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Posted by on Feb 6, 2012 in Life | 17 comments

Breastfeeding is bad for my health

Breastfeeding is bad for my health


I’m beginning to think that breastfeeding is bad for my health! Or at least the debates about breastfeeding in Ireland are! My blood pressure was through the roof this evening because of it!

You may have heard that Friends of Breastfeeding held a protest at the Facebook headquarters in Dublin today. This protest was against a persistent problem on Facebook, where despite having a policy which states that breastfeeding photographs are permitted on the site, Facebook employees persist in removing breastfeeding photos posted by users on their personal profiles and pages, and disabling their accounts or pages. The grounds cited for this are obscenity and indecent content.

Of course the protest isn’t what got my blood pressure up! No, I made the mistake of reading user comments on some of the media articles about the event. If I wasn’t sure about the need for a protest before, I was convinced about it after reading! It’s quite obvious that breastfeeding is far from normal as far as a sizeable portion of Irish society is concerned.

There were several recurring arguments put forward by the most vocal commenters today. So I thought I’d list the main ones that resonated with me and respond to them.

Facebook is a free service so they can do what they like. If you don’t like their policy, you can leave. But you have no right to complain because it is free.
First off, you may not pay a fee to use Facebook, but let’s not pretend for a second that it is some kind of charity. It is a highly profitable and influential business. And their policies matter when it comes to things like classing breastfeeding as obscene. Because if Facebook is allowed to class breastfeeding as obscene and we’re not allowed to complain about it, then that implies that Facebook is somehow right in this classification. Breastfeeding in public is a protected right in Irish society, and Facebook is an online extension of our society. If you are not allowed to discriminate against breastfeeding mothers in Irish society, you should not be allowed to discriminate against them in an online society either.

If Facebook decided that photographs of inter-racial couples were obscene, would you be Okay with them deleting them? Or would you recognise it for the discrimination that it is?

Why would anyone want to post a picture of themselves breastfeeding anyway?
What difference does it make what their reasons are? Perhaps they like the photo and wanted to share it with friends and family? Isn’t that usually the reason why people post photos to Facebook. Perhaps they thought it captured a lovely moment of their baby being fed – plenty of people I know have photos of Daddy giving baby a bottle, or proud Nana feeding baby – are we supposed to accept that that is okay and innocent and cute, but a breastfeeding photo of the same baby is obscene?

For what it’s worth, I didn’t post photos of myself breastfeeding. That was my choice. But I will support 100% the right of another woman to post breastfeeding photos without being labeled obscene. Maybe before asking why someone posts a breastfeeding photo to Facebook, ask why anyone posts anything to Facebook. The reasons are generally much the same.

There are far more important things than this to protest against. These women must have too much time and little to be doing with it.
Since when can people only protest about the MOST important thing. And who decides what the most important thing is? If you feel there are more important things to protest against, then by all means go ahead. But don’t hold it against someone because they find being told that the act of feeding their babies is obscene upsetting. It’s not as though one or two photos were deleted and suddenly a worldwide protest was organised. Other channels of communication have proven ineffective since this problem first arose a few years ago. So this protest is the manifestation of years of annoyance, and indeed anger.

Typical breastfeeding hippies shoving their tits in everyone’s faces.
I’m not sure whether these comments are aimed at the original photos on Facebook or at the women at the protest. A lot of the commenters seem to fancy themselves as telepaths, able to discern exactly what someone’s intentions are when they choose to publish a breastfeeding photo or indeed when they choose to breastfeed in public. If some of the commenters are to be believed, only people with political agendas ever breastfeed in public. The fact that they might just want to feed their babies because they are out and about and the baby is hungry is completely inconceivable apparently. Don’t get me wrong, I have no doubt that some women posted photos of themselves breastfeeding to make a statement, but I don’t think that was the case for the majority of them. Perhaps I’m guilty of being the one projecting here, but I know myself that the few times I breastfed in public (mostly I was too nervous of negative reaction to even attempt it) the only goal I had in mind was to get my baby fed.

I also wonder what people think breastfeeding looks like when they write about “those women slapping their boobs out” – most of the time when a woman is breastfeeding, the only thing you can see is the back of the baby’s head, and maybe a small bit of skin. You generally see a lot more flesh on display if you just look around the street or maybe accidentally wander into Coppers any night of the week. But I don’t generally hear people shouting about obscenity if someone walks around in a tank top.

Cue the breastfeeding nazis…blah blah blah
Usually this, or a comment similar to it is rolled out part way through any conversation about breastfeeding in public or breastfeeding vs formula feeding, or today, breastfeeding and Facebook. Ironically, in my personal experience, the more vitriolic and hateful the statements being made against breastfeeding and breastfeeders, the earlier this statement is likely to be rolled out. It’s a conversation or debate ender as far as I’m concerned. Clearly whoever makes this reference has never heard of Godwin’s law. But I have, and I tend to side with those who believe that as soon as someone has to resort to comparing someone or something to Hitler or Nazis, they have obviously exhausted all their arguments, and they have lost the debate.

I have no problem with breastfeeding but it needs to be discrete.
I would argue that this one is slightly off topic, but it seemed to be a popular argument today, so let’s address it. Breastfeeding does not NEED to be discreet. You would prefer if people were discreet about it. That’s fine. You are entitled to your preference. When I was breastfeeding,I preferred to be discreet about it. That was my preference, but it stemmed but a general sense of being ill at ease with “what people would think.” I wish I hadn’t had to worry so much about negative reaction, but comments like those I read today, make me believe that worry wasn’t misplaced.

People are uncomfortable with things that they are not familiar with. Besides my mother, I only ever saw one woman breastfeeding in real life before it was time to feed my son. Why should that be? Hiding breastfeeding women away feeds into this notion that it is something strange, something shameful, something icky. Allowing images of breastfeeding to permeate society isn’t about forcing obscene images on people. It’s about normalising breastfeeding, and making people realise that it’s not icky, it’s not weird and it’s not just for “hippies”!

There were plenty of other comments that got to me today, but to be honest, I think I’ve said enough. The fact remains, that Ireland has the lowest rate of breastfeeding in the OECD, and having witnessed those reactions today, is it any surprise? After all, who wants to get involved with something that may one day see them labeled as nazis, hippies, or attention-seeking exhibitionists?

Well done to all those who attended the protest today! Thank you for standing up for breastfeeding families everywhere.

UPDATE: This post has been nominated for Best Blog Post for Blog Awards Ireland 2012. If you like it, and feel it’s worthy of a vote, please go to the Best Blog Post page on Blog Awards Ireland, select the post, and click Vote! Couldn’t be simpler.


  1. well said! 

  2. Well written Lisa and I have to agree. Im too tired to go into detail but I can’t believe the light that breastfeeding is seen by a lot (probably the majority) of people in Ireland. What a shame. I too felt like you that I couldn’t feed my baby in public when I was breastfeeding and I found that very stressful and the few times I did I felt uncomfortable. i wish I’d been braver as I think it is the most natural thing in the world and should be seen that way. I didn’t even have the support of my family who didn’t understand it. It was only with the support of the BF group that I probably made it to 9 mths when my son self-weaned. Thanks for posting on it.

    •  I think we are all very lucky with the breastfeeding group we had Tanya! It got me through some tough times with feeding too.

  3. Hear hear Lisa! Well said. I breastfeed my 27 month old and quite often ‘go on’ about breastfeeding….as you know…haha! Before today’s protest I wasn’t even going to attend…even though it was only down the road from me. I’m so glad I made a last minute decision to go though…yes, these attitudes are prevalent! Hard to believe isn’t it? It’s no wonder breastfeeding is rarely seen. Breastfeeding mamas and those who support them are no match for global empires with money to be made from everything from sex to food & all in between. They win every time.

    •  Loved the photo of you and Little M at the protest Aine!

  4. Ultimately, I do not and will not ever understand why breasts are so criminalized!?  It’s just puzzling to me.  I’m not afraid of mine.  I’m not afraid of anyone elses!  I have never been assualted by a boob.  I have never been yelled at or degraded by breasts.  I simply cannot find a reason to be scared of boobs.  That’s just me!  It’s also of my opinion that it’s the boob that makes people uncomfortable about BREASTfeeding.  I can’t imagine people are truly disgusted by a hungry baby drinking breast milk.  If nudity wasn’t treated like a disease (in America anyway) I would be a little more confused about the breastfeeding fits.  Oh well!  Great post :))  Thank you!

    •  I agree with you that for the most part, it’s the “boob” that people are uncomfortable with. But I think they are a little uncomfortable with the idea of breastmilk too. For a lot of people, they class it in the same category as bodily waste. Let’s face it – half the time we see breastmilk on our TV screens, it’s in the form of some kind of sitcom joke about an adult accidentally drinking it because they thought it was regular milk!

  5. I concur with this.

    BUT, I will add that I do prefer discretion. And, I do think that sometimes in certain places it IS necessary (though not all places)

    •  I’ve given this a little more thought since last night, and to be honest, I can’t understand where all this worry about indiscrete breastfeeding mothers comes from. As I said in the post, I made it to 30 years of age only ever witnessing one woman besides my mother breastfeeding. Clearly if indiscretion was really a “problem”, I’d have been far more exposed to it over the years (if you’ll pardon the pun!). I think discussions about the perceived need to be discrete take from the real debate, which is why Irish society is so disapproving of breastfeeding in general.

  6. “The Effect of Breastfeeding on Children’s Educational Test Scores at Nine Years of Age: Results of an Irish Cohort Study” ‘children who were breastfed continued to enjoy a significant test score advantage of 3.24 (p < 0.001) and 2.23 (p < 0.001) percentage points on reading and mathematics respectively compared to those who were never breastfed'The evidence is that in modern Ireland breastfeeding your child is of huge benefit to everyone. The cognitive improvements associated with 3% better scores in maths that would be of huge benefit to society. 

    •  The link was broken, so I edited it David. (In case you’re wondering why your comment has been “edited by a moderator”.)

  7. Well said Lisa. I guess things have not progressed very far since I was breastfeeding in the 80´s.

  8. Good Read, couldn’t make it on Monday, but my heart was there. i choose to not listen to or read comments, saw a few, and decided to avoid the negativity. After Niamh @ themamaship interview i just get very disheartened. Looking forward to feeding #2 soon, and probably tandem feeding, with Little Man. Just found your blog- looks really good. 

  9. I agree completely.  A very sane, balanced take on the the whole issue. Why does feeding babies have to be so political and divisive? Annoying.  

  10. I think that it wouldn’t be a huge problem about breastfeeding if there were more facilities for mums, so they could disappear from public view…I do agree it should be private to feed baby, but I don’t care really when my baby is hungry. I’m not exhibitionist, just caring mum…

    • I would like to see more baby feeding facilities (that aren’t just a chair in a baby changing room) Agnes, because I think it would really help alleviate the fears of women who are too shy or self-conscious to feed in public. (Or have babies who are too nosey to feed in loud public places). But I disagree with you that privacy is necessary. If a woman wants to or needs to feed in public, it is her right to do so and no one should make her feel she is doing something wrong for feeding her baby.


  1. Remember that rant? | - [...] post in question is “Breastfeeding is bad for my health“, a little rant opinion piece that I wrote after…
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