In support of Feed with Confidence 2019, we explore the effects of social media on breastfeeding and how social media channels could help to normalise breastfeeding in public.
Breastfeeding stories on social
We recently conducted a national survey, which found that 30 per cent of women would like to share pictures of themselves breastfeeding on their social media accounts, but only 10 per cent would feel comfortable enough to actually do it. Women would rather share images of their baby (6%), the scan (55%), their bump (49%), the birth (22%) and a positive pregnancy test (19%) before they shared a breastfeeding photo.
This reluctance to share breastfeeding images online isn’t surprising given that over half (56%) of the women surveyed had never seen their friends post pictures of themselves nursing their children on social media.
However, of those that did upload breastfeeding photos, 69 per cent received a positive reaction and 45 per cent of mums wanted to see breastfeeding normalised through social media with more images shared.
Although reactions to images of breastfeeding are positive, the unwillingness many feel to share their images proves that there is still stigma attached to publicly sharing breastfeeding – whether that’s online or offline. The results could also help to explain UK breastfeeding rates are among the lowest in the world, and why more needs to be done to normalise public breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding celebrities and social media
53 per cent of mums we surveyed admitted that seeing celebrities or social media influencers share pictures of themselves nursing may help to encourage others to try it, especially since 49 per cent agreed that they felt more comfortable about breastfeeding after seeing celebrities doing it.
Celebrity mums; Chrissy Teigen (15%), Pink (14%) and Samantha Faiers (13%) were revealed as the biggest inspirations to breastfeeding mums – all of whom have received either media or public backlash in some form or another after posting breastfeeding pictures on Instagram.
Although breastfeeding images aren’t restricted on Instagram, the platform does ban images which show female nipples. This means that, unfortunately, some breastfeeding posts are removed and highlights that public breastfeeding may still an uncomfortable topic for some.
Inspiring breastfeeding with social media
In favour of social media’s impact on breastfeeding culture, our survey revealed that 24 per cent of mums turn to Instagram for support or inspiration while nursing – more than those that rely on their partners (9%) for the same thing. And, a quarter of new mums followed or searched for ‘#breastfeeding’ on Instagram for encouragement.
With 30 per cent of women also confessing that they use social media to share breastfeeding tips and advice, and 14 per cent admitting that pictures of nursing mothers online helped them to overcome their own anxieties about feeding in public, it’s clear that social media could play a huge role in inspiring more people to nurse their babies in public. Regularising breastfeeding online would expose more people to the fact that it happens and is completely natural, making it a common sight and less likely to cause controversy – an important step towards getting more new mums to give it a go.
Our Feed with Confidence campaign aims to empower more women to enjoy comfortably breastfeeding in public without fear of judgement and encourage more mums to practice feeding with confidence.
Discover more about the Feed with Confidence 2019 Awards and find out how to nominate someone you know for an award here.
For advice on breastfeeding in public, read our guide here.