Breastfeeding Confession: I don’t love breastfeeding

by Jessica Martin-Weber

This post made possible by the support of EvenFlo Feeding

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As I was nearing the end of my pregnancy with Sugarbaby, now 4, I had noticed a few women commenting online that they hated breastfeeding or at least didn’t love it. Not that they were stopping or refused to do it but that they didn’t have any of the warm fuzzy feelings they’d heard others talk about and they were looking forward to experiencing themselves. Often with their confession came the question: “does this make me a bad mom?”

My heart ached with them. I had felt the same.

I watched as some people responded making suggestions as to how they could maybe enjoy the experience more, or how it may take some time to get to that place, some sharing how much they love breastfeeding and are sorry the poster didn’t, and sometimes a few responding that they could relate. These women would respond that they were really struggling or felt broken, or questioned that maybe they didn’t love their child enough and that there was something wrong with them.

And again my heart ached with them.

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I was 35 weeks pregnant that week, preparing for a new nursling. Expecting baby #6, I was fairly confident that everything would be fine with breastfeeding. Not overly so, as I know each breastfeeding experience is different but there was no doubt in my mind that I’d be breastfeeding and that if there were any challenges we’d be able to work through them with our incredible support system. Still, there was this tiny part of me that wasn’t really looking forward to it. Maybe even dreading it a little. Which is almost heresy coming from the person that started The Leaky Boob.

Feeling for those women struggling I posted this status update on The Leaky [email protected]@b Facebook page: 

“I don’t *love* breastfeeding. Nope, I don’t. It doesn’t give me warm, fuzzy feelings. I don’t look forward to sitting down with my nursling. I don’t particularly care for the sensation. But I breastfeed and I actively advocate and educate about breastfeeding. Why? Because I believe it’s the biologically normal way to feed a human infant. I don’t see myself as a martyr, just doing what I need to do to care for my children. I also don’t think this makes my a bad mom any more than the fact that sometimes I really hate making dinner. Or breakfast. Or lunch. Or changing diapers and doing laundry. What about you? Anyone else not “love” breastfeeding? What’s your breastfeeding confession?”

Responses started pouring in and in less than an hour there were close to 200 comments. The first 20 or so comments (I didn’t count, it could be a dozen or 50) are either people sharing they can relate, thanking me for such an honest confession because they felt less alone or freakish, sharing that it’s a love/hate relationship for them, the random “don’t like seeing people breastfeeding in public” (what’s that doing there?), the super excited ones that LOVE it and can’t relate, and the true confession of wanting to go out drinking (one brave soul shared that). Most of the 200 responses were from women grateful to hear my confession, thanking me for letting them know they weren’t alone and weren’t a bad mom for having these feelings. Then came the handful of comments saying that status was terrible and would discourage moms from breastfeeding. A few said that if they had seen that post when they were first breastfeeding and things were rough it would have made them want to quit. They asserted that we shouldn’t lie but we have to be selective with our words so as not to scare someone off. A few came down hard saying they were disappointed to see a post like that on TLB and called into question if I really support breastfeeding with posts like that.

I told my #4 nursling at the time that I didn’t like breastfeeding. Apologizing that I was gritting my teeth through her nursing sessions, I stroked her cheek and told her that even though I didn’t love breastfeeding I did very much love her and so she was worth it. Too young to understand, I felt my little girl sleeping in my arms and my chest tightened as the truth of my love for her surged through me making it hard to breathe. In that moment I vowed that even if I never loved breastfeeding I would focus on how much I love my daughter while she’s at my breast and I could take pleasure in how much she enjoyed breastfeeding even if I didn’t personally enjoy it.

Going into breastfeeding my 6th baby, my feelings about breastfeeding had changed, the skin-crawling, teeth gritting feeling was gone and while I still couldn’t say that I personally loved it I truly and deeply loved how much my baby loves to breastfeed. As her mother, there is an expansive satisfaction in making her happy that overwhelms even my own discomfort. She went on to breastfeed for 4 years and no, I don’t regret doing so. I don’t see myself as a martyr, just as a mother who, like most parents, has to give up some of my own personal comfort for a time for the benefit of my child. Though I’m not breastfeeding now, when I was, when my baby would grin up at me briefly letting go of my nipple, a little dribble of milk coursing down her cheek, I feel privileged to share and be the source of this moment she enjoyed so much. I will continue to support and advocate for breastfeeding and I will continue being honest about my own breastfeeding journey and feelings because in the long run we all need the kind of support to be who we really are if we’re going to grow.

I followed up with this that day on Facebook: (edited here)

“So sometimes breastfeeding isn’t an amazing experience, sometimes it is. We can be honest about our feelings with ourselves and with others and need to have safe places to do so. If that’s announcing loving the experience or sharing that it’s a struggle not enjoyed, it’s important to have that place. Even for me. Being brave enough to be honest enough to admit the hard stuff is where true support is found. When I first started breastfeeding and hated it deeply it wasn’t helpful to only hear how wonderful it was for everyone else. I needed to hear a balance of the good, the bad, and the ugly. I didn’t believe anyone actually enjoyed it, they just said they did it because it was expected. Today, 6 nurslings later, I’ve learned that it’s complicated and that’s ok. Everyone’s experience is different and nobody should have to hide it because what we need is to be honest, supportive, and real. Some things are going to encourage you, some are going to discourage you, either way, own YOUR experience.”

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What about you? Have you had times where even if everything was working fine, you just didn’t enjoy breastfeeding? Why do you continue?

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Jessica Martin-Weber

Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and creator and author of the children’s book and community of What Love Tastes Like, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book.
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Why Do Mothers Crowd Source Healthcare Decisions On Social Media?

by Jessica Martin-Weber
women making decisions

People regularly come to Facebook and ask what they should do when the answer is call 911 or go to the ER. Far more often than one would think.

But you know what? As much as it drives me crazy, I get it. Particularly for women.

There are times when yes, someone posts to social media when they should be calling 911 or rushing to the ER. We see it all the time.

You know what else we also see all the time?

Women who doubt themselves to the extreme.

And why wouldn’t they?

Every single day women are told they are incompetent, unknowledgeable, hysterical, and out of touch. Every singe day women are questioned about what they experience as though they can’t be trusted to know what they have gone through. Every singe day women suffer in pain and sickness because their health care providers don’t believe them. Every single day mothers have had their concerns about their own bodies and the bodies of their children dismissed. Every single day women are told what they see in their children and feel in their own bodies is just in their head. Every single day mothers are laughed at for asking questions as though they should just trust whatever they’re told. Every single day mothers are judged for their children’s appearance, behavior, health, and knowledge in ways male parents rarely encounter.

Every single day women question their own abilities and decision making skills because for so much of their lives everyone else has done the same to them.

Hysterical. Emotional. Irrational. Illogical.

When you’re constantly told you’re controlled by your feelings as though that’s a negative thing, when do you learn how to trust those feelings? When you’re constantly told you couldn’t possibly understand, when do you begin to trust your understanding?

In case you’re wondering, we’re not making this up either. Nope, this isn’t just all in our head. Women do experience a significant amount of sexism in their health care alone receiving lesser quality treatment than their male counterparts. You can read about it herehere, here, here, here, here, and here to get you started.   

I get personal messages regularly from moms embarrassed because they aren’t sure what they should do and have been taught all their lives to question their decision making skills. These women come to the group, to the page, and to admins personally questioning their ability to make a decision for their child yet afraid for their child’s safety.

People, often women, particularly mothers, come to social media to get information and yes, even permission, to see a health care provider for themselves or their children because they have been conditioned to not trust themselves.

And then so many “educated” people who think rather highly of themselves and their parenting skills jump in and tell this insecure mother how stupid she is for asking FB instead of taking her child to the ER. They say things like “obvious” and “alarmed you didn’t…” and “how could anyone…”

Once again undercutting these women who believe they can’t trust themselves to make a decision.

Judgmental comments shaming them for not knowing when to call for the right kind of help does absolutely NOTHING to change that. In fact, it makes it worse.

Gender disparity in health care

I get waiting to call, not sure if you’re overreacting or being silly. Afraid to do something stupid that could end in your fear being used to humiliate you or even get you in trouble. I totally get it.

Because women expect to be ignored. Expect to be wrong. Expect to be seen as silly. Expect to be judged. Expected to be mocked. Expect to be considered ignorant. Expect to have their emotions dismissed. Expect to have their knowledge questioned. Expect to be seen as hysterical, ridiculous. Expect to be treated as though they are stupid. Expect to be judged.

And fear being blamed.

When you see a rather obvious question being asked on social media and you feel that the poster was stupid in asking and should have rushed to the doctor, consider simply telling them that you understand their concern and if you were in their shoes you would rush to the doctor. You could even dare to affirm her. Then wish her well.

Maybe next time she’ll not be so afraid of sounding ridiculous taking her child to the doctor.

Maybe next time her confidence will have grown a little and she won’t need your permission to listen to herself.

judging women posting on FB

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Jessica Martin-Weber Drawing from a diverse background in the performing arts and midwifery, Jessica Martin-Weber supports women and families, creating spaces for open dialogue. Writer and speaker, Jessica is the creator of TheLeakyBoob.com, co-creator of BeyondMoi.com, and creator and author of the children’s book and community of What Love Tastes Like, supporter of A Girl With A View, and co-founder of Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference. She co-parents her 6 daughters with her husband of 19 years and is currently writing her first creative non-fiction book.
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Why take and share breastfeeding photos?

by Jessica Martin-Weber
why women share breastfeeding photos

Photo credit: Cleo Photography

What is the deal with all those breastfeeding photos moms are doing?  Breastfeeding selfies, professional photo sessions, family snapshots, they’re showing up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, even birth announcements and Christmas cards, and hanging on walls.  This hasn’t always been a thing, has it?  (Check out these and these historic photos that show it isn’t quite as new as you may think.)  When TLB was kicked off Facebook in 2011, allegedly for posting breastfeeding photos, I was asked frequently why post breastfeeding photos in the first place.  What is the point, they wondered, why do women feel the need to share such an intimate moment with the world?  I have been patiently explaining this phenomenon for years, sharing blog posts like this one from Annie at PhD in Parenting, this one from sons & daughters photography,  and personal stories as to why and content to leave it at that.

Still, comments on websites, social media threads, and some times in person continue to come in comparing these photos to sharing an image of someone taking a dump, calling the women posting them “attention whores”, and sometimes even accusing them of sexual abuse.  The reasons why these people may be uncomfortable seeing breastfeeding totally aside (and here are 9 potential reasons), it’s obvious they don’t understand why this would be important.

Over the years I’ve seen the power of breastfeeding photos being shared.  Much like images of other aspects of every day life, seeing breastfeeding photos reminds us of the importance of the mundane in our daily lives.  There are more reasons than I can list, but there are real reasons none the less.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in offering support.  Many women haven’t seen breastfeeding or have only seen it briefly.  Seeing breastfeeding and hearing the breastfeeding stories of other women supports women where they are in their journey and gives them the space to ask questions and know they aren’t alone.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in offering information and options.  For some women, breastfeeding is as natural as breathing, everything just works.  Others encounter difficulties.  Seeing how another woman navigates the obstacles she experiences in breastfeeding, such as when Jenna shared an image of feeding her daughter with a supplemental nursing system, mothers who had never heard of such a thing suddenly had a new option.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in offering community.  Because breastfeeding has been replaced in some cases with alternative feeding methods, some breastfeeding mothers find themselves feeling isolated.  Thanks to the global community now accessible via the internet, mothers can connect with others that can relate to their journey.  While many are willing to walk alone, it is comforting to know you don’t have to.  Sharing the visual builds a community built on more than words.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in offering encouragement.   When Serena Tremblay shared her photo of breastfeeding in the ICU with the help of a nurse, she never imagined how it would touch and reach so many with encouragement and inspiration.  But that’s exactly what her photo did.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in offering recognition.  It’s not for attention, the sharing is more about connection and celebration.  But when a woman shares her breastfeeding journey through images, she is recognizing (and helping others recognize for themselves) this very important aspect of her life.  She does it day in and day out, it consumes much of her time, and sometimes it can feel quite invisible.  Or worse, shameful.  Recognizing the time and commitment breastfeeding requires can be a reminder of why it’s all worth it.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in offering normalization.  More times than I can count people have written in to say that before they joined The Leaky Boob community they thought breastfeeding was gross and creepy.  They didn’t want to see it because they thought it was like watching sex.  But then they saw it and learned that it wasn’t that at all, in fact, it was oddly normal.  Then there are the mothers that discovered they weren’t freaks for continuing to breastfeed past the first 12 months when they discovered there are many others like them.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in rehumanizing.  I know, I know, that’s not really a word.  But the objectification of women has reached such high levels that unless a woman is airbrushed, painted, surgically altered, pushed up/in, and posed, she isn’t seen as being a woman.  A woman’s worth is almost entirely wrapped up in her looks.  Women are barely seen as human or at least, aren’t allowed to be human.  Images of woman that aren’t airbrushed, painted, surgically altered, pushed up/in, and posed remind all of us what living, breathing, human woman really look like.  Breastfeeding women remind us that a woman’s body is for her to use as she pleases and her worth not dictated by how sexually attractive she is.

Sharing breastfeeding images is important in celebrating.  Parenting is hard work and much of it goes unnoticed and under appreciated.  Celebrating the milestones and goals reached, be they breastfeeding, potty learning, educational, or any other important aspect of parenting, is energizing.  Celebrating them with others even more so.

Leilani and her daughter Ava featured in the photo at the top of this post, understands this, which is why Leilani sent this beautiful photo in with her story:

I made the decision to try breastfeeding while I was still pregnant. I read Ina May’s guide to breastfeeding (religiously), and it gave me the confidence I needed during that very first time Ava latched on. Knowing that I was capable of producing the best nutrition for my child is what inspired me to nurse. There were a handful of bumps in the road during this past year of breastfeeding, but I’m proud to say, we surpassed them. My daughter had jaundice (pretty bad) her first week of life. Due to an incompatible blood type between her and I, the doctors encouraged me to supplement, in order for her jaundice to go away faster. I refused, and as scary as it was, the jaundice went away, and she didn’t need one drop of supplement to assist. I also thought I needed a pump and bottles to nurse more effectively. Turns out that the pump caused my supply to dwindle, and I forced to deal with a baby that wasn’t getting the correct amount of milk she needed. Rather than giving up or supplementing, I was patient and nursed her as often as she’d allow. My supply finally was back to normal. Between those hurdles and moving cross-country TWICE in two months (military family), I am proud to say that Ava at (almost) thirteen months is still nursing and the bond we share is something even more special than I imagined.

 

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Gisele, breastfeeding images, and real moms

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Ah, the bru-ha-ha.  A celebrity shared a picture of herself breastfeeding her child.  She’s a hero!  She’s so natural!  She’s supporting women!  She’s a REAL mom!  She’s a show-off!  She’s a bitch!  She’s pampered!  She doesn’t look like us REAL moms!  She makes breastfeeding look unattainable!  She’s making women that don’t breastfeed feel bad!  She’s pressuring women to breastfeed!  She’s a sanctimommy!  BRU.freakingHA.HAAAAAAAAAA.

Everybody has an opinion on it from commenters on Facebook and twitter to talk show hosts and bloggers.  They all must say something about it.  Apparently, me too.

Would this picture have been such a big deal if Gisele was holding a sandwich in one hand and feeding herself claiming multitasking as her team worked on her?  Or if she had an iPad set up and was FaceTiming with her child as a nanny gave them a bottle?  Or if Gisele was spooning baby food into her toddler’s mouth?  I highly doubt it.  Because while the uproar appears to be about a great many things such as whether or not it’s multitasking, or that normal moms don’t have a beauty team, the flashpoint is clearly that breastfeeding is involved.

Oddly enough, the focus has not really been on that she was pictured feeding her 12 month old daughter, the age of her little girl has hardly come up at all.  And the team working on Gisele didn’t seem to notice or care at all.  Maybe we are making progress?

I’m not one to get starstruck nor do I care what celebrities are doing.  It’s not a big deal to me personally the fashion, decorating, or lifestyle choices someone famous makes, I’m going to do what I do because it feels right for me and fits my values and tastes.  Decisions like breastfeeding and how they birth hardly seem like a big deal, they’re humans doing what humans do.  I don’t want to herald every star that puts her baby to her breast to feed them, that just seems a little… extreme.

But I am committed to normalizing breastfeeding so I do see the value in celebrities sharing that they are breastfeeding because I recognize that people look up to them.  Just as stars can normalize a fashion trend, inspire people to get their colon checked, or connect with nonprofit charity work, so can others be inspired to view breastfeeding as normal or at least ok because someone with notoriety has done it.  And who am I to say how someone should be inspired?  They see Kim Kardashian, Gisele Bündchen, Pink, Angelina Jolie, Miranda Kerr or some other celebrity breastfeeding and think “hey, maybe it’s not so bad and I could do that” that’s a good thing so why not?

Just as I understand how a celebrity sharing images of breastfeeding their children or talking about breastfeeding publicly helps normalize it, so do, I believe, the efforts of us incredibly normal, average, non-celebrities.  When we share our pictures and talk about the realities of breastfeeding, we’re helping create a culture that will eventually stop considering it newsworthy when a celebrity does the very normal, average, human behavior of feeding their baby.  A woman using her body as it is biologically intended to feed her baby won’t cause gasps of shock any more, perhaps it will be as normal as the marketing we accept every day that uses the female form to sell stuff.  Eventually, all the trolls and naysayers won’t have any buttons to push on the matter.

Gisele has said some things in the past that have made me cringe and I have a funny feeling she’ll say something cringe worthy again.  But this moment of sharing a picture of herself feeding her baby while she was working isn’t one of them.  The majority of mothers don’t have a team available to them to do their hair, make-up, and nails.  The majority of mothers also don’t have to look impossibly impeccable as part of their career even after flying 15 hours and getting only 3 hours of sleep, they don’t have the pressure of adhering to an artificial standard of beauty for their livelihood.  The majority of us moms are short on sleep and long on too much to do but we all have our own version of what that looks like.  My multitasking doesn’t look exactly like yours and nothing like Ms. Bündchen’s.  My multitasking also doesn’t look like that of a women in extreme poverty in a third world country or a mother struggling to feed her kids in the slums of New York.  Doesn’t make any of it less real.  Dismissing someone’s version because we can’t relate or maybe we’re even jealous or because we judge them isn’t helping anyone.  Such immature responses could actually be damaging.  Declaring “REAL moms…” or “REAL women…” don’t experience life as or look like someone else objectifies that person.

People, particularly women and especially moms need to stop that right now.

What’s “real” has many different expressions.

Gisele breastfeeding with beauty squad

This is a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

This is also a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

This is also a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

This too is a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work (image from Snugabell).

 

Another real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

Another real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

These are also real women breastfeeding, not multitasking but still real.

These are also real moms breastfeeding, not multitasking but still real.

Mama and baby with bottle

This is a real mom feeding her baby too. (photo credit: David Castillo Dominici)

Is this the world we want for our children?  A society that trivializes the reality of someone else simply because they can’t relate?  A society that dismisses the good of an act because they are personally offended that it doesn’t look a certain way?  A society that attempts to marginalize someone that can have influence simply because they are jealous?  A society that can only support those whose reality is just like their own?

I hope not.

What all these women need is pretty simple: support.  Even if you’re different than me, even if your reality looks different from mine, even if your choices are ones I can’t understand, even if we can’t relate: I SUPPORT YOU.  Natural birthing or highly medicalized birthing, breastfeeding or formula feeding, safely cosleeping or safely separate sleeping, working outside the home or stay at home parent, no processed foods or all processed foods, and everything in between as long as you’re not intentionally abusing or neglecting your child and have the access you need to make fully informed decisions according to your personal circumstances and available resources: I SUPPORT YOU.  Because anything else only serves to divide, keeps marginalizing women, and drag us all down.

I’m going to go out on a limb and state the obvious here: celebrities are normal, real people.  Normal, real people that can help change things.

Gisele Bündchen has a life I can’t even imagine, bet she can’t imagine mine either.  I multitasked writing this post while cuddling a sick 5yo and breastfeeding an active 19 month old.  In my pajamas.  The same way I answered emails, talked with my site host, interacted on Facebook, texted with my children, and worked.  Sometimes I multitask breastfeeding my toddler while speaking to a couple hundred people about sex.  A typical day for me, normal and real, different from Gisele’s day which for her was no less normal and real.   Though I can’t relate to her life, I appreciate her and all the other women in the world celebrity or not, that are sharing the very real aspect of caring for their children through breastfeeding.  As they continue to do so, maybe when my own daughters are breastfeeding their children, there will be more important and interesting matters discussed by society and the media than how a woman is feeding her baby.

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Breastfeeding moms in the Facebook community

Facebook and I have had a tenuous relationship over the last couple of years.  Sometimes it felt like a downright war but for the past year or so it’s been fairly peaceful.  After the big blowup that received international attention things simmered down and I’d continue posting breastfeeding photos, they’d delete one every month or so, I’d get slapped with a warning or a photo loading suspension, after pressing them FB would say it was deleted in error, I’d post the photo they deleted again, they’d leave me alone for a while, etc.  Then the game stopped entirely and I must confess, I didn’t miss it.

But then this morning this:

 

*sigh*

Ok, someone visited either The Leaky Boob Facebook page or Jessica The Leaky Boob Facebook page and were shocked to discover breastfeeding photos there.  Either out of wanting to protect me from my own indecent exposure, spare my baby some potential future embarrassment, or because they just found the “nudity” offensive, they reported my photo.

I clicked continue which led to this page:


I continued to the community standards which look like this:

 

I scrolled down to find the section that would address what exactly I did that violated their Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and found this:

Huh, that’s strange.  According to this statement it actually looks like the person that reported my photo AND Facebook violated the Statement of Rights and Responsibilities, not me.  Which makes me wonder, did the person (or people) that reported this image also get a warning?  Since they clearly violated the community standards and essentially harrassed me when I was completely within my rights as outlined in Facebook’s Statement of Rights and Responsibilities and I clearly did not, did they receive a virtual reprimand for their actions?

Since I suspect I already know I’ll receive the generic apology FB offers anyone that calls them out on their inconsistency and will be told that my image was removed “in error” I’ll go ahead and put it back up.  Since they didn’t mean to remove it and all.

Also, it’s worth noting that according to this statement there is nothing about what exactly is showing, nothing about nipples, areola, or anything else.  Just that FB respects people’s right to share content of personal importance and includes family photos of a child breastfeeding.  So it’s not about the nipple or areola, it does require that the child be actively engaged at the breast, a policy I find ridiculous but even according to their own policy, the photo they removed was within compliance.

A few points

Why  share breastfeeding photos on FB?  Some may feel it’s too private to share, I don’t.  In fact, I believe it’s crucial to share breastfeeding photos.  Gone are the days where breastfeeding is seen in the day in and day out living of our lives in a community, replaced instead with virtual communities found on Facebook, forums, and other social media platforms.  Social media and virtual communities need to be as multidimensional as the physical community or we lose ourselves as a society, relating to each other as a slick collection of data without the human and biological component that makes us alive.  We need to see breastfeeding in real life and in the virtual world that many of us relate in as our community.  This photo may seem obscene to some but to others it was inspiring and encouraging, leading some to even learn something about breastfeeding.

Facebook can do what it wants, you don’t have to use it.  True, FB can and true, I don’t have to use it.  But I know they want me to and I know that their advertisers want me to.  I am a part of their market and as such I am going to let them know what I think of their service including when it’s just not working for me.  Obviously they care, in the past 2 years they’ve changed their public stance on breastfeeding to include the statement above.  Which now means they need to keep their own standards.  If I were them, I’d want to know when my company was violating it’s very own terms.  Being quite and just taking whatever a company does because they can do what they want means the company doesn’t have the opportunity to improve.  Additionally, that would never fly in discriminating against someone because of their skin color, their sexual orientation, or just about anything else.

Children could see it, FB is just protecting the younger users.  My personal feelings about children being on Facebook aside, my personal belief about children actually needing to see images of breastfeeding and women in the physical world breastfeeding aside; the reality is Facebook has clearly stated that these images are acceptable within the community standards.  Which means if a parent doesn’t want their child to see such images, the parent should not permit their child to be on Facebook and when they do allow their child to be there, they have agreed to these very community standards that permit these images.

Facebook is protecting you, they don’t want someone to use your image for inappropriate reasons.  Hi, I am an adult.  I am capable of making the decision to share my image for myself and as the mother of my child, I bear that responsibility as well.  It is insulting to have someone feel they need to protect me from the decision I make.  I do not need a savior protecting me from what they deem are stupid and irresponsible decisions.  Not to mention those pesky community standards that say I have the right to share such photos.

It’s not Facebook, they automatically delete images that other people flag, it’s the people reporting that are the problem.  Again, true, at least partially true.  People reporting these images are part of the problem.  Hopefully some day they won’t see anything in an image like this that they deem requires reporting but until then, FB has the responsibility to enforce their own terms and standards.  Do they really want us to believe they are helplessly at the mercy of their users flagging habits?  It has also recently come to light that FB does in fact employ a team to review flagged material and has standards those reviewing the content are to follow.  So it’s not an automatic response to any flagging or certain number of reports, it is deliberately removed and by someone that is supposed to be following FB’s own community standards.  (Wonder how the whole reporting thing works?  This guide explains it with a handy little graphic to break it down.)

Why does it matter?  I’m one user out of millions traveling Facebooks roads of community, networking and connecting with old friends and making new ones.  Along the way I’m sharing my life with those people and they share their lives with me.  Which is cool and I love Facebook for that.  It matters how they facilitate the community because that’s the responsibility Facebook took upon itself and it isn’t to be treated lightly.  It matters because FB is selling my attention to advertisers that pay high prices to get their brand in front of me and in front of you; Facebook is not as free as some would like to believe.  You DO pay a price to be there and YOU are the commodity FB sells to advertisers.  It matters because these are people we are talking about, not some random images.  When my photo is removed I am confident enough that it doesn’t rattle me.  Additionally, I have a platform to voice my concerns and put some pressure on FB regarding their responsibility to their users.  But what about the mom that shares an image celebrating her breastfeeding, her family, her children, and Facebook removes it and she does get rattled?  It could cause her to call into question if what she is doing is somehow wrong.  That if images of breastfeeding are inappropriate and not fit for her community to see, is it inappropriate for her child to breastfeed?  If she’s struggling and looking for her community for support but these images aren’t permitted, how is she going to work out that there can be a wide variety of normal in breastfeeding baby’s latches or any other variety of breastfeeding related questions?  How is she going to know that she’s not alone with how her little one behaves at the breast?  How else are moms going to get over the emphasis on the sexual nature of female breasts to just feed her baby when her very community shames and harasses her for sharing these images?  The message that is being sent is that you can have community, you can be marketed to within that community, but your personal experience with breastfeeding is shameful and not welcome in the community.  Which ultimately means the breastfeeding mother is not welcome in the community.

The ones that need to receive an unwelcoming response are those reporting these images.  People need to stop reporting these images but that’s not going to cease until Facebook is willing to actually enforce consequences for false reporting of images that actually do adhere to FB’s community standards and these consequences need to be at least as severe and shaming as those whose images are deleted have experienced.  That’s how change is going to take place and that responsibility lies with Facebook.

 

Facebook, figure it out.  Take a stand.  Grow up and put your actions where your money and your mouth is.

Facebook, unwaveringly welcome breastfeeding moms into the community.

 

You can find more information about the issues with Facebook and breastfeeding including how they police content and respond to reports, attempts at communicating with Facebook regarding this issue, and any new developments here.

 

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Breastfeeding, the ICU, support, and Facebook- Support that keeps on giving

Have you seen this image?

 

When Serena Tremblay responded to a call to share breastfeeding photos on The Leaky Boob Facebook wall, she didn’t think she was sharing anything extraordinary as she sat at the computer with both her sons, Gooney Bear-17 months  and Gorgeous-3 years, with her and her husband making dinner.  It was the first breastfeeding photo she had of Gooney Bear and she just wanted to share.  Including a bit of explanation, the Alberta, Canada mom celebrated her breastfeeding success with the community on The Leaky Boob:

“A nurse helping my 1 day old son nurse while I was in the ICU following his birth. At this point I was a quadriplegic and could only feel his soft hair and skin when he was placed by my neck to cuddle. Breastfeeding is the reason he was allowed to stay with me in the hospital for 5 months while I lived on the physical rehabilitation unit learning how to walk again (complications from when he was born). It’s amazing how much baby stuff you can fit in a hospital room. We are still breastfeeding strong at 16 months! If this is not a success story I don’t know what is :D”

Within minutes there were hundreds of responses and within hours, thousands of shares.  The photo went viral, moving across the internet as an inspirational image and celebrating not just one woman’s breastfeeding success story against all odds, but celebrating every breastfeeding success story for all women.

Even if that photo captured Gooney Bear’s one and only feeding at the breast, this is a breastfeeding success story.  As it is, however, Gooney Bear is now 17 months old and still breastfeeding and these weren’t the only issues Serena and Gooney Bear had to overcome.  Together the pair battled tongue tie for 9 weeks, needing to use a nipple shield, dairy, soy, and gluten sensitivities, and all that on top of the 5 months Serena was hospitalized.

The magnitude of attention sharing this one photo received was a bit overwhelming for Serena.  To her, while this photo documents a personal success story and extraordinary time in her own life, it is also something that just is.  We don’t always realize how our stories, our struggles and triumphs, can impact someone else.  People were so inspired by Serena’s photo; moms told her they were getting ready to quit breastfeeding due to difficulties and her photo encouraged them to find a way to keep going.

“Someone else is in tears, not sure they can keep going, but they see my picture and they think they can do it, they can get through what they are struggling with.”  Said Serena when she and I talked on the phone last week.

The result of a rare birth injury, Serena was fully quadriplegic after the birth of her second son on October 19, 2010.  Her memory of everything following his birth is full of different events but lots of holes and no sequential order.  She was intubated, lucid, in the ICU, and could only feel sensation from her neck up.  The nurses and her husband would place Gooney Bear in the crook of her neck so he could snuggle and so she could feel him at least a little.

Nobody really knew what to expect for Serena’s recovery.  She regained the use of her arms on day 2 and finally saw Gorgeous again for the first time on the 24th, 5 days after the birth of his little brother.

“One of the hardest moments I’ve ever gone through, you know?  When he walked into the room, it felt like he was shy and didn’t know me anymore.  He was 22 months at that time.  After a little bit he came and sat on the bed with me and had a snuggle.  It was very hard.”  She shared.

There’s no doubt Serena Tremblay is an incredibly strong woman.  Fighting an uphill battle with her body, she never gave up.  But she says that’s not how she got through that difficult time.

So how did she get through it?  In talking with Serena one main theme emerged: support.  Her husband.  The nurses.  Her family.  The other patients on the rehabilitation floor when she moved there.  Family members of other patients.  The hospital volunteers.  The lactation consultant.  How did she get through it?  With support.  Lots and lots of support.

In the face of not knowing what was going to happen to his wife, Serena’s husband, a heavy duty mechanic, stayed with her and then with Gooney Bear.  When she was in the ICU, he slept in her bed on the maternity ward so he could be with their baby.  He advocated for breastfeeding for the pair and he and the nurses took turns helping their precious baby boy latch.  Without asking, he took pictures, a bunch of pictures and that’s how the first feed was captured on film, something for which Serena is very thankful.

Support.

The nurses on the maternity ward went above and beyond, the first nurse coming down to hand express Serena so her little boy could have his mom’s colostrum that first day.  There is much love and gratitude in Serena’s voice as she speaks of her nurses, they were heros that got her through every day.  From that time hand expressing her milk, the nurses just kept bringing the baby over on demand, whenever he was hungry, to the ICU to breastfeed until her husband or grandmother could help her or she could do it herself.

Support.

Never once did she hear anyone say “why don’t you just put him on the bottle.”  People said that, people that weren’t involved, but not the nursing staff.

Support.

It’s clear to Serena not only how she got through, but how she went on to have a positive and ongoing successful breastfeeding experience with Gooney Bear.  “Support, support, support.  I’d like to narrow it down and say it was one person but it was everyone.  Why am I successful?  Probably only because of support and because I was determined, I just wanted to do it. Gooney Bear was able to stay with me in the hospital because I chose to breastfeed.  If we had given him bottles they would have sent him home with my husband.”

At a time when nurses, doctors, and hospitals often get a bad rap about providing insufficient breastfeeding support and sometimes down right sabotaging breastfeeding relationships, Serena’s story not only offers encouragement for moms encountering breastfeeding struggles or indeed as a testimony to the strength of the human spirit; her story also gives hope for what true breastfeeding support in the hospital can look like.  Serena’s hospital didn’t realize at the time, but they’ve gone on to provide breastfeeding support extending well beyond this one patient.

When her tube was removed and she was finally able to speak, Serena refused to say anything until she was holding Gooney Bear: she had yet to tell him she loved him.

“I wouldn’t speak to the nurses because I wanted my first words to be ‘I love you Gooney Bear.”

Through out her 5 month hospital stay, ICU for 4 days, maternity ward for 1 month, and the rehabilitation unit for 4 months; Serena was able to keep Gooney Bear with her, breastfeeding on demand and pumping for him to have expressed milk while she was at one of her regular therapy appointments.  Managing her way around the ward and even the whole hospital, Serena says how it’s amazing how much you can do in a wheelchair with a nursing pillow and a baby on your lap.  Often a breastfeeding baby.  During that time she dealt with many of the common issues breastfeeding moms face.  Once a nurse pulled a double shift and helped care for Gooney Bear during the night so she could work to get rid of a stubborn clogged duct before it turned into mastitis.  Even for the regular every day challenges of parenting life she had support, the nurses and other patients or family of patients would take turns holding Serena’s little guy so she could eat, after all, who would turn down cuddling a precious baby?

Today many of those relationships continue, their support and all that Serena and Gooney Bear gave back formed bonds of friendship that last.  Friends from the rehabilitation unit remain in their lives.  Serena and her family go back and visit the hospital staff regularly and they are all happy to see them, often crying at the progress Serena has made since she left the hospital over a year ago.  Her recovery has been remarkable and though it’s ongoing she’s accomplished so much and doesn’t take for granted what she can do.  Their family is like any other family, they like to do things every normal family likes to do, “we just have to do them a little differently” Serena shares.  Their friends understand, they were there, they have seen where they’ve come from, they supported them in the journey and in the ongoing part of that journey today.

One of the nurses that helped Serena so much is expecting her first baby soon.  Serena is looking forward to being able to support her now, encourage her in her own breastfeeding and parenting journey.  Understanding how crucial support is, Serena is already there.

“It was a horrible thing and I wish it hadn’t happen – but it did and so many good things came about from it… if my story can help one mom to get support, receive support, or give support then it was worth it.”  And so Serena shares her photo and her story.

Sometimes I am asked why people share breastfeeding photos on Facebook and other social media settings.  This is why.  It’s celebrating our personal triumphs- whatever they may be; sharing a special moment, encouraging the global community of mothers by normalizing breastfeeding, inspiring others, and giving support.  Thousands of people have been inspired and encouraged by one photo with a simple caption.  Our stories make a difference and if a picture is worth a thousand words then sharing breastfeeding photos is like breastfeeding support spreading exponentially around the world.  In the global community we’ve moved on to via the internet, sharing our photos and stories online can often be the start of support for someone.  Just ask Serena, you never know how one image can make a difference.

 

My gratitude to Serena for being so brave in sharing the original photo in the first place and then to be willing to open up and share more of her story for my readers here.  All photos in this post are the property of Serena Tremblay and used with permission.  To protect the privacy of her family, Serena opted to use nicknames for her children and as the details regarding the birth injury were not important to the point of the story, she asked that they not be included in this article.  With an open medical investigation into Serena’s case, we appreciate your respect of her privacy on these details.  ~Jessica 

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The Problem Continues

Hi XiLan,

I again apologize for the inconvenience you have experienced. The Page was disabled initially disabled in error and appears to have been affected by some sort of glitch.

We are currently looking into the matter that you reported, and will respond as soon as possible. Please be assured that Facebook takes users’ concerns around content very seriously. We apologize for any inconvenience this delay might present.

Your Page has again been reactivated and you should be able to use it shortly.

Thanks for your understanding,

Lysander
User Operations
Facebook

(XiLan is the username of Jessi, the person that originally helped me set up The Leaky Boob on Facebook.)

The thing is I don’t understand.  It sounds like he just said: “I’m sorry, we here at Facebook don’t know what we’re doing.  It must be some sort of computer thing, it’s completely out of our hands.”

Mark Zuckerberg, get someone who knows what they are doing STAT!  As TIMES man of the year, surely you understand the importance of hiring people who are not only experienced and trained but also give a damn when they screw up.

The thing is, this “glitch” he speaks of continues to disable the accounts of women, other pages and groups that have shared breastfeeding photos.  Additionally users and pages deactivated receive little to no response to their inquires as to why.  I got some sort of an apology and an excuse but most do not.  It’s starting to feel like we’re living with an abusive partner.  Many of us that share breastfeeding photos are on edge now, there has been a rash of deletions and more coming out and saying they would share breastfeeding photos but they are afraid of getting pulled.

So why do we stay?  I’ve addressed before why The Leak Boob is needed on Facebook and why we choose to carry on our little community there.  But still, wouldn’t we feel safer if we moved on to some place where accounts don’t just suddenly disappear?

Of course we would.  However, I’m refusing to accept being told to hide to feed my babies, virtually or otherwise.  The easy access on Facebook makes it such a simple step for women and those that support breastfeeding to participate in The Leaky [email protected]@b community, providing a wealth of information and resources in a place where they are already active and connected.  Beyond that though having an active presence on Facebook does something else:  normalize breastfeeding.  Shunning breastfeeding moms to “discreet” (read: obscure) corners of the internet does nothing to encourage accepting breastfeeding as a normal and beneficial piece of family life.  We have to stop communicating one thing (i.e. “breast is best”) and doing another (i.e “but I don’t want to see it“).

Facebook told the ABC 13 reporter that they are not against breastfeeding and that breastfeeding photos are permitted on the site.  In an email response to her inquiry regarding the deletion of The Leaky Boob they invited her to search the site stating she would see many breastfeeding materials pop up.  She did and yes, there were other groups and materials related to breastfeeding including photos.  They restated their terms of service regarding nudity, obscenity, hateful content, etc. and maintained that they are pro-breastfeeding.

Yet just as recently as yesterday another page was deleted for breastfeeding photos and another just a few days before that.  Several participants on The Leaky [email protected]@b have had photos removed and a warning issued that they posted a photo that violated the TOS.  There are at least 7 others that I know of that have had their accounts deactivated, 1 after posting just 1 breastfeeding photo within just the last week.  Historic Photos and Prints of Breastfeeding had a good chunk of their photos and art prints removed this week as well.  Personally I had 5 photos deleted and warnings issued last week and am surprised my account has not been deactivated.  This just a sampling and it continues to grow.   Groups and pages like Removed: The List, Stop Deleting Mother’s Support Groups F. B., Breastfeeding and Birth Pics that were deleted by bots, and more  dedicated to keeping tract of who was removed and petitioning to bring back users are being created almost as quickly as breastfeeding photos are being removed.

When these individuals and groups request information as to why they receive the same form email I did.  Upon appeal they receive yet another form email.  If they hear anything at all.  Facebook may claim to the media that they support breastfeeding and women but their actions and lack of communication with the users they’ve deactivated indicate something entirely different.  If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, looks like a duck…

Hello Lysander,

Thank you for your personal response regarding the deactivation and request for reinstatement for The Leaky [email protected]@b page.  I genuinely appreciate your apology and having the page reinstated again.

As excited as we are to have The Leaky [email protected]@b back, the situation has not changed.  Any page, individual, or photo is at risk of being deleted when related to breast health.  Because of message size constraints, I will send the list of pages and profiles still deleted to you under separate cover.

Facebook has a responsibility to its customers to clearly communicate that they are pro-women by creating a new way to moderate materials flagged as obscene and providing protection for pages that register as breast health or breastfeeding related.

By reinstating The Leaky [email protected]@b page, twice, Facebook indicates that you are aware there is a significant problem with your current system and it appears this has been an ongoing problem since 2007.

I respect that you need a system to maintain a site free of inappropriate groups and pornographic images and I appreciate the efforts to keep Facebook safe.  However, when images, pages and user accounts are deleted it is nearly impossible for these to reinstated without the involvement of the media.  The lack of response for requests to appeal disabled accounts or at least to receive an explanation for the action communicates you do not support breastfeeding or breast health which means you do not support women.

Lysander, I know you are not personally responsible for this flaw with Facebook, however, you are the only person that has attempted to contact me personally.  I would appreciate your attention to the list of names and pages I’ve included that are currently deactivated for posting breastfeeding photos.

I would love to report in my next round of media interviews that Facebook has a solution to this problem, can you tell me how you plan to make this situation permanently better?  Also, when can the deleted pages/profiles expect to be reinstated?

Thank you for your time and quick response on this matter.

Sincerely,

Jessica Martin-Weber

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Something of An Update

Even before I became a mother I had moments where I thought it would be kind of handy if I could clone myself.  When I had kids I really started thinking somebody should be looking into that idea because moms would be a built in market.  But this week?  Woah.  I don’t just need clones, I need a whole staff.  This whole work at home thing kind of means kids make gargantuan messes while mom pretends not to notice.  Or is that just at my house?

As my kids were destroying the house today and Smunchie discovered she could pull all the books off the book shelves as well as empty the baskets of DVDs and VHS (yes, we still have VHS, I know, I know) all over the floor, I was doing all kinds of fun things.  I tackled emails, forum registration approvals, read some articles where my name and/or TLB was mentioned, talked to Sheri (multiply this by 9 and disperse throughout day), did a couple of pre-interview phone calls, burnt a loaf of bread, listened to a pitch idea from a photographer friend of mine (I like the idea), wrote a letter to Facebook (more on that later), read more articles and a few blogs, popped in and out of Facebook and Twitter from time to time, drafted out a few blog post thoughts before I forgot them, made the worst beef soup ever, spent a bit of time playing outside with my girls and had my neighbor come up to me and say “I support boobies.”  That last thing there really made my day.  I’m serious, he’s a grandpa and he supports boobies, he even clarified that he supported breastfeeding, after he made a joke that is.  Which I laughed at because it was funny.

Somewhere in there we even had our Epiphany celebration: chocolate coins found in shoes along with rock crayons, face pencils, a box of maple teething biscuits, and then sitting down to a homemade King’s Cake (courtesy of The Piano Man) to find the Baby Jesus (a raw red kidney bean) and crown the lucky girl who found him (the bean) queen for the day.

Now that the girls are all in bed I sit here with a glass of wine, chunks of the inside of the blackened loaf of bread, and a bit of cheese looking at a to-do list that got longer instead of shorter, a collection of media stories that is more than a little overwhelming, trying to ignore the video tapes all over the floor and feeling guilty that I haven’t called my mom in 5 days.  Tonight my biggest goal is to finish writing at least one piece not including this one.

Tomorrow (today by the time this is published) is another busy day.  Aside from picking up DVDs and books multiple times there are pictures (say CHEESE!), an interview on camera at the park, home, feed kids, emails and website work, Facebook, podcast phone interview with the lovely Tanya from Motherlove Blog, and then I think I’ll be closing my computer for the evening to play a game with my family and watch Grey’s Anatomy with The Piano Man on Hulu.

While the media coverage has been overwhelming, the fast paced growth of the now reinstated Facebook page (which has been up for 36 hours now) has blown me away, and the incredible supportive help of many has humbled and touched me, it has been the comments shared by new Leakies that have energized me, reminding me of why I’m doing this.  These comments speak to the need for places like The Leaky [email protected]@b on Facebook and why Facebook needs to change their method of responding to flagged and reported posts and pages with obscene content.  I leave with a few of these comments.

“As someone who is 9 months pregnant and planning on breast feeding- I love that this is here for us- I have to say I have NO experience breast feeding and honestly, being able to see the different ways babies “latch” is important! I recently got a breast pump- and the instructions were censored, the drawing of the wome…n have their hands in front of of their nipples in every single example, I am still not really sure how to use the pump and exactly what part of my nipple goes where because they censored the instructions! Thank you for a safe place like here to ask questions and see tasteful, non- sexual pictures of real women breast feeding real babies- it gives me hope that I can do it myself and that I will in fact figure it all out!”

“You have come to the right place! Although I just joined these wonderful ladies, I can’t explain how valuable it is to have such a community to come to. I have 4 children, two were formula fed simply because I knew NOTHING about breastfeeding, and had very little support (my mom encouraged me, but FF me, so really had to clue how to help). When I was pregnant with my 3rd I learned everything I could, and successfully nursed for 17 months. Now, we have our 4th, and she is a champion nurser. Education can make all the difference, so you are on the right track! Congrats mama!”

“I am tearing up right now… I just posted days ago that I need more moms in my life. I found you all at the perfect time. I thank you from my heart & soul. ♥ looking fwd to helping others & receiving help as well. Big hugs to all!”

“I’m so glad this page is allowed to stay up..this is my first time breastfeeding..I couldn’t with my first daughter..so any knowledge I can get is very helpful”

“I AM SOOOOOOO GLAD TO SEE YOU BACK!!!!!! I actually cried when i got on to check in and the Leaky [email protected]@b was gone! Thank you to all the Leakies for all their support! I would not still be breastfeeding if it wasn’t for you guys!!!!!:)”

“Hey y’all! I wish I’d known about this page when I was BFing my son! Sad I’m just finding it now! At least I’ll have it for next time!” (This Leakie also shared a link to her own blog post on this, I enjoyed it, made me laugh.)

This is why I do it.

Has TLB meant something special to you?  How do you carve time out of your day to visit the FB page and ask questions and give support to others?  Anyone else’s baby/toddler obsessed with pulling out the DVDs and clearing the bookshelves?

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It’s Time for Facebook to Prove It’s Not Anti-Women

The Leaky [email protected]@b Facebook page was reinstated again this afternoon, January 5, 2011.  This time cautious celebrations were expressed on the page along with fear that it would just go back down.  As I write this it has been up for 7 hours, just about as long as it was up yesterday.  Hopefully it will really stay this time.

Our celebration is tempered a bit though, we’re missing a few of our members.  Several “Leakies” as we affectionately call those on the Facebook page, had their accounts disabled after receiving warnings for supposed obscene photos.  Just like TLB, they received the non-specific form letter via email informing them that they were deleted for violating the TOS. These individuals along with numerous other group and business pages have had their accounts deactivated all because someone decided that their breastfeeding photo or information was vulgar.

Judy P. Masucci, Ph.D, president and owner of A Mother’s Boutique shares how Facebook deactivating her account last summer impacted her.  Now she tip-toes around her pages on Facebook afraid to say or post anything that may attract unwanted attention.  What is she doing that is so obscene?  Sharing information and photos that support breastfeeding and mothering.  No lewd photos, no hateful content and certainly nothing as revealing as what you can find on the Playboy Facebook page.  (I can’t bring myself to link to the Playboy page but if you’re really curious do a Facebook search, you’ll see what I mean.)

As excited as we are to have The Leaky [email protected]@b back, the problem remains and any page, individual, or photo is at risk of being deleted when related to breast health.  Facebook has a responsibility to it’s customers to clearly communicate that they are pro-women by creating a new way to moderate materials flagged as obscene.  No doubt the company is overwhelmed with reports of obscenity but surely they are smart enough to develop a system that would allow them to remove the truly obscene materials while those related to breast health including breastfeeding and breast cancer are able to remain.  Additionally they need to have a provision for an exempt status for all groups, pages, and companies related to breast health.  If they don’t, well entrepreneurs, there’s a market here for you to create a new social media site that can do just that.  Facebook, your customers are unhappy and many of us are waiting to see what you decide to do now before we take our business elsewhere.  I appreciate your efforts to keep pornographic images off Facebook, I really do but please, breastfeeding is not pornographic.  Reinstating The Leaky [email protected]@b indicates that you are aware there is a significant problem with your current mode of operation.  The first media coverage I could find on this problem dates back to 2007.  You would think Facebook would get tired of this and make some necessary changes.  Four years is long enough, fix it.

Have you had your account deactivated and you suspect it is for breastfeeding photos?  If you or someone you know of, individual or group, has had their account or page deactivated please leave the information in the comments here.  If there is a page started to bring them back (as was Bring Back The Leaky Boob- again.) please share the link to that as well.  I am compiling a list to take to Facebook not only to ask for those pages and individuals to be reinstated but to show how flawed their current system is.  If The Leaky [email protected]@b could be deleted twice within a matter of days something is obviously not working.

Nobody should have to tip-toe around their pages afraid that educating and supporting breastfeeding or breast health could have them deleted.  Help us continue to hold Facebook accountable to it’s customers.

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Remember that fairytale?  It even got a fairytale ending.  For a little bit anyway.

It felt like a victory, like one small step for women-kind when Facebook reinstated The Leaky [email protected]@b page around 3 on Tuesday, January 4, 2011.  The whirl-wind of the previous 2 days seemed like it suddenly stopped.  There was virtual celebrating and our little fairytale community picked up right where it had left off plus a few thousand more members.  The wall on the page was hoping, after the celebrating calmed down posts asking about everything from how to deal with teething to is it ok if my baby wants to nurse all the time and is it ok to breastfeed past 12 months (it is, by the way) filled the page.  Leakies got back to the business of feeding their babies and supporting other Leakies.  Well wishers popped in congratulating us on getting our space back.  The energy was like a good party, a good party with good friends.  People that had never heard of TLB before joined and expressed how excited they were to know they were not alone.  Several others expressed how they wished they had something like TLB when they were breastfeeding and were so happy to see our community there for other moms now.

Personally, I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep.  You know that big sigh you heave when something intense, requiring hard word is over?  I couldn’t believe that after just a few short days I was already there, heaving that sigh and moving on.  For a moment my mind even wandered to other posts I had been planning before the page went down.  Everything was normal again.  I looked around at my neglected house and tackled a few areas.  I took Earth Baby to ballet, made dinner, spent some time on Facebook, read with my girls, made a batch of bread dough, did dishes, fed Smunchie, fiddled around on Twitter, fiddled around on the new web page, worked on an outline for another post, answered some emails, went back to Facebook.

And it was gone.  Not Facebook, The Leaky Boob.  I tried 3 times but I knew right away what was going on.  So I tried the Bring Back The Leaky Boob page.  Same result.  Both pages were gone.

Last time I cried.  This time I didn’t cry.  I closed my eyes and put my head back.

There was the same form letter email in my inbox, deleted for violating the terms of service.  Violators don’t get to come back.  I’ve heard that one before.

We’ll get the pages back.  It’s just not over yet.  But I already knew it wasn’t over.

It wasn’t enough to get The Leaky Boob page reinstated the first time because the problem is more than that one page being deleted. The Leaky Boob was reinstated and that was a very exciting and important piece of what we wanted. Still, Facebook needs to do something about the problem with deleting (erroneously or otherwise) breastfeeding pages and materials. Their system is not working and ignoring the problem positions all groups related to breast health including breastfeeding and breast cancer to experience the same treatment simply because any Facebook user can report or flag them for being obscene. Breast health is not obscene. Breasts are not obscene. Facebook needs to create some way for breast health pages, images (including personal breastfeeding photos), terminology and information to be exempt from automatic deletion when reported, or some other way to keep truly obscene content off the site without blocking legitimate pages.

The Leaky [email protected]@b fan page is missed by thousands of “Leakies.”  We need it back.  Studies show that support is crucial to breastfeeding success and a support community is what this is all about.  But this isn’t just about breastfeeding support, it’s about breast health, normalizing breastfeeding, infant nutrition, women’s rights, the objectification of women, and so much more.  This is about public health.

One step forward, two steps back.  I’m ready to run a marathon.

Two new pages have sprung up on Facebook, one aimed to Bring Back The Leaky Boob- again and the other invinting you to Join TLB in Support of Women’s Health.  Like these pages on Facebook to get up to date information.  I shared here ways for you to help, working together a community can accomplish great change.

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