Monday, April 16, 2012

Maria Parlapiano, Registered Nurse, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Postpartum Place, Chatham, NJ

An Open Letter in Support of Emma Kwasnica and all of us who have posted breastfeeding images
April 16, 2012

Dear Facebook Management,
Have you ever been expected to perform a task that you have never done before or even seen anyone do?  I hope not!  But that is exactly what mothers are up against as soon as they deliver their babies. Perform the skill of breastfeeding.  A skill that is so foreign, most women have never seen it done - ever!  Why? Because the visual image of breastfeeding has been completely lost!   Unless, we see images of women breastfeeding or allow nursing in public (which is the normal way to feed human babies), reproducing that skill set over and over, is nearly impossible.  Think about it.  How can something be normal when no one normally sees it?  How can we reproduce a skill we've never seen done?
There are not many people I know of who would like to be placed at such a disadvantage at their job or sport. But most importantly, a baby depends on its mother to properly know the skill set of breastfeeding yet the mother needs to depend on a society to foster that skill set, not degrade it!
Facebook, by your own conception, is an on-line society.  You have thus bestowed upon yourselves a social responsibility to allow breastfeeding images as a normal life experience - anything different is absolutely unacceptable.
Maria Parlapiano RN IBCLC
Postpartum Place
Chatham, NJ

Friday, February 24, 2012

Belinda Phipps, CEO, NCT (UK's largest charity for parents)

February 24, 2012

Open letter to Facebook

NCT is the UK’s largest charity for parents. Our 318 branches, 10,000 volunteers and 1,000 trained practitioners support thousands of parents-to-be and new parents every year through online and written information, face to face events and courses and a range of helplines. 
NCT supports parents however they decide to feed their baby. For many people, carrying out the decision to breastfeed can be very difficult and the support of others and a supportive society is essential if a woman is to successfully breastfeed for as long as she wishes. The WHO and 4 UK country Governments recommend exclusively breastfeeding for at least 6 months for optimal child health. Every year more than 200,000 mothers stop breastfeeding in the first few days and weeks - 90% of these mothers would have liked to continue.
As a result we were dismayed to read Facebook’s policy regarding posting of some photos of mothers and babies and the actions taken to remove some pictures from Facebook profiles depicting breastfeeding. Feeling proud as a new parent is everyone’s right and Facebook has been a wonderful addition to the range of ways that parents to be and new parents share their joys, concerns and the trials and tribulations of their new roles with their friends and family right across the globe. Women’s breasts come in all shapes and sizes (especially when they are feeding a new baby) and babies feed in many different positions.
We would urge Facebook to reverse this decision which relegates breastfeeding to a taboo subject when in fact it is a perfectly natural and common thing to do with 76% of mothers in the UK initiating breastfeeding when their baby is born. 
Very best wishes 
Belinda Phipps

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ann Sinnott, Author, "Breastfeeding Older Children"

February 21, 2012

To Mark Zuckerberg and Co

With adverse publicity all over the press and protests, real and virtual, breaking out all over, surely you now realise the absurdity of your stance toward breastfeeding photos? 

You have dug a hole for Fb and you know it! Your shifting parameters are ample testimony! Last year, you objected to the sight of a nipple (ignoring the fact that many women have large areolas which visibly extend beyond an infant’s mouth); this year, your objection is to the sight of a breast not actually being fed from.

In your recent statement, the protection of minors was cited as the reason you ban these innocent images. How spurious! How can you equate non-sexual images of children breastfeeding, with pornographic images that proliferate on countless Fb pages. If you were really protective of minors you would remove really offensive images: copulation partly shown (cropping does nothing to disguise) and provocatively sexualised near naked images of the female form (perhaps the male form too). I know what I’d prefer my child, or any other child, to see!

You also say you only remove photos when you receive complaints. What a cop out! Aren’t you capable of judging whether an image is offensive or not? 

So, come on, it’s time you admitted that, when working out your nudity guidelines, breastfeeding simply never crossed your minds! That’s no surprise – and merely reflects a bottlefeeding culture. 

But the health and social ramifications of artificial feeding are legion, and we are all affected! It’s not for nothing that governments around the world pile cash into breastfeeding promotion and support – not only for the growth and maintenance of physical health but also, and this is now becoming ever clearer, for optimal neural development and resultant psychosocial adjustment; both of these, in both childhood and in later adulthood.

It’s high time that Fb had a degree of social responsibility built into its structure!

Mothers encourage other mothers, and a picture is worth a thousand words!

So, admit your error (you will gain standing, not lose it), and facilitate.

Ann Sinnott
Breastfeeding Older Children
Free Association Press, 2010

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Emily Rodriguez, Austin, TX

February 6, 2012

Dear Facebook Management,

I am writing to express my concern over Facebook’s actions in removing
photographs and freezing the accounts of breastfeeding mothers and
babies. These users are told that they have breached Facebook’s terms of
use by posting pornographic material to the site. Breastfeeding is in no way
pornographic and has many benefits for mother and babies.

Breastfeeding gives mother and baby skin to skin contact, eye contact and
relaxing bonding time. Mothers naturally want to remember these special times
and to share them with their friends and families. These mothers use Facebook
to share all the wonderful times they have with their babies, including nursing,
which for many mothers is a favorite time.

In addition to the bonding and emotional benefits nursing gives mothers
and babies, there are so many wonderful health benefits to nursing, as well.
Breastfeeding reduces the risks of Anemia, Osterperosis and Breast, Ovarian,
Cervical, and Endometrial Cancers for nursing mothers. Breastfed children have
a lower risk for vitamin D and iron deficiencies and they get antibodies from
mother’s milk to help them avoid sickness. Breastmilk offers protection against
Meningitis, Botulism, Childhood Lymphoma, Crohn's disease and Ulcerative

Breastfeeding is a hot topic for many people, but that is even more of a reason
to normalize nursing in public now. Most people will agree that nursing is a
good thing if you follow certain rules. Ex. Don’t do it in public or cover up with a
blanket. Don’t breastfeed past a certain age (or teeth, or once they can ask for
it) and these things decrease the number of children getting breastmilk. It is so
important for our children to see breastfeeding to increase the number of people
successfully breastfeeding in the next generation. If it is hidden and taboo
people won’t want to do it, but if the very influential Facebook is standing behind
breastfeeding mothers we are one giant step closer to the normalization of public

The WHO recommends breastfeeding until two years of age and the AAP
recommends a year, but Facebook won’t even allow a picture of breastfeeding to
stay on it’s website. This sends the message that mothers are doing something
wrong and that is not the case.

Please stand behind breastfeeding mothers and babies. By agreeing that
breastfeeding is normal and in no way obscene you are contributing to the health
and wellness of all future mothers and babies.


Emily Rodriguez

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tina Revai, Registered Nurse, Board Certified Lactation Consultant, British Columbia, Canada

An Open Letter in Support of Emma Kwasnica and all mother have posted breastfeeding images
February 5, 2012

Dear Facebook Management,

You have heard from many infant feeding experts. Breastfeeding is the normal biological way to feed
infants and young children, along with meeting their needs for connection to their primary caregiver.
The evidence is unequivocal that there are long term health effects for babies not breastfed and for
mothers who do not breastfeed.

In many countries women start out with the intent to breastfeed because families know this. This is
evidenced by the very high rates in which women and infants start out breastfeeding in the first few days
of life. In most areas this is well over 80% of women.

However, some women struggle to maintain this relationship in a greater society that is only beginning
to be conscious of the importance of nurturing infants and children in this way.

A significant source of connection for these women is each other. Women seek out other supportive
mothers. And as we shift into understanding that this is normal human behavior, women use Facebook
as an opportunity to share their parenting journey. This is what Facebook’s intent is – social connection!

Targeting the images of women and children engaged in normal, healthy human experience is
discriminatory. Discrimination against women hurts both women and the next generation of children,
boys and girls alike. And this costs all of us.

Please reconsider your actions. As a leader in on-line social media you have a corporate social
responsibility to have a positive impact on the greater society. Not a damaging one.

Yours sincerely,

Tina Revai

Registered Nurse, British Columbia, Canada

Board Certified Lactation Consultant

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Jennifer Tow, IBCLC, USA & France, Intuitive Parenting Network, LLC

February 5, 2012

Dear Facebook Management,

  • I have gone round and round in my head trying to compose a letter to you that will address, in some meaningful way, the confounding behavior of your staff towards women on Facebook. What eludes me is any rational motivation for your actions that I might intelligently address or debate. The contradictory actions of your staff, when addressing issues that are of significance to the women who use your site have an almost arbitrary, adolescent tone to them.

    Given that 58% of your users are women and that women use social media far more actively than men, one might think you would have an interest in treating women with respect and dignity. Yet, based upon the actions of your staff, there appears to be an unwritten guideline that it is perfectly acceptable for images to be posted on FB that display womens’ bodies as objects of male sexual desire, commentary and misogynistic denigration. Images of women whose bodies are displayed solely for the pleasure of men can be found effortlessly on FB simply by typing in keywords that are commonly used by prepubescent boys to describe women’s breasts.

    By contrast, your staff appears to have taken quite the opposite attitude when women share images of themselves nursing their children. Pages that are designed to support and educate nursing mothers, allowing them to gain confidence, reflect their pride and even communicate their pleasure in the wondrous physiologic purpose of their own breasts are hassled, harassed and shut down. Even on personal pages, mothers are harassed for posting images of their children at breast.

    An obvious conclusion one might draw from the actions of your staff, actions which appear to contradict your own policies, is that the eight-member all-male Board of FB is uncomfortable with images of women taking pleasure in the nature of our bodies, our babies and our selves as mothers. A pleasure that does not include you. A pleasure that reflects our sexuality but is in no way sexual. Perhaps the idea that women truly delight in feeding and nurturing our babies at our breasts is disconcerting to you in some way.

    Whatever might be going on in your own minds about this, I would like to suggest that you…for lack of a better way to say it…grow up. Having stewardship over one of the most significant social tools used in the world today is not a role for adolescents or condescending bureaucrats. It is a role that ought to reflect intelligence, leadership and the forward-thinking creativity that put FB on the map to begin with. Like it or not, you are in the position to effect great change or inflict ongoing harm.

    The normalization of breastfeeding is surely one of the most significant public health issues of this century and you are uniquely positioned to catalyze a shift in the right direction by doing what all of us should do, and ignore images of nursing mothers, unless they are personally meaningful to us, just as we do with the millions of other ordinary images we see every day. The posting of a nursing photo is no different from the posting of an image of a child being fed or nurtured in any other way. It is no more significant to FB than a child at a birthday party, at the beach, in a swing. It is just life, the normal, everyday life of millions of women and children. By instructing your staff to simply react in no greater way to images of nursing children than they do to any other ordinary photo, a very important shift will occur. And the staff of FB will have grown into their stewardship in a responsible and meaningful way.

    Best Regards,
    Jennifer Tow, IBCLC, USA & France
    Intuitive Parenting Network, LLC

Rachel Myr, IBCLC, midwife, master's student in public health, listmother, Lactnet, Kristiansand, Norway

Open Letter to Facebook
February 4, 2012

Dear Facebook management,

I'm writing to support the repeal of your policy of censoring pictures
of breastfeeding and shutting down the profiles of some users who post
breastfeeding pictures, adding my voice to those of my colleagues in
other countries.  Breastfeeding is the normal way to feed human
babies.  It is the single most important measure for infant survival
world wide, it levels the playing field where there are social
inequalities in access to health care and to material wealth, it is
the normal way to promote and protect the health of the mother and the
child, and it fosters the normal development of social skills in both
as well.

I grew up in the US but now live permanently in Norway, where I work
as a midwife and breastfeeding specialist.  I am a lifelong member of
the Norwegian mother-to-mother breastfeeding support organization
Ammehjelpen, whose presence on Facebook has dramatically increased the
number of contacts we have with new mothers each year.  Even though
breastfeeding is relatively well protected in Norway compared to many
other developed countries, women still have trouble accessing skilled
help when they run into problems.  Our group could not function at the
same high level without Facebook as a contact arena.  It is an almost
universally used social medium in Norway and it is to be expected that
such an important part of life as breastfeeding is visible here.
Sometimes we exchange pictures on our discussion forum on Facebook and
many women here post pictures of themselves with their children.
Since babies spend a lot of time feeding, and it's one of the few
times they sit still long enough to be photographed, a lot of those
are breastfeeding pictures.  These pictures tend to elicit feelings of
warmth and loving kindness in the viewer, and that may also be why
images of breastfeeding have been common throughout human history.  I
don't need to reiterate what so many others have written on the
importance of making breastfeeding visible in our daily lives,
including on the internet.

It seems bizarre for an entity like Facebook, which is all about
bringing people together, to treat its members who practice the basic
model for human contact, the contact that sets the stage for all
future interaction in the life of the individual, as if they are doing
something wrong.  Please stop harassing your members who post photos
of breastfeeding on Facebook.  You will be doing far more than a
kindness to those members; you will be contributing in your way to
better health for everyone in the world.

Sincerely yours
Rachel Myr, IBCLC, midwife, master's student in public health and one
of the listmothers on Lactnet, a free, international listserv-based
discussion forum with over 3000 subscribers (and its own FB group!)
for people working in support of breastfeeding
Kristiansand, Norway