World Breastfeeding Week is a time in which breastfeeding advocates whip out practical advice about the health and bonding benefits of breastfeeding. Fundamentally speaking, there's nothing wrong with that. I'm a fan of free food, especially if it's good for you, and I'm usually a fan of physical bonding, as long as total strangers aren't involved. However, some people take the "breast is best" philosophy to extremes, judging mothers who don't breastfeed (as though they put their babies in "harm's way" by choosing formula) and bragging incessantly about what good breastfeeders they are on social media sites. While I appreciate the awareness aspect of World Breastfeeding Week, that awareness is occasionally spoiled by the sheer amount of breastfeeding coverage that flows through the average newsfeed just about any week of the year.
I'm not suggesting that people keep their thoughts about breastfeeding to themselves except during World Breastfeeding Week; I'm saying that World Breastfeeding Week is almost redundant when celebrated on a site like Facebook. It'd be like having World Running Week to promote exercise when the majority of Facebook users' friends already have their exercise apps connected to social media. I don't need my buddy to tell me that running is a great way to combat heart disease during a specific week of the year if he's already posting how many miles he runs on a near-daily basis. As much as I'm a proponent of World Breastfeeding Week, I tend to use it as an opportunity to remind parents of a few social media etiquette tips they can use year-round. Not everyone needs a lesson in breastfeeding awareness, particularly during the other 51 weeks of the year. Here are some helpful pointers to latch onto:
1. We Get It: Some People Drink Breast Milk
I know that breast milk isn't that different from cow's milk and blah blah blah. There will always be people out there who talk about putting breast milk in coffee or in homemade ice cream, and that's all fine and dandy until it becomes a point of conversation on Facebook. The same way no one wants to know about a friend getting "cleaned out" on a juice cleanse, no one wants to know about the sweet taste of a friend's "mother's milk." Well, except for other mothers. You can start a private group for that.
2. Story Hour: Breastfeeding Updates
I feel for Mandy, but why is she venting about needing to pump on Facebook when she could be out buying a pump? Or borrowing one from a friend? Or finding one at the Salvation Army that probably shouldn't be sold there but still managed to get stocked in the "home appliances" section? Mandy, for the love of softeners and toxicity, get this problem resolved!
3. Milk Chins
I know, I know -- this is a beautiful picture of a baby who's "milk drunk" and totally nourished and there's absolutely nothing wrong with it. But, why was it posted on Facebook? I don't take low light pictures of vegetable juice dribbling down my chin, or post images of myself covered in sweat after a workout. Taking pride in being good to yourself or your baby is great, but posting pictures might be taking things a step too far. I'm sure for Johanna, this picture represents the sweet bond she has with her child, but to me, it's just a baby who needs a burp cloth.
4. Milk Supply
No doubt about it -- pumping this much breast is hard work, and Niya should take pride in her efforts. But why are all of these bags of "liquid gold" sitting on the hood of a car? And why did she upload this picture to show off the heft of her supply? It's okay to take personal pride in something and not share it with the world. Sometimes I think people forget that.
5. Breastfeeding Rants
Even Rachael's husband Sean thinks she's being a bit over-the-top in her update, and I'm guessing it's because she posts so much about breastfeeding already. I can't even tell if Sean is joining the ranks of her condescension, but it sounds to me like he's saying what all of Rachael's friends have been thinking since she gave birth. She's become "one of them," and she needs to stop now.
6. Gratuitous Breastfeeding Pictures
I'm sure most breastfeeding parents have pictures of their children "at the milk counter," but pictures like this one -- especially posted with the caption "455 days of Basically Exclusively Nursing" -- appear to be more gratuitous than "natural" on Facebook. The act of breastfeeding is natural, of course, but posting the image is a deliberate choice. This is what all the lactivists encourage breastfeeding mothers to do, because there are benefits to showing babies nursing on social media sites. But a person like Sylvia is also bragging and saying, "Check it out, I've exclusively nursed my baby longer than most other mothers nurse theirs! I win!"
Let's face it: Any baby that's brought up healthy and loved is "winning," and the mothers are the ones who are competing. This year during World Breastfeeding Week, I hope everyone remembers that what mothers need most is support, whether they're breastfeeding or not.