24423705870_81285cbf45_kWhen I'm working with moms who want to breastfeed, or already are breastfeeding, one of the last frontiers -- so to speak -- is breastfeeding in public.

Many first-time moms have the opinion that wearing a nursing cover is the way to go when out in public, or they might opt to pump a bottle ahead of the outing.

But as a mom gets more comfortable breastfeeding, especially as she begins adding more breastfeeding experiences -- meaning, she has more children -- oftentimes, breastfeeding in public becomes a lot less complicated and the cover gets left at home.

Of course, as with all things, breastfeeding-related or not, not everyone agrees with this. I know moms of 4, 5 or more kids who still prefer to wear a cover out in public. And I know first-time moms who are less shy about breastfeeding in public without a cover than they are about wearing a swimsuit.

Either way, the law makes it clear: Mothers can legally breastfeed in public, cover or no.

So what's going on with Facebook? Is Facebook above the law?

Maria Corry of Florida posted a photo of her breastfeeding while in North Carolina. And in my opinion, Maria is very discreet in this photo. Yet, it was flagged 5 times for being inappropriate.

Don't get me wrong, people can have their opinions of what is tasteful, or tasteless, or not. Those 5 people who reported Maria's photo to Facebook are free to flag breastfeeding photos all they want, under the law of free speech.

My problem is, why does Facebook care? I mean, I'm sure they have to investigate whatever photos are being flagged repeatedly, but once they see it's a breastfeeding photo, I would think -- the law being what it is and all, with breastfeeding in public protected -- that Facebook would then just let the issue go.

I looked up Facebook's policy on breastfeeding photos in the quick Help section, which referenced that the photos reviewed by Facebook are generally flagged by fellow Facebook users who don't like the photo.

Then I went to the full version of Facebook's Community Standards policies on what is not allowed. Breastfeeding photos fall under the Nudity section, where it explains that nudity can make some people uncomfortable and therefore content is limited in order to encourage respectful behavior. But it also says that Facebook "always allows photos of women actively engaged in breastfeeding," among other content including full breast exposure with post-mastectomy scarring and artwork.

OK, so Maria's breastfeeding photo was reported as inappropriate to Facebook multiple times. The photo has since gone viral and is still up on Facebook, so it obviously wasn't decided by Facebook to be inappropriate. But why then didn't Facebook simply point those complainers back to the breastfeeding policy and leave it at that? Why did Maria have to know that her photo was flagged 5 times?

Maria shouldn't have heard that there were any reports on her breastfeeding photo, even though there obviously were. Just as if a spammer was reporting a photo of Grandma with her kitten, just to wreak havoc on Facebook, any reports on Maria's breastfeeding photo should've been treated in the same regard -- either ignored, or point the reporter back to the breastfeeding photo policy.

There is probably some sort of automatic technology function in Facebook that warns users if their content is being flagged, in case it is actually inappropriate and then the user can take it down before Facebook disables their account. But if that was the case, I would think that spammers would be all over that, and random account disabling -- based largely on fake reports of actually appropriate photos, like Grandma with her kitten -- would be rampant.

Regardless, Maria responded to the anonymous Facebook users who flagged her totally appropriate breastfeeding photo by posting a photo of her breastfeeding while wearing nothing but undies and a bra, while holding a picture of a Victoria's Secret model in front of her baby's face. (I don't know about anyone else, but when a Victoria's Secret ad comes up on the TV when my kids are watching, I wish I had someone to report that ad to!)


The bottom line is, there are always going to be people who are uncomfortable with seeing breastfeeding. They may even be proponents of breastfeeding, but they are the ones who prefer to use a cover even after breastfeeding 7 babies. And they are perfectly entitled to their opinions of what breastfeeding in public should look like. That is free speech after all.

But that freedom of speech should not be allowed to overrule another law -- that of breastfeeding in public -- and Facebook should respect that, not only as a line in their policies but in practice, too: Stop giving power to the complainers by telling users when their breastfeeding photo has been flagged as inappropriate -- and therefore making breastfeeding mothers feel discriminated against -- because, according to Facebook's policies, that complaint is null and void.

Image Top: David D, Creative Commons, Flickr

Image Middle: Maria Corry's Response on Facebook