On breastfeeding and The Algorithm

Happy #nationalbreastfeedingweek. I’ve been breastfeeding humans for going on 3.5 years. I never expected this, to be honest. I’ve immensely enjoyed my experience because it’s helped me bond with my children. I am a person who enjoys strategies of convenience and breastfeeding is very very convenient in my life, at this moment in time. It helps me get more sleep, my children seem to have gained a lot from the experience, and I can be smug in the knowledge that I have vastly exceeded the WHO recommendations on infant feeding. So I’ll take that as a net gain.

But this post isn’t about actual breastfeeding, #fedisbest, ‘shaming’, conversations how and where and when a person breastfeeds, any of that. They’re all part of discourses around the fact that mothers feeding babies is part of a highly emotionally charged and politicised agenda centered on women’s bodies, sexualisation, care, work and value. Instead, this post is about how my experience of being a mother is mediated through social media content, and how that is visually and affectively controlled by The Algorithm.

I do think there is a tendency for people to amplify the importance of the significance of the experience they are going through. That’s just human psychology. This is important to me = this must be important to those around me, and ultimately be important. The algorithm that controls what we see on social media is very good at honing in on the things it thinks you want, or at least the things that are similar to you. So my online experience is dominated visually by images of parenting, pregnancy, babies, children.

Instead of using social media as a form of home interior, food, political banter escapism from babies and toddlers, my social media landscape has become an endless scroll of mothers, babies, tiny baby booties, those wobble boards and Grimms rainbows everyone insists are ‘heirloom’ items, but are actually just unnecessary and very expensively hand-painted pieces of wood.

And while, yes, I love the baby things in my own life, I don’t want to necessarily think about it all of the time. I don’t want my social media experience to be dominated by it. Because it’s all about balance, isn’t it. Babies today are children tomorrow. Breastfeeding is a moment in time. Tummy time is given over to algebra and learning musical instruments. One minute it’s baby led weaning and the next it’s olives and steak (and then maybe back to softly mashed foods eventually, anyway, when you get much much older).

What I’m trying to say is that its all life and it’s all beautiful and messy and joyful and all-consuming, in a sense, but it’s also important to keep it all in context. And being in this perverse, highly intimate relationship with social media that we all are means constantly negotiating your boundaries with it, reflecting on how it presents itself to you, and how much of yourself is enough to give.

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