Monday, September 10, 2007

Breastfeeding = obsene? Facebook thinks so!

Image designed by Matt Daigle

First it was MySpace that pulled photos of babies breastfeeding, now Facebook.

A pro-breastfeeding group, Hey, Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene! has been set up and as of today has over 9000 members, male and female, of all ages. Below is an excerpt of my message to Facebook:
In order for breastfeeding to be seen as normal, the sight of a baby at a breast must permeate society. Preventing such photos from being displayed keeps breastfeeding hidden and reduces the likelihood of increasing the rate of successful breastfeeding partnerships.

Research has proven that not only the opinions of the mother, but her partner, family and broader community influence the success of the breastfeeding relationship.

Facebook has the opportunity here to be proactive in promoting breastfeeding as a normal and natural activity by allowing breastfeeding photos to remain on site.
As you would expect, this issue started some heated debates about public breastfeeding. In my opinion, the fact that breastfeeding is such a contentious issue is a direct result of the undermining of breastfeeding, which began post World War II. It is going to take at least another whole generation and possibly even longer to fully reverse the damage done. Meanwhile, those who support a baby's right to feed whenever and wherever he/she needs will continue to push against the tide of moral outrage.

One positive step in making breastfeeding more visible is the release of the International Symbol for Breastfeeding, pictured above. The following quote contains information about the symbol, courtesy of Bethany Lange.
The purpose of an international symbol for breastfeeding is to increase public awareness of breastfeeding, to provide an alternative to the use of a baby bottle image to designate baby friendly areas in public, and to mark breastfeeding friendly facilities.

Of course, breastfeeding does not require a special place and is appropriate—as the Canadian government's slogan says—"anytime, anywhere." The purpose of the symbol is not to segregate breastfeeding, but to help integrate it into society by better accommodating it in public.

For example, sometimes there are no chairs in public, sometimes nowhere to change the baby, or for the mother separated from her baby, nowhere to plug in an electric breast pump. Mothers welcome quiet, private places in public where they can collect themselves and their children. The symbol could designate these kinds of places.

In addition, businesses could use this symbol to designate a lactation room, required now by law in California. Restaurants could use the image to let moms know, "Breastfeeding welcome here." We've already heard from a new airport and a university interested in using the symbol. When you see this new symbol in use, please let Mothering Magazine know, and if possible, send us a photo.

The winning image was designed by Matt Daigle of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Matt is a stay-at-home dad, freelance graphic designer, and cartoonist. Matt and his wife Kay are the parents of one-year-old son Hayden.

The breastfeeding symbol is available copyright free. Matt has signed it over to the Public Domain. You can download a PDF of the International Breastfeeding Symbol on


quilly said...

You know, maybe it is the area I grew up in, but I've never been surprised, shocked or upset by breast feeding in public. Neither has aybody I've been with. I've heard there's a controvery, but I have never seen it in action.

The Mumma said...

I'd never even thought twice about it being a contentious issue until somebody publicly berated me while I was feeding Elijah. Apparently my behaviour was inappropriate because "students could see my breasts". Because I just love to take my top off and walk around with the girls on display while I'm nurturing my child. *rolls eyes*

I was brought up in a household where breastfeeding was the norm. My older sister and her husband lived with us when her first child was young, so I saw them breastfeeding a lot. People who aren't used to seeing it or who buy into the "women are sexual objects" culture are the ones with issues because they don't accept it as normal.

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