Social media is a powerful force and an important part of our daily lives, but sometimes our photos are removed and the reasons why are either absent or don't really apply to what the photo depicts. Facebook has been known for taking down breastfeeding photos, and now, unfortunately, the popular picture-sharing application Instagram is getting in on the act. We were able to talk with two moms whose accounts have been blocked or completely shut down, and they shared their ideas about what you can do to help spread the word that sharing breast-feeding photos is normal and that women should not be punished for doing so.
Blogger Mandy of TempestBeauty is a mom of three kids and is passionate about breastfeeding advocacy. She recently discovered that her Instagram account had been disabled because she had shared breastfeeding photos.
"The normalization of breastfeeding is something our society and culture desperately need, and with the massive part social media plays in that culture, it is essential that our right to display such a healthy, integral part of parenting is protected," she explained.
She used her Instagram account to post one or two breastfeeding photos per day.
"Sometimes more," she said. "All tasteful, all beautiful."
Her account had over 1,200 followers when suddenly, without warning or explanation, photos started being removed for terms of service violations. After the third deletion, her account was disabled.
"I had no venue for contact, no one to complain to, no recourse," she reflected. "Just nothing. My account and all of my precious pictures were simply gone."
Despair was quickly followed by disbelief and anger.
"You have got to be kidding me," she remembers thinking. "Over breastfeeding photos? Do people still have an issue with this?"
She's outraged that Instagram doesn't have to justify its actions — it simply shut down her account and moved on.
"I'm so incredibly disappointed at the state of our society," she said. "That something so simply beautiful has been perverted into inappropriate or obscene, and women like myself are penalized."
The Leaky Boob
The Leaky Boob is a wildly popular breastfeeding information and sharing blog that also has a strong social media presence on Facebook and Instagram. Jessica, the woman behind TLB, is a proud mom of six daughters, and she feels that the images of breastfeeding mothers help new moms learn how to nurse their babies.
"Women used to see breastfeeding all around them in their community, [and] it is only fairly recently — with the advent of artificial breast milk substitutes or formula — that breastfeeding was considered something to be hidden," she explained. "The more breastfeeding is visible in our communities, the more we move beyond lip service to how it is 'the best' and accept it as normal and recognize women as mothers, as people."
Jessica began to receive emails saying that photos she had uploaded had allegedly violated the terms of service, and on June 8, her Instagram account was disabled. As with Mandy's experience, she was not told why.
"This is about community, supporting women in reaching their breastfeeding goals, whatever that looks like," she told us. "I know not everyone is comfortable seeing breastfeeding, but perhaps that needs to change for the good of mothers and babies — which has long-term payoffs for all of us."
What you can do
Mandy suggests that if you are breastfeeding a baby or a toddler, post your own breastfeeding photos to your social media accounts, and if you're not, support the moms who do.
"You don't have to comment on every picture, but a 'like' or a thumbs-up goes a long way toward making a mom feel great about something that isn't always easy," she told us.
Are you an Instagram user? This post on Instagram explains a little of what you, a fellow user, can do to help the powers that be understand the error of their ways and hopefully protect moms in the future who want to share their nursing photos.
With more moms sharing nursing photos and raising awareness, Mandy and other parents who have had their photos removed hope that Instagram realizes that breast-feeding photos are not pornographic or sexual in any way. They are simply documentation of a way to feed a baby, and moms who post them need to have their accounts left intact.
"This is a woman feeding her baby. It's not about sex, and it's not waste — it's nutrition," Jessica said. "Instagram and other social media platforms need to stop discriminating against how these children receive their nutrition."