May 13, 2014 6:48 pm

Toronto mother’s Instagram account allegedly disabled over breastfeeding photo

WATCH: A Toronto mother’s Instagram account was shut down on Mother’s Day, after she posted a breast-feeding “selfie.” Laura Zilke reports.

UPDATE (May 13): Instagram contacted Heather Bays late Monday regarding her account. According to the company, the account was not disabled due to Bays’ breastfeeding photos, but due to images containing child nudity.

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“It has long been our policy that breastfeeding photos are allowed on Instagram. On some occasions, photos may also contain nudity and therefore violate our terms,” an Instagram spokesperson told Global News Tuesday.

“Accounts may be temporarily disabled by our automated systems, but are quickly restored upon further review. Sometimes this might cause a temporary inconvenience, but we view it as a necessary step to safeguard our community.”

Bays’ account has since been restored.

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TORONTO – A Toronto-area woman says she is fighting to regain control of her Instagram account after users reported images of her breastfeeding her young daughter as sexually explicit.

Over Mother’s Day weekend, Heather Bays received a comment on an image of her holding her nursing daughter that read, “Not cool.”

Having received anti-public-breastfeeding comments on her Instagram account before, Bays said she decided to take the high road and responded, “You mean so cool.”

“Within a minute I had like ten emails from Instagram saying ‘Your photo was removed because of sexually explicit content,’ and of course if someone does that to your account a certain number of times, it’s automatically disabled,” Bays told Global News.

READ MORE: Public breastfeeding demonstration at Place Montreal Trust

Bays, a photographer that specializes in child birth and maternity photography, said she was devastated when she realized she could not longer access her account.

Instagram’s Terms of Use states: “You may not post violent, nude, partially nude, discriminatory, unlawful, infringing, hateful, pornographic or sexually suggestive photos or other content via the Service.”

The image in question does not show Bays’ entire breast.

Above: The breastfeeding image Bays posted to Instagram over the weekend (Image courtesy of Heather Bays).

But Instagram and parent company Facebook do allow users to post images of mother’s breastfeeding, according to a company spokesperson.

“We agree that breastfeeding is natural and beautiful and we’re glad to know that it’s important for mothers to share their experiences with others on Instagram. The vast majority of these photos are compliant with our policies,” reads the Instagram Help Center website.

“Photos that show a fully exposed breast where the child isn’t actively engaged in nursing aren’t following our Community Guidelines. These policies are based on the same standards which apply to television and print media.”

Bays said she is very careful to make sure that when she posts images of breastfeeding there is no full frontal nudity visible. However, she feels it’s unfair that breastfeeding mothers are targeted when there are many Instagram accounts with women showing just as much skin.

“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 said.

“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.”

The warning email that Bays received does not clarify whether her account is disabled temporarily or permanently.

Global News contacted Instagram to clarify if users can regain access to their accounts once they have been found in violation of the Terms of Use, or if the accounts are permanently disabled. Instagram did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

READ MORE: Facebook clarifies stance on post-mastectomy photos

This is not the first time a mother has been targeted on Instagram for posting breastfeeding images.

In August 2013, a user known as the “naked breastfeeding yoga mom” had her account deleted after an image of her doing a nude handstand while her daughter was nursing went viral.

Similar to Bays’ case, a slew of users took to Amy Woodruff’s account, Daughter of the Sun, to flag the photo as inappropriate, resulting in her account being shut down.

Fans of the account rallied behind Woodruff using the hashtag “Save Daughter of the Sun,” but the account was never restored. Woodruff started a new account in September 2013, which still features some pictures that show partial nudity.

Bays has also started a hashtag (#SaveHeatherBays) to try to bring awareness to her case. She said she has also had friends share a screenshot of the now-deleted image on Facebook and Instagram, tagging the social networks in the comments.

She has not heard directly from Instagram regarding her account.

Bays says the loss of her Instagram account isn’t just disheartening because of the breastfeeding photo debate – the mother of two says the account served as a gallery of her life as a mother.

“I started using Instagram just after having my first child, so it was like my entire motherhood documented – every milestone […] it’s just heartbreaking. And lots of people keep telling me to start a new one, but it’s not that easy,” she said.

© Shaw Media, 2014

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