How Facebook could help save one million children

State of the World's Mothers 2012 is available from Save the Children

State of the World's Mothers 2012 is a report by Save the Children

Nobody understands maternal rage until a photo of a mother breastfeeding is labeled as “offensive” and removed from Facebook.

In the past few years, many women I know have felt humiliated and angry after Facebook deemed their breastfeeding images “obscene” or “offensive.”

A campaign began to try and get Facebook to change their stance on breastfeeding but is the problem with Facebook or is it with our society in general?

The thing is, Facebook generally only removes images when someone complains. Facebook relies on its user community to police pages, profiles and groups.

It is a sad fact that our society has become intolerant of the natural and beautiful art of breastfeeding and turned talk of breastfeeding into a debate about bodily exposure.

In the meantime, the real issues are ignored.

So what are the real issues and why should Facebook lead the charge?

According to Save the Children: State of the World’s Mothers 2012, a global study on mothers’ and children’s wellbeing, “breastfeeding is the single most effective nutritional intervention for saving lives. If practiced optimally, it could prevent a million child deaths each year.”

One million deaths, prevented!

As we sit here in our comfy lounge chairs and gobble up the leftovers from Christmas and New Years, it’s easy to forget that malnutrition has a global cost of approx. $20 to $30 billion per year.

While we debate whether mothers should or should not bottle feed in the developed world, in the developing world, breastfeeding is not about “should I or shouldn’t I.” It literally saves lives and prevents disease.

What is heartbreaking is that some of the main barriers to breastfeeding in developing nations (as well as developed) are cultural and sociological and not necessarily poverty. Some very poor countries are leading the way in terms of breastfeeding policy and support.

So, given that more than 1 billion people are on Facebook, there is an amazing opportunity to make a difference to maternal and child health the world over.

One problem that hinders progress in the developing world, is a lack of leadership in the developed world. The US ranks poorly when it comes to breastfeeding policy and support. According to the report, only 35% of US mothers are breastfeeding at three months, let alone six months or more.

The US ranks poorly when it comes to breastfeeding policy and support.

If the most developed country in the world doesn’t lead the charge, what hope is there for the rest of the world?

Perhaps I’m an idealist, but if Facebook and other social platforms made a stand about breastfeeding and changed their policies on photos of breastfeeding women, I believe this would go a long way toward changing perceptions on a global scale and perhaps even help prevent deaths due to malnutrition.

Have you ever had a breastfeeding photo removed by Facebook? How can we, as Facebook users, promote change? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  • Joanne Kaminski

    I was not one of the lucky ones that was able to breastfeed. I wanted to and tried a whole month with doctor visits every other day. I find no offense to breastfeeding. I am not sure how to change the policies on facebook. That is a tricky one.

    • Cas McCullough

      Thanks for sharing Joanne. So many women struggle with breastfeeding.