Mother-to-mother support has long been essential for breastfeeding moms to get through tough times. La Leche League was the original mother-to-mother group. It was started in 1956 by a group of nursing moms who wanted to provide each other with encouragement and help. For many moms, it was the only place they could get help for breastfeeding. Over the years, more support has become available with women calling lactation consultants and hospitals offering breastfeeding groups. Increasingly, social media is becoming part of the mix, with Facebook as a major player.
Researchers from the University of Georgia recently published a study supporting the benefits Facebook provides for breastfeeding moms. One reason cited was its constant availability for advice and support. For moms living in isolated areas without any other resources, a Facebook group can be a lifeline.
Moms get real in these groups. They often post pictures and videos when struggling with a problem. Facebook’s policy on nudity has some women concerned they might be banned for posting photos of themselves breastfeeding.
Fortunately, Facebook clearly states in its Community Standards section that breastfeeding photos are exempt from the company’s nudity policy, so this kind of sharing is permissible. Even though many Facebook breastfeeding groups prohibit pictures that show an exposed nipple, the Facebook policy states, “..while we restrict some images of female breasts that include the nipple, we allow other images, including those depicting… women actively engaged in breastfeeding…”
The real question moms should be asking is whether a Facebook group is a safe and appropriate place to take their breastfeeding concerns. Lactation consultants worry some of these problems would be better addressed by a lactation consultant or physician as waiting can delay treatment.
Danielle Zaitzew, an IBCLC and the coordinator of the lactation program at Boulder Community Health hosts a weekly breastfeeding support group. “Sometimes moms come to group overwhelmed, tearful and confused because of the mixed messages and advice they have received on social media or the internet,” she tells Parentology. “Some moms come too late. They’ve tried everything online and are ready to give up.”
Most Facebook groups have measures to keep the groups a safe environment for moms.
To ensure confidentiality and safety you should ask these questions about a group:
- Is it a private group?
- Does it have pre-joining questions?
- Do the questions help ensure only breastfeeding
women can join? Sadly, creepy men have tried to join some of these groups.
- Possible questions may ask the age or weight of the baby.
- One group requires moms to take a picture of themselves with their baby. They must hold a piece of paper with their name written on it.
- Most groups allow women who provide professional support to new moms, such as lactation consultants and doulas.
- What are the rules of the group?
- Who are the administrators of the group?
- While some are run by health professionals, most are run by other moms
Some breastfeeding groups have over 100,000 members. Everyone has an opinion, and they may be conflicting. People will often say things behind the safety of their keyboard that they would not say in person. The last thing a mom struggling with a breastfeeding issue needs is to feel judged by other moms.
These groups clearly provide an important place for breastfeeding moms to share their experiences and get help. But as with anything, you must use common sense about the extent to which it can help.
*Author Andrea Tran RN, MA, IBCLC is a nurse and lactation specialist.