Is Social Media Like Birth? How Birth & Breastfeeding Pros Need to Lean In

You may have seen this video before. It’s just over four minutes long. I’ll wait while you watch.

Two things strike me when I watch this video through a maternal health lens.

1) It’s jarring and even a little scary.

2) What the heck does this have to do with healthy women and infants?

Let’s unpack this a bit . . .

It’s jarring and even a little scary

Maybe it was the music? After all, what are your favorite YouTube videos? I’m going to guess that you, like me, love watching empowered birth and educational breastfeeding videos. They usually have soft music and a gentle feel. Because that’s the work we do — supportive, gentle and informed support for women during their childbearing year.

The video you just watched was disruptive, high-paced and down right intense. The feelings you have about the video may give some insight into why so many birth and breastfeeding professionals react strongly when we say we want to talk about social media.

“I hate Facebook!” (We hear this all the time from very talented and amazing maternal health experts.)

They don’t really hate Facebook. (Well, maybe they do — I know I certainly have my moments.) They are sensing the disruptive technology. They are sensing the cultural shift that is happening so fast that it feels scary and overwhelming. The music of the video matches just how the rapid cultural shift, triggered by new digital media, makes many of us feel.

But (you knew there would be a but, right ;), just because it makes us feel uncomfortable doesn’t mean we can (or should) shy away. Many of you attend births. How many births have you supported where a mother pulls away from the discomfort of labor? What happens?

What about a woman who says YES! to her surges and leans into this new and and sometimes scary experience? She knows (and we know) there’s no getting out of it. It is happening. Welcome the change, don’t resist. What does that experience look like?

This is not an entirely fair analogy because she is birthing a baby. She knows the intended outcome is meeting her baby. Why should we care about this disruptive technology? Why should we as birth and breastfeeding professionals and advocates lean in?

What does this have to do with healthy women and infants?

Everything. How many times have you said in earnest, “It’s my job to meet women where they are at.” Regardless of race, religion, education or socio-economic status, we’re committed to creating healthy and respectful support systems for women and infants.

When we are working with families outside of our own cultures, we challenge ourselves to understand their unique needs. It’s not about us and how uncomfortable we feel — it’s about listening and truly hearing what women need to make informed choices for themselves and their babies in a supportive, non-judgmental¬†environment. The same is true for understanding mothers use of social media.

This cultural shift is happening. We are entering a social era and women need us to be there. They need you, the women and men who led the way with participatory healthcare before it was a “health 2.0” trend. They need us to not become obsolete.

Acknowledging and even welcoming this cultural shift into our lives, our practices, and our organizations is not as scary as it seems once you walk through the fire. And we are here to tell you that you *can* do this. We know you can.

You already know how. You already listen first. You already share evidence based information. You already know how to build and sustain community. And you know what a well supported, well-informed woman looks and acts like.

There are more reasons why this all matters to us. Social media isn’t just a way to reach women.

It’s a way to listen and understand what women need.

It’s a way to grow and reach new communities of women.

It’s a way to more efficiently collaborate with other maternal health and health care professionals.

It’s a way to drive mother-friendly, baby-friendly policy.

It’s a way to connect, learn and co-create with maternal health champions.

It’s a way to build bridges and build community.

It’s a way to heal and move forward.

It’s a way to save the lives of women and infants.

It’s a way to ensure all women and infants have a safe and respectful birth experience.

And actually social media doesn’t do this. People do it. You do it. We do it. We just have a new supercharged, dynamic way to connect, organize and drive change. We hope you will join us, and a growing community of birth and breastfeeding professionals, who are choosing to lean in.

About Jeanette McCulloch

For more than five years, Jeanette McCulloch of BirthSwell has been helping professionals and advocates build businesses and organizations, change policy, and spread your birth genius (and breastfeeding and MCH genius) through strategic digital communications.


  1. Rebecca on February 12, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    This is so timely! Exactly why I launched my survey study about social media and evidence-based maternity care. There is NO research on this topic, and it’s the way of the future! So few people realize this. Thanks for spreading the word!

  2. Hillary on February 12, 2013 at 7:09 pm

    Thanks, Rebecca! We are very excited about your research and so very thankful for the work you are doing.

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