Instagram just embraced breastfeeding in a major way

Nipples are causing a stir on Instagram again, but this time for a good reason. The social network celebrated World Breastfeeding Week by posting a photo of a baby breastfeeding on its official page on Wednesday.

Instagram updated its nudity policy in April to clarify that post-mastectomy scarring and breastfeeding pictures do not violate their terms of service. But it’s had a long and complicated relationship with female breasts, and sharing the photo still came as a bit of a shock.

In an email to the Daily Dot, an Instagram spokesperson said the image is not reflective of any policy change. “Instagram has long allowed images of women actively breastfeeding, so there’s been no change of policy.”

The photo has more than 782,000 likes and almost 10,000 comments, most of which are supportive and heartwarming. The caption shares the story of one-year-old Dread and his mother Laurel Creager, who says that breastfeeding “changed [her] as a person.”

This photo, and the updated nudity policy, seem to be a departure from what has long been a very strict ban on female nipples. Male nipples, both on Instagram and in real life, are displayed often and without backlash, while female nipples—which, in essence, are no different than male nipples—are seen as inherently more sexual, and are therefore not permissible in public. 

This double standard has led to the massively popular #FreeTheNipple movement, which aims to bring gender equality by desexualizing the female nipple. One very practical step in this movement is to remove the stigma around public breastfeeding, which is a natural, safe, and healthy way to nourish your newborn child. Enter: World Breastfeeding Week.

That little dimpled hand and the way it opens and closes on my neck. His head getting heavier by the second while he drifts off to sleep. Every day I do my very best to burn that feeling into my memory. Oh, I’ve waited for you for so very long, my sunshine boy, and I’ll forever thank every star in the sky that you’ve finally come home to my arms. #motherhoodrising #worldbreastfeedingweek

A photo posted by tisse (like “?” with a “t”) (@tissespieces) on

Since 1991, the organizers of World Breastfeeding Week have aimed to increase global support for combining breastfeeding and work, according to the official website. “Whether a woman is working in the formal, non-formal or home setting, it is necessary that she is empowered in claiming her and her baby’s right to breastfeed,” it reads.

Breastfeeding in public has unfortunately become a taboo. Take outspoken presidential candidate Donald Trump, for example, who called a lawyer “disgusting” for mentioning her need to leave the courtroom to pump breast milk. 

While there is nothing gross about needing to feed your child, many women feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public because they’re afraid others will judge them for getting undressed outside the comfort of their own home.  

World Breastfeeding Week is working to bring awareness to the issue, and with nearly 25,000 posts made under the Instagram hashtag so far, it seems they’re succeeding. 

Photo via Daniel Lobo/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Laken Howard

Laken Howard

Laken Howard writes about sex and dating. Based in Brooklyn, she's contributed to Bustle and Business Insider.