Toronto mom’s Instagram account shut down over breastfeeding photo

The image that caused the controversy. (via Heather Bays/Instagram)

Heather Bays, a Toronto mom and photographer who specializes in newborns and child birth, had her Instagram account shut down over a flagged breastfeeding photo on Mother's Day weekend.

"Worst Mother's Day!" Bays wrote on Facebook.

"This is discrimination not only against mothers, but against women," she told CBC News on Monday.

She tells CTV News that she was both "heartbroken" and "raging angry" over the decision to deactivate her account after some users were offended by a recent photograph of Bays nursing her 20-month-old daughter.

"I've had lots of people comment on my pictures saying that I shouldn't publicize [breastfeeding], that it's something that should be kept in private, but I don't believe that," she tells Global News.

"I feel I have to take a different stance because if everyone did this it would be normal and it wouldn't be an issue. When I see someone breastfeeding in the park I don't understand how someone could think that is gross."

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When a user posted a negative comment on the black-and-white pic — "Not cool," he wrote — Bays defended the pic. Shortly after, the photo was flagged as inappropriate.

"I posted it because my daughter is 20-months-old, so she's weaning right now," she says of the photo. "These days are very sentimental."

Her almost 2,000 Instagram photos were also important to building and promoting her photography business, she adds.

In an email to Shine On, an Instagram spokesperson reiterated site policy:

"Breastfeeding photos are allowed on Instagram, although those that also contain nudity are not. Accounts may be temporarily disabled by our automated systems, but are quickly restored upon further review. We realize this might cause a temporary inconvenience, but it is an important safeguard for our community."

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Instagram's Terms of Use prohibits the posting of nude or partially nude photos.

Bays was initially unsuccessful in getting a response from Instagram, but after supporters on social media helped her plead her case — breastfeeding advocates rallied in support of Bays with the hashtag #saveheatherbays — Instagram agreed to reactivate her account, but with a few photos removed.

Perhaps most confusing about the entire ordeal is that Bays claims Instagram told her that her account's greatest sin wasn't the breastfeeding — it was the child nudity.

"Now they're telling me that any photo that has a child even showing their torso is called child pornography," Bays says. "For them to say that to me was unbelievably insulting."

(The photo in question doesn't even show a bare torso, it reveals a naked...arm.)

"So, let me get this straight, all those disposable diaper companies are child pornographers?" she writes on Facebook. "All those cloth diaper ads!! Heck, so many commercials of naked baby bottoms!! So they are accusing A LOT of people of being child pornographers!"

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Bays' adds that an Instagram spokesperson told her the site would be removing all photos of her children with their torsos showing — but a quick scroll through Bays' photos reveals that some topless-baby shots remain.

Bays plans to post more breastfeeding photos.

"Every single day, women are shamed for just being women, for being mothers," she says. "That's not okay. This has to stop."

Two dozen L.A. moms recently staged a nurse-in outside the fitness club that asked a breastfeeding woman to leave the women's locker room and nurse in a bathroom instead.

Last year, an Australian mother and horse race jockey was also asked to not breastfeed in the women's change room at the track.

Last summer, spoken word poet Holly McNish defended breastfeeding in public with a poem called "Embarrassed," after she found herself breastfeeding in a toilet stall.

In defence of Bays and all breastfeeding moms, Jen from SCREAMING IN ALL CAPS, writes:

"Here's the thing: photos like Heather's can help normalize breastfeeding. They can help us see breasts from a different angle. They can go a long way in showing that there's nothing sexual or shameful or disgusting or offensive about breastfeeding. Rather, it's a pretty normal thing that women all over the world do every day. For that to happen, though, photos like Heather's need to be allowed on social media sites such as Instagram."