Nursing No-No

Recently Facebook found themselves at the center of a breastfeeding controversy. Do you think they were justified or should they get the booby prize for their treatment of nursing moms?

I have a lot of friends on Facebook, and lately a lot of them have been furious at the latest privacy rulings. Facebook decided that photographs of mothers nursing their babies were obscene (some were even labeled sexually explicit) and removed them from the site. Some of the support groups for nursing mothers were banned and one woman had her account frozen 30 times.

In retaliation groups of mothers held “nurse ins” outside Facebook offices in California and some accounts and photographs have been reinstated.

It’s not just Facebook that nursing moms have been angry at lately, Target stores found themselves at the center of a similar protest after asking a customer to stop nursing her baby in one of their stores.

Why all the hoopla? Women are constantly told that breastfeeding is best for babies. After you deliver in hospital, nurses are trained to help new moms get their baby to latch on and nurse effectively. Those moms having difficulty may even get help from a lactation consultant. So you would think we would have public support for doing something not only healthy but natural. Right?

Why is it then that women feel compelled to hide when nursing in public? They either resort to using public bathrooms or draping a blanket over the baby so no-one catches a glimpse of bare flesh.

Sixteen years ago when I first moved to Connecticut, a woman was arrested for nursing her baby in car at the mall parking lot. After a public backlash, it is now illegal to harass a nursing mother in public. How sad that we have to make this a law and you can’t trust people to leave moms alone to do what comes naturally; feeding their child the way nature intended.

Abbie Walston February 23, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Lactation is not a choice. It is physiological response to hormones and supply/demand stimulation after giving birth. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization both recommend exclusive Breastfeeding for 6 months, and the APA recommends bfing to a year, the WHO says a minimum of 2 years. In fact, the WHO recommends Breastfeeding as a first option, followed by bottle feeding the mother's expressed milk, then a wet nurse or milk from a donor, then formula as a last option when no human milk is available. I'm not saying formula is bad, but it is NOT what reliable medical sources recommend as best for newborns.
Robin Carlson February 23, 2012 at 02:17 PM
Formula feeding is rarely recommended unless the mother's milk is not healthy for an infant. Even then there are sources to obtain breast milk. Formula is not often a first choice for baby's health. There are other ways, if necessary, to measure baby's intake without resorting to formula. I believe the question posed by the writer was whether Facebook was justified in removing their picture. Later the article asks specific questions. You asked if there was a need or reason for any woman to expose her breasts and my response would be there isn't a reason or need for anyone to object. Pushing women out of public view to feed the baby is barbaric. If the inconvenience of breast feeding pushes women to use formula, we are purposefully encouraging a society of affected children with respect to health and development.
Nichole Penner February 23, 2012 at 02:34 PM
@Dr. Alfred C. Whitehead: you are welcome to your own opinion about breastfeeding and breastfeeding in public. But please, please do not pass your horribly misguided beliefs on to other people!!! A mother does not need ounce markers to tell her that her baby is getting enough milk. I exclusively breastfeed my infant who left the hospital with a birth weight of 5 pounds 11 ounces. At two months old he now weighs 12 pounds 7 ounces!!!! Please educate yourself about breastfeeding before you give out information; I have attached a link to the AAP for you: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/pages/How-to-Tell-if-Baby-is-Getting-Enough-Milk.aspx
Kevin Currie February 23, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Alfred, I was responding to your comment "you saw the picture. The areola was plainly visible", suggesting to me you found this visibility problematic. Now you are saying that you personally do not find public breastfeeding offensive, and I applaud your progressive thinking. To the PUBLIC breastfeeding issue, which is 100% subjective. Some people may be uncomfortable with it, which is their right to feel that way. It is NOT their right, however, to dictate that others should conform to that personal opinion. If we all got to prohibit everything we find offensive, there would be nothing left. Just because nursing mothers are a minority doesn't mean they should feel restricted by the personal beliefs of others (especially when those others, I'll wager, have likely never had to breastfeed an infant ,anywhere). I completely agree with you that we should show common courtesy, and in this case that includes courtesy to nursing mothers and their babies. Live and let live. I've never seen a nursing mother waving it in anyone's face (no pun intended), so it's hardly intrusive. If it makes someone uncomfortable, they could always just walk on by, not stare, and leave them be. That, my good doctor, would be courteous. "It's about how others (including children) IN PUBLIC are affected by it" - Now really Doctor, do you think anyone is being traumatized by this or suffering psychological damage? The only adverse effect might be vertigo as they climb onto their high horse.
Dr. Alfred C. Whitehead February 23, 2012 at 04:58 PM
@Kevin... actually I was responding to Robin who said that it was not exposed. It's sometimnes difficult to follow the chronological order of posting because postings and responses don't always coincide. I think you make some good points but your statements are general bold and sweeping but not necessarily correct. To say that a minority of people think this way is only your opinion.... not a fact. But if what you said is true... we are a nation that takes into consideration the opinion and the concerns of the minority. Is that true always... or only when it's convienent to use it to win an argument? We live in a society today where secular laws and civil liberties overshadow morality, prudence, politeness, tolerant, reason, tact, wisdom, common sense, sound judgement and decency, These comments are NOT directed to, for or against breastfeeding mothers. I think it reflects the sad state of affairs we are in as a nation. Everything we do or fail to do make up who we are. No one thing will destroy us as a society but just look around and see if you don't see something wrong with the level of permissiveness that exists today. Moms... breastfeed in public if you wish, I only ask you to consider "the minority" of people who may not agree with you.
EFM February 23, 2012 at 05:31 PM
I breastfed my child, but i don't think I was in a situation where I had to feed him in public. But even so, when around others outside of my husband or a medical person, I would try to cover as much of my breast as possible. I would not be comfortable with exposing my breast in public. As much as wel all know their purpose is to feed our young, men see them in a different light. Lets be honest about that! For those that less modest then I, that is their right to not care who is looking and what others are seeing.
Dana Schmidt, RN, IBCLC February 23, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Dr. Alfred C. Whitehead, I am wondering what your MD/PhD is in? According the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants should be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life, which means no formula, water, juice, or cereal. And I have to say I find you comparing breastfeeding to urinating in pubic disgusting and offensive.
Dana Schmidt, RN, IBCLC February 23, 2012 at 05:46 PM
The timing of this couldn't be more beautiful. I just did my first blog in the HAMDEN Patch. http://hamden.patch.com/blog_posts/its-ok-feed-your-baby. I would love your comments there as well.
Nicole Ball February 23, 2012 at 07:06 PM
And now on Branford Patch! Thanks Dana!
Yooper February 23, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Do those who so stridently insist that no one should feel "uncomfortable" when viewing breastfeeding also feel that they would not be "uncomfortable" if dozens of men gathered around to watch intently? Just saying...
Michelle Petroccio February 23, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Dr. Whitehead, long before formula was a feeding option, and since the beginning of time, mothers breast fed thier babies. In such an open society why is this subject still so TABOO so to speak? When a baby is hungry, they are hungry, simply stated! It isn't as if women just whip thier breasts out of thier nursing bras and blatantly shove them into an infant's mouth for God's sake, they are covered and discreet. If your mother is still of this world, perhaps you should ask how you were ourished as an infant, or is that just too embarassing for your stature? Perhaps you remember Jim Amann from Milford and the debate defending women that were breastfeeding mothers in the 1990's? Jim made great strides with women's groups and the public. His campaign over this issue made not only news in CT, but also Nationally. It increased awareness and helped to pass legislation allowing women the freedom to breast feed in public, have private areas where they could relax in malls, and in other public places. Your reference to urination in public is obscene, and completely not comparable by any measure! For someone who possesses a doctor's degree, it is also ignorant and very opinionated and makes you look exceptionally un-educated and very uptight. The year is 2012 in case you are not up to speed.
Michelle Petroccio February 23, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Dr, Whitehead, I am in my 50's, and I had my last child at the ripe age of 42, I breast fed all four of my children without embarassment, with discretion, and to noone's dislike that I was ever informed of.
Dr. Alfred C. Whitehead February 24, 2012 at 01:34 PM
I found this blog to be very interesting. Not so much for the topic itself, but how people reacted to it. When someone like myself objectively stated a perfectly sane opposing view that "not everyone should or does feel comfortable with public breast feeding," many of you(not all) became either hostile,angry or made personal attacks toward me or about my medical background. If you reread my comments there was not a single one that bashed breastfeeding or those who believe in it. In fact, I stated that I agreed with most of which was said. I stated a position that was neither extreme nor callous. I used terms such as "morality, prudence, politeness, tolerant, reason, tact, wisdom, common sense, sound judgement and decency." Those words and the action they might bring forth apply to both who either agree or disagree with public breastfeeding. I never made light of breastfeeding but only attempted to show that the "minority voice" might also have something to offer with the topic being discussed. There is a quote in the Bilble that reads that "one should be slow to anger and quick to reconcile." The next time you lash out in anger because someone doesn't agree with you.... take a deep breath, keep your mouth closed and listen to what is being said... you might even learn something.
Kevin Currie February 24, 2012 at 02:51 PM
Alfred, this is an OPINION column so pretty much everything we all say - including you - is subjective, not objective. I think it's a tad hypocritical of you to characterize my comments as "general and sweeping" then you come out with this humdinger of a proclamation from on high - "We live in a society today where secular laws and civil liberties overshadow morality, prudence, politeness, tolerant, reason, tact, wisdom, common sense, sound judgement and decency,". Wow. Civil liberties overshadow wisdom and decency? - are you serious!!?? I think we all agree that we can have different opinions on public breastfeeding, or any other topic for that matter. That is healthy and productive. But remember how this column started - Facebook and Target didn't just HAVE opinions, they decided their opinion was right, everyone else was wrong, and FORCED their opinions on others. That's when it becomes unhealthy. And illegal. Thankfully, we have "secular laws" to prevent such subjective discrimination. We should just live and let live! There are too many people infused with trumped-up morality who arrogantly think they are the arbiters of morality and conduct for everyone else. Just what gives them this right I wonder?
Lindsay Branscombe February 24, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Kevin - you seem to have confused the concept on governing bodies and privately held corporations. Facebook and target holding policy does NOT force their opinions on anyone. As a private company they are allowed to create their own guidelines and as a consumer you have the right to choose not to support such a company. To me it's simple. Public nudity is not allowed in most states and in most states nudity equals showing nipples and/or labia major or pubic hair for women, showing pubic hair or penis and testicles for men, and buttocks for both. This is not opinion - this is law. You can argue this law, but you can't go after a company that is following a law that the government also enforced. This isn't against breast feeding. This is against openly displaying an entirely bare breast to the public, which is agains the law - no matter what you are doing with this breast. Personally, I don't see why it's so hard to use a blanket or any other fabric to cover just a little. It doesn't harm the mother or baby and ultimately makes you a law abiding citizen. If you don't like the laws here in CT, go to NYC where it is completely legal for a woman to walk around in public topless.
Dana Schmidt, RN, IBCLC February 24, 2012 at 03:46 PM
These are our current CT laws regarding public breastfeeding Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-40w (2001) requires employers to provide a reasonable amount of time each day to an employee who needs to express breast milk for her infant child and to provide accommodations where an employee can express her milk in private. (HF 5656) Conn. Gen. Stat. § 46a-64 (1997) prohibits places of public accommodation, resort or amusement from restricting or limiting the right of a mother to breastfeed her child. (1997 Conn. Acts, P.A. 210) Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 53-34b provides that no person may restrict or limit the right of a mother to breastfeed her child There is no mention of whether or not a nipple (which is essential to breastfeed) is prohibited
Lindsay Branscombe February 24, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Dana, I feel the way this article was written os causing confusion along with people's inability to see past the single article being displayed in front of them. Fact - Facebook did not say they will remove every photo of breast feeding from their server. Instead they removed photos that included nipple. Again, showing nipple is a widely accepted definition of nudity. Just because one law allows breast feeding doesn't negate another. Not to mention that law has to do to public accommodation businesses. Not a photo sharing business. So not applicable. Target - again, they only asked a woman who was breast feeding with an entirely bare breast. Again, target does not fall under this definition of an accommodation business and therefore these laws are again, not applicable. Even if it were, one law defines the ability to allow breast feeding and probably purposely doesn't define the nudity topic because another law covers the topic on nudity. The existence of one law does not negate the other because of exclusion of the topic. Laws work together. Nipple is essential to breast feeding but a completely openly bare breast in public is not. Again, until someone shows me that a blanket or other piece of fabric for modesty causes harm, there is nothing necessary about showing full bare breast and therefor the laws work together.
Shannon Panda February 24, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Funny how a woman baring breasts is indecent but it's okay for a man in America to walk around topless. I've seen men at the beach with bigger breasts than most women. If you want to breastfeed you should be able to without having to drape yourself which to me says this is a shameful act. If I ever had more children in the future I would breastfeed and if need be do it in public. I dont see the big deal - women all over the world breastfeed without such hoopla.
Lindsay Branscombe February 24, 2012 at 04:14 PM
So for all of you who don't see why breasts have to be covered - im going to head to downtown with my giant fake titties and tiny waist. When I good song comes over a loudspeaker at the grocery store im totally going to want to dance. Im going to want to dance my topless ass off and let you explain to your 9 year old boy why he feels funny inside whereas before he might not have been exposed to that until he was 16. It's because of the children and for the safety of women. Men are conditioned to look at breasts as a STRONG sexual precursor. It's engrained in them. It's not the same for men's nipples with women.
Shannon Panda February 24, 2012 at 04:34 PM
That's funny and ridiculous. If people are exposed to women breastfeeding on a semi regular basis the sexualized part is removed. I'm not advocating public nudity just that breastfeeding should be allowed and without drapery. Definitely not removing your top off completely but modestly feeding.
Lindsay Branscombe February 24, 2012 at 04:37 PM
But YOU said you don't understand why men can show their nipples and women not show them. There's the reason. The law is simple and clean cut. Women can not show nipples. Women can breast feed in public but must also follow additional laws which require a woman to cover her nipple. Again, covering the nipple while breast feeding does not harm mother or child and results in following the law of public nudity. The law goes for everyone - they are not going to make an exception for breast feeding mothers because there is literally no real purpose to other than breast feeding moms WANT it.
Lindsay Branscombe February 24, 2012 at 04:38 PM
So if you say a mother can breast feed but can't take off her top completely but can kinda take her top off without a drape, how do you write that law? It's too general and open. There's no need to make it that complicated.
Shannon Panda February 24, 2012 at 05:12 PM
I was making the comparison that men can be topless but not women as a jest since we've all seen men at the beach with D cups. Most times when a woman breastfeeds, the babies face covers the nipple anyway. If I was breastfeeding I would most likely wear button down shirts so I wouldn't have to sit there topless based on my preference. I really don't see a need to have a blanket draping since I see breastfeeding as a natural event and not a sexual one. Of course women who breast feed want a law protecting their rights to nourish their children. As with anything in life laws are always requested by the people they directly effect so I could see why nursing mothers would want to make sure they had the opportunity to do so when the need arose. If men feel a sexual urge after seeing a woman breastfeed that's a control issue. There are men sexually attracted to legs and even feet - maybe us women should dress like it's 1800 as not to sexually arouse women.
Doreen Currie February 24, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Dr Whitehead, this is an opinion column and when people post a comment, they must be prepared for others to agree or disagree. Some people are polite, others not, such is the risk of discussion in a public forum. You may find that when you post something as subjective as " Medically speaking, I suggest formula feeding for a newborn. Quantitatively, you know exactly what and how much the child is consuming." some are going to dispute that with facts; that's objective. Perhaps this is why some called your medical experience into question, especially the mothers who are currently nursing.
Dr. Alfred C. Whitehead February 24, 2012 at 07:42 PM
@Kevin...the difference between my opinions and those who share your opinions is that I never called the practice of breastfeeding into question or personally ridulculed or attacked those who do it. I never mocked anyone for their beliefs or opinions regardless of my differing opinion or beliefs. Please reread all of my comments and compare them in tone and temperment to yours.... even you would have to agree that mine lack the hostility and indignation as yours and others do. What one does (breastfeeding) and where one does it(in public and uncovered) are two different matters. I simply separated the two issues and said that I have no problem with breast feeding but I did ask those women who choose to publicly breast feed to be considerate of those who don't agree with the practice. That doesn't require an angry response, a hardened position or the type of vitriol displayed in many of your posts.... just a little common courtesy "once in awhile" for that "minority of people" who are not as enlightened as you.
Dana Schmidt, RN, IBCLC February 25, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Let me ask you this? Have you ever noticed a woman publicly breastfeeding? I guess to say no. That doesn't mean it hasn't happened. It just means she hasn't flaunted it. AND they only ones that would see anyone breastfeeding are the friends of the person they shared it with. Someone walking through the street with their shirts off is for public display. They are quite different. One is feeding her child, quietly and I would guess discretely. The other is an exhibitioinist
Dr. Alfred C. Whitehead February 27, 2012 at 12:02 AM
@Lindsay Branscombe... you truly understand the article and the legitimate differences in the issues discussed..... welcome to the minority!
Dana Schmidt, RN, IBCLC March 15, 2012 at 08:49 PM
@Lindsay Branscombe - the nipple is covered - by the baby's mouth
Becki Pastor March 16, 2012 at 12:16 AM
When adults have to drink alcohol under something discreet then nursing Mothers can be asked to do the same. I nursed both my children wherever and whenever it was necessary. I was in the parking lot at Milford Mall nursing my daughter and I watched IN FEAR that I was next. I vowed never again to be bullied by ANYONE when it came to raising our children. Period. If someone is uncomfortable seeing s baby breastfeeding it's THEIR hang up....their problem ....not the baby's, not the Mother's.
Dana Schmidt, RN, IBCLC March 16, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Becki, the next time you see a nursing mother at the Milford Mall you can go up to them and say Good For You! I do it all the time!


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