Breastfeeding has been around as long as humanity, but a public battle rages in the United States on whether breastfeeding should be allowed in public or if the practice is obscene, or even public indecency.
The Following 50 Photos Show that Breastfeeding is a Normal, Natural Occurrence
Families have stood behind women feeding their babies for thousands of years. As a society we should support women as they work to nourish their baby.
Breastfeeding is an important decision each new family must make. There are clear scientific benefits of breastfeeding, but some new mothers find the process of breastfeeding difficult, or physically impossible due to a medical condition. Image via flickr.
The decision to breastfeed is a personal, family decision that cannot be made by anyone else. Some women cannot breastfeed for medical reasons. Others cannot for logistical reasons. If you can’t breastfeed, your baby is not doomed for an unhealthy life. If you are not breastfeeding, work with your doctor to find the right feeding method for your needs. Image via flickr.
Justus von Liebig created the first infant feeding liquid in 1865, and later developed a powder version for better storage and shelf-life. That moment was the beginning of a downward trend in breastfeeding. Before Von Liebig’s invention, breastfeeding was the only option. Image via flickr.
While it is important for women physically unable to breastfeed, infant formula has become very controversial in recent years as science has proven breastfeeding to be beneficial to the baby’s health.
Bottle feeding and formula have led to a misconception about the health benefits of breastfeeding. Bottles are more accepted in public, and that norm along with a conception that “bigger is better” when it comes to baby weight gain has led to a higher adoption rate of calorie packed formulas. Image via publicdomainpictures.net.
Doctors agree that all babies should be breastfed exclusively for the first six months. The health benefits are very clear, regardless of what social norms and people’s comfort says. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
In 2011, the Surgeon General made a public appeal to support breastfeeding women, who often don’t do so because of the inconvenience and public perception. Breastfeeding frequency has decreased with each generation in the United States due to social norms around bottle feeding.
However, doctors are not immune to the breastfeeding wars taking place in public opinion. One called formula evil when a mother asked about it in the hospital. This is more evidence to the polarizing nature of the public breastfeeding debate. Via Wikipedia.
The US government has been telling us about the benefits of breastfeeding for generations. This 1930s poster of a woman breastfeeding tells us that nursing is “your protection against trouble.” Via Wikimedia Commons.
Breastfeeding helps children feel safe, warm, and protected when they are held close to their mother. Image via flickr.
With 85% of women intending to breastfeed, it is the norm and should be normalized in society. There is nothing dirty or strange about it. It is completely natural. It goes back well past biblical times.
From Los Angeles to New York and from Lisbon to Shanghai, women breastfeed babies all over the world. It is the only method to feed babies that is universally accessible. Image via flickr.
Twins have twice the appetite! Image via flickr.
Sometimes babies get hungry by the pool. Does that mean they need to go back inside? Of course not, moms are portable! Image via flickr.
These little girls are keeping mom very busy at feeding time. Image via flickr.
Some mothers have to balance their baby while in transit. Babies do not take mom’s schedule into consideration when getting hungry. Image via flickr.
One study found that 85% of new mothers want to breastfeed exclusively for at least the first three months. That led one journalist to wonder if the controversy around breastfeeding is really happening among non-parents uncomfortable about breastfeeding taking place on social media and in public places.
Some public places offer nursing areas for new mothers and babies, but many public locations are not friendly to breastfeeding moms. Further, many mothers do not want to be segregated from everyone else while feeding. Via Wikipedia.
Moms and babies come in all shapes and sizes, and some moms are pressured or harassed when breastfeeding in public places like a shopping mall or park. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
Mothers don’t always have the luxury of a designated breastfeeding area, for example when they are outdoors away from heavily populated city centers.
Taipei International Airport is home to this Hello Kitty themed breastfeeding room. Forward thinking facilities like this make breastfeeding easy on families while traveling or in public places. Image via flickr.
Insufficient access to a safe, comfortable breastfeeding area at work and when baby is at daycare has further emanated bottle feeding as a norm.
Science says that mothers should breastfeed exclusively until the baby is at least six months old. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that only 11% of private-sector employees get paid leave when they have a baby. After going back to work, breastfeeding is incredibly difficult. Image via Wikipedia.
Women who go back to work often have to use a breast pump in a private office or bathroom stall. Bathrooms are not ideal locations for pumping, but most workplaces do not offer another option. Via Wikipedia.
The United States is the single member of the OECD that does not require paid maternity leave by law. This makes breastfeeding a challenge, and may be a root cause of the gender pay gap in the United States. Image via flickr.
In almost every state, moms can breastfeed wherever they want, whenever they want without fear of legal repercussions. In South Dakota and Virginia, breastfeeding mothers are exempted from public indecency laws, but are not specifically protected. The lone state that offers zero protection for breastfeeding mothers is Idaho. In the other 47 states, mothers can breastfeed in public without fear of legal action. Image via flickr.
In most countries breasts are considered a very private body part, so exposing your breast with other people present may not come naturally. Even when covered by a shawl or “hooter hider,” some women feel uncomfortable feeding in public places.
If you are uncomfortable feeding in public, don’t feel bad, but don’t deprive your baby because of you are not comfortable. Instead, pump and prepare bottles ahead of time to meet your baby’s needs. Always bring an extra bottle or two just in case! Image via flickr.
On planes, trains, and automobiles, babies need nourishment. Using a breast pump to supplement when you know ahead of time you won’t have a safe place to feed, for example on a road trip, can save time and frustration. Image via flickr.
Many women have been asked to stop breastfeeding in public places or to leave the area. This type of embarrassing interaction drives beliefs and practices contrary to the needed normalization of breastfeeding. Image via flickr.
Breastfeeding advocates press that women should always breastfeed and do so unapologetically. While we agree, sometimes those advocates can go too far. It is up to the woman to decide what is right for her and her family, not public opinion. Image via flickr.
Breastfeeding is a very polarizing topic, adding fuel to the debate. Most people with opinions on the topic have very strong ones. One mother who does not breastfeed survived a double mastectomy after surviving breast cancer. She shares that other mothers often chastise her for not breastfeeding, not knowing about her condition. Image via flickr.
A 2001 survey found that only 43% of adults believe women should have the right to breastfeed in public places. Many retail and restaurant managers believe they should ask women to stop breastfeeding in public areas to avoid offending anyone.
Breastfeeding has made the news plenty of times recently thanks to mothers feeding their baby in public. Whether it is on a plane, at the mall, or in a public park, everyone has different opinions on this controversial topic. Image via flickr.
For example, on a flight home from a funeral, two Delta flight attendants told a woman to cover up, which is not required by law. Delta has also kicked a woman off of a flight for breastfeeding and caused another social media controversy after telling a woman to cover up in a separate incident. Image via flickr.
Breast feeding may be a taboo topic for public conversation, but the times are changing thanks to social media and public campaigns surrounding breastfeeding benefits. Image via flickr.
Social media companies are deciding for us what is morally appropriate in society, which can place them in an awkward position. Instagram says breastfeeding photos are allowed in a vague message on their help page. “Yes. We agree that breastfeeding is natural and beautiful and we're glad to know that it's important for mothers to share their experiences with others on Instagram. The vast majority of these photos are compliant with our policies.” Image via flickr.
Instagram fed the controversy as they began blocking images of breastfeeding mothers, like this mom in Canada who posted a breastfeeding selfie. Image by Heather Bays on Instagram.
Instagram’s parent company Facebook has taken a similar, ambiguous stance on breastfeeding. “Yes. We agree that breastfeeding is natural and beautiful and we're glad to know that it's important for mothers to share their experiences with others on Facebook. The vast majority of these photos are compliant with our policies.” Image via Wikimedia Commons.
However, Facebook goes on to blame removed images on people’s friends who have reported the images as offensive, “Please note that the photos we review are almost exclusively brought to our attention by other Facebook members who complain about them being shared on Facebook”.
Facebook breastfeeding controversy: There is a lot of contradictory information out there on whether or not Facebook allows photos of women breastfeeding. There are two general lines of information available on this topic. 1) Breastfeeding photos are allowed as long as no nipples are visible in the photo. 2) Breastfeeding photos are allowed regardless of whether or not the nipple is visible. Image via flickr.
According to a June, 2014 article, the “nipple rule” went away around that time period when the #freethenipple movement was in full swing on social media. However, a March, 2015 article says the contrary is true, and breastfeeding images are allowed as long as the nipple is not visible. The official policy from Facebook is a bit more vague. Image via flickr.
At her California State University Long Beach graduation, Karlesha Thurman paused to feed her baby. A friend posted a photo of the occasion, breastfeeding in a cap and gown, to the Facebook group Black Women Do Breastfeed. The online firestorm called her inappropriate for feeding her child at a graduation ceremony. Image of Karlesha Thurman via Facebook.
Mother Elisha Wilson Beach was embroiled in controversy when her baby came for a snack while she was using the bathroom. The photo of her breastfeeding while seated on the toilet was laughable to her, so she posted it on her Instagram feed. The responses were not friendly. She called it a #momtruth, but others said “I was disgusting or had no class and I’m a nasty cow.” Image by Mike Beach.
25 year old British reality TV star Sam Faiers sparked controversy on social media after posting a photo feeding her baby in bed on Snapchat. The innocent photo captioned “Milk and bed” sparked a debate on Twitter. Some vocal opponents said things like “I'm all for women breast feeding in public, but does Sam Faiers really need to put it on her Snapchat story?” Supporters also quickly came to her side. Image by Sam Faiers on Snapchat.
It is time for social media policies on sites like Facebook and Instagram to adapt the true normal process of feeding babies. Image via flickr.