As Facebook removes a mother's picture of her breastfeeding her newborn, why is it still socially unacceptable for mums to feed their baby in public?
Take a look at the ‘offending’ photo above of new mum Emma Bond tenderly breastfeeding her newborn daughter Carene.
Does it make you feel sick? Or does it fill you with maternal goosebumps?
The Facebook police intially felt the former. The picture was banned from Emma’s page after she posted the photo on Sunday. She wanted those closest to her to see it because baby Carene had been born 12 weeks prematurely and it was the perfect way to let everyone know that her little girl was starting to improve.
But one of her ‘friends’ reported it to the Facebook authorities after deeming it offensive.
In protest, Emma uploaded the image to a pro-breastfeeding Facebook group on Monday and gained an incredible 166,000 likes. But then the 22,000 users who re-posted the image had their links deleted.
Mum of two Emma, 24, who was initially told Carene would not live for more than three days, says: ‘The original photo was only viewable by my friends and family. Everyone was aware it was touch and go, so I was sharing the special moment with people to show them how far she had come.’
After hundreds of complaints Facebook eventually reinstated the photo saying it was ‘removed in error’ but the social media site certainly isn’t the only place guilty of making mums feel bad for breastfeeding.
There are countless incidents where women have been made to feel like lepers for feeding their baby in public.
A few months ago a mum was banned from feeding her five-month-old daughter in a swimming pool because it breached ‘food and drink’ rules.
Last year a mother was told by a member of supermarket staff to go and breastfeed her six-week-old baby in the grubby disabled loos.
I could go on.
The problem isn’t actually with Facebook or with the staff who try to regulate people’s ‘exposure’ to breastfeeding. It’s with us as a society.
There is still a sense of shame that can surround a mother’s decision to feed her child in public. I’ve lost count of the times I apologised to people when I fed my young daughter in front of them – or the times I took her to the loos ‘to change her nappy’ but secretly fed her instead for fearing of disgusting my non-baby mates.
Mums aren’t breastfeeding in public to show off their boobs or scandalise, most do it discretely using a muslin or material to cover but even that isn’t enough for some people.
New mums – still relatively vulnerable to the whole concept of pulling their top down in public – often don’t have the confidence to tell people to ‘go stick it’ if they have a problem with them feeding.
In the same way that I suspect mums feel judged for formula-feeding their bubs from a young age, women who breastfeed often still feel like it’s ‘wrong’ to give their child breast milk in front of others (unless they’re with other mums breastfeeding themselves).
Why? Because, despite all common sense, it is still deemed socially unacceptable to do so.
I remember one harrowing experience when my four month old daughter screamed on a packed commuter train because she was hungry. When I finally summoned up the confidence to get my boob out, I watched in horror as my milk projectiled onto a young girl’s leather jacket next to me.
She got up and moved. I was mortified.
In the end it was a man who leant forward and said: ‘God, I’ve got a baby. I know what it’s like. Is there anything I can do to help?’
The more that we breastfeed in front of people the more that we can change society’s attitudes. And the more members of the public we will encounter who were like that lovely dad on the train.