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Why Instagram is shutting down moms' accounts

Monica Beyer is a mom of four and has been writing professionally since 2000, when her first book, Baby Talk, was published. Her main area of interest is attachment parenting and all that goes with it, including breastfeeding, co-sleepin...

Are naked, hungry babies too scandalous?

A mom's Instagram account was taken down shortly after she received a negative comment on a breastfeeding image she shared. Coincidence, or does Instagram not really know how to enforce their own guidelines?

Last Saturday evening, the Instagram account of Heather Bays was deactivated shortly after a negative comment was left on a breastfeeding selfie she posted. She protested, but the response she received was mixed, to say the least. Now her account has been reinstated, but we're left to wonder what the deal is. The hypocrisy of censoring a breastfeeding or baby photo when photos of thong-clad bottoms are allowed is another major question that should be answered.

Violation of terms

Bays posted a stunning selfie of her snuggling and nursing her 20-month-old daughter. A comment soon followed, saying simply, "Not cool." A few hours later, she began receiving emails from Instagram stating that some of her images violated their terms of use, and her account was deactivated.

Multiple attempts to contact the company received no results on Sunday, but after taking her story to social media, Instagram reinstated her account, albeit with some photos missing. She was then told by Instagram staff that it wasn't the breastfeeding photo that prompted the closure. Instead, it was because topless photos of her daughter are considered child pornography. Keep in mind, her daughter is 20 months old.

Mother nursing | Sheknows.com

She's not alone

Bays is not the only person to have their Instagram account closed without communication. Mandy Allender had her first Instagram account (@Tempestbeauty) disabled for similar reasons, but she has never been able to rouse a response from the powers-that-be. "The loss of my original account is heartbreaking to me," she explains. "Four thousand images. The birth of my third child. Priceless breastfeeding photos. But not just that, because I had all of the images backed up to my computer... but the loss of the story. I treat Instagram like a living scrapbook, a documentation of our daily lives. The connections matter. The people matter. It mattered. And now it is gone."

She has established a second account (@tmpstbty) but it simply isn't the same. Again, several photos have been deleted from her account, and again, no explanation has been given. "I know each person has their own level of acceptable or safe, and that Instagram surely has to have some sort of policy on the subject, but I feel like they have gone overboard with deleting and disabling accounts that are really nothing more than beautiful," she says.

Baby sleeping | Sheknows.com

Underlying issues

Jodine Chase, a breastfeeding advocate, was interviewed by CBC Radio about Bays' Instagram issue and relates that as social media websites grow, the staff doesn't grow at the same rate. "At these numbers they don’t really have full control over their network," she shares. "Their staff numbers don’t grow proportionately, and in the absence of good training and policy, the staff who review reports bring their own values to the system."

She ponders what message it sends when a mom's breastfeeding and family photos are censored in such a way. "Women look for support online and this issue affects their ability to get that support," she says. "Researchers have found lack of support for breastfeeding in public is a factor in early weaning. So this isn’t just a women’s rights, or a human rights issue — it’s also a public health issue."

While Bays' account was reinstated, the worry remains for all other women who don't have the ability to generate a social media push.

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