Facebook bans breastfeeding campaign ads starring Hackney mum

Hackney mother Hannah Renew with her twin boys.

Hackney first-time mum, Hannah Renew, features in The Boob Life ad challenging breastfeeding taboos and celebrating women's bodies. - Credit: Meara Kallista Morse

Facebook has banned campaign ads starring a Hackney mum which were created to challenge breastfeeding taboos and celebrate mothers’ bodies and choices.

Baby brand Tommee Tippee launched The Boob Life campaign following research the company conducted last year which revealed 93 per cent of mothers felt their mental, physical and emotional struggles with feeding had gone unacknowledged and only one in 10 young mums felt comfortable breastfeeding in public.

However, the campaign, which shows videos of babies being breastfed and topless women, has been prohibited under Facebook’s advertising policy for nudity and “excessive visible skin”.

Hackney first-time mother of twins Hannah Renew says featuring in the ad was empowering.

She said she sometimes felt “shy” breastfeeding her sons and hopes the campaign will ignite conversations between mothers and alleviate pressures and expectations around breastfeeding: “I would have all these different techniques, like maybe a shawl or I lived in these breastfeeding hoodies where it zipped down from the arm pits, and you secretly slip the baby in the hoody.

"At the time, I remember thinking wow, this is such a good invention - but I look back on it now and think, but why did I feel the need?


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"I don’t know why – I guess it's because I felt uncomfortable.”

Hannah suffered from an eating disorder as a teenager and continued to have a difficult relationship with food and exercise up until she had her twins, Leo and Xander.

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She says pregnancy changed the way she saw her own body as “not just a visual shell” but “something functional”, with food becoming “fuel” for her and her babies.

“When you go through something like housing and growing two babies and then giving birth to them, recovering from a c-section and breastfeeding - the respect you have for your body is incredible,” Hannah said.

However, despite feeling like she has “won the lottery”, giving birth to twins during the coronavirus pandemic has had its struggles.

The first-time mum said it has been “hard” missing out on wider family support due to social distancing rules, but says she was lucky her twins were born between lockdowns in August, as her partner was able to be with her during labour.

The Guardian analysed data from 144 NHS trusts last year which showed half of those covered in the research were restricting partners from attending key scans and the duration of labour, despite the NHS and Prime Minister Boris Johnson stating birthing partners should be allowed to attend these moments.

Hannah added: “I understand the reasons for it but I think it has been shocking, women having to go through labour alone, having to go to scans alone and not having breastfeeding support, or if you do its very late in the game and having lost your supply by then.”

She also hopes NHS literature on feeding babies can be updated to no longer expect mothers to breastfeed. 

"It's a real cliche," she said. "Fed is best rather than breast is best. I mixed-fed my boys and then I went onto formula and both of them had different benefits."

Meanwhile, Facebook's advertising policy prohibiting the campaign video of mothers breastfeeding, and decisions by some broadcasters to only show the ad after watershed, has drawn criticism from Nicola Wallace of Tommee Tippee UK who said: “We should be normalising breastfeeding in society and what real women’s bodies look like, not pandering to outdated societal views on what’s appropriate.”  

A Facebook company spokesperson told the Gazette: “This campaign is important and we applaud the work Tommee Tippee is doing to support new mums in their breastfeeding journey.

"We allow all posts of breastfeeding on Facebook and Instagram, but we do not allow adverts showing visible nipples.

"Ads are governed by a stricter set of policies because they receive paid distribution to appear in people’s feeds, and that’s why these were removed.”


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