what will change our breastfeeding culture. Re-normalize it. There is no law prohibiting women from breastfeeding in public. And so women should do it. And they should feel completely free to do it. Lots of it. As much as possible.

Did those words sound familiar? I first wrote a version of these words in 2009  after my account had been disabled for the 4th time for sharing breastfeeding images. It's two years later, and it is still happening. Daily. To women all over the globe. It happened to me three weeks ago and I have, quite simply, had enough.

When I wrote this blog post in 2009 I ended with a challenge to all of you personally to encourage women who breastfeed in public, and to get out there and breastfeed your own child in public.

Today I'm bringing it back around to Facebook. I am challenging you to get involved. If you live in a city that is holding a nurse-in, a peaceful protest, a “boob-out” as my friends in Australia are calling it, on February 6th, I urge you to take the time to attend. Even if you're not breastfeeding anymore. If you are a mother, a daughter, a wife, a husband, a father, an employer… come out and show your support for breastfeeding women and their right to share their joy and pride in breastfeeding with their friends and family, or with the world if they chose, on Facebook.

If you can't attend, I challenge you to take action on February 6th. Change your profile picture. Upload breastfeeding photos. Come to our Facebook support page and share out the photos and videos and words of the people attending the nurse-ins around the world. Make joyful noise and tell everyone you know on Facebook that you want them to stop harassing breastfeeding mothers who are only trying to do the best by their children --and by humanity. Tell Facebook to leave breastfeeding images alone.

Will you commit to doing this, today? Again, I challenge you.

Warm regards,
Emma Kwasnica

Emma Kwasnica is a birth and breastfeeding activist and mum to three daughters. She is also the founder of Human Milk 4 Human Babies Global Network and spends her days passionately advocating for "informed choice" for all childbearing/-rearing women.

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Reader Comments (13)

Fabulous!!!...I couldn't agree more. I am mother to four, breastfed children, the latest addition now 10 months and still going strong. I volunteer as a "Breast Buddy" a qualified peer supporter. I'd be happy to attend a "Boob Out" event, however, not sure if there's one taking place locally and if not, drum up some of our mums and do our very own. It saddens me that something so natural is frowned upon by most of society and would be happy to make a difference. Good luck in the quest to reform the way in which people see/react to a breastfeeding mum feeding her baby/infant/child

February 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpaula jones

[...] here: Why SEEING breastfeeding on Facebook, and in real life, is … Tags: advertising, baby, breastfeeding, canada, cancer-sucks, election, ethics, friends, [...]

I am appalled at the lack of interest and the lack of support of the Noble endeavor of Breastfeeding. Always in North America, the image of the Breast is portrayed as something that is sexually provocative. And yet, as rampant as is the exposure of the Breast in fashion and social media, it is being regarded as inappropriate in its natural intention. How can this be? I support ALL mothers, surrogate nursers, and groups which proclaim the authenticity of the proper function of the Breast! Not to mention, the intense relationships of the nursing with the Nursed! Please, we should really examine our attitudes, and rearrange our attitudes.

February 4, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSheilah Knapp

This whole breastfeeding saga is so ridiculous & meaningless really, why don't people just focus on issues that really matter in their lives, such as their financial & job situation etc etc?

February 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterThomas

Good of you to tell people what should matter to them.

February 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTamara in NZ

This issue really matters to me. Thanks.

February 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

And I'll tell you what, it's an awesome feeling when a new mommy friend sends you a message saying that she nurses her baby whenever and wherever he needs to in part because you helped her know that it was OK.

I hold on to that when I get odd looks or parents hustling their kids away when I'm NIP. They have to see it somewhere. It has to start somewhere.

I recently participated in a really neat event at Vanderbilt University--a "Nurse and Learn" lunch hour where mama-baby volunteers met with medical students and residents, facilitated by VU staff physicians and IBCLCs (from VU and 9 Months & Beyond), to have small-group observation and question/answer sessions about breastfeeding. One participant in my group said she'd never seen a toddler nurse before, and had questions about tandem nursing, etc. It was awesome.

February 6, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa Cline

I'm discovering just how much I didn't know about how to breastfeed with my 13-day-old. And this is with my mother being fairly open about it and sharing tidbits like the best way to use a shawl or blanket so I could cover up (I don't like showing my belly).

Facebook's practice of banning photos of breastfeeding is why we aren't posting pictures of the baby on Facebook, beyond one or two of the poorer quality ones to keep the more distant friends happy.

February 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterChristine

It is in no way meaningless! Women are made to feel uncomfortable nursing in public. A young baby can nurse every two hours. When I had my first daughter I hardly left the house because I felt uncomfortable breastfeeding in public. When I did breastfeed in public I tried to find a nursing room or used a cover. Well, most places don't have nursing rooms and besides, why should I have to hide away like I'm doing something obscene? My daughter wouldn't stand for being covered and again, why should I have to cover myself?

This was all such an obstacle for me that I became lonely, isolated and depressed. Finally I decided to stop being so timid. Now when I go out I nurse my daughter whenever she is hungry. However, to many women this obstacle is too much, so they end up formula feeding.

This issue is not "ridiculous and meaningless", it is a basic human right and every woman has the right to live her life freely without being told when, where or how to feed her child.

February 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRochelle

This is a really important issue for the health of mothers and of babies. A significant number of women cite not wanting to breastfeed in public or not wanting to or able to breastfeed or pump milk at work as reasons for weaning.

Early weaning is a significant issue for society. In the US the Surgeon General calculated the cost of early weaning to be $13B annually. **

*Why Mothers Stop Breastfeeding: Mothers' Self-reported Reasons for Stopping During the First Year, Ruowei Li, MD, PhDa, Sara B. Fein, PhDb, Jian Chen, MSca, Laurence M. Grummer-Strawn, PhDa, PEDIATRICS Vol. 122 Supplement October 2008, pp. S69-S76 (doi:10.1542/peds.2008-1315i)
** U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General; 2011.

February 13, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJodine Chase

So wait, this is true? My facebook account will be disabled if I put up a pic of me breastfeeding? That is ridiculous! Makes me want to post one for sure.

February 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercari

[...] Why Seeing Breastfeeding on Facebook, and in Real Life, is Important – PhD In Parenting [...]

[...] more on why mothers should breastfeed in public, read this insightful article from Emma Kwasnica, guest posting at Annie’s great blog [...]

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