Sunday, February 5, 2012

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

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