Why this mum's defiant glare is a win for breastfeeding mums everywhere
"I don't post this for attention. I don't post this because I think everyone should nurse uncovered. I post this to give mamas encouragement. And to encourage others to make breastfeeding mothers feel accepted and supported; not alienated, ridiculed and judged"...
What do you see in the image above? A young mum breastfeeding her baby in a restaurant while gazing into the distance?
In this picture, you see 24-year-old mum of two Ashley Kaidel staring defiantly at another woman who was trying to publicly shame her for breastfeeding.
"In the picture, it appears I'm staring off into the distance," Ashley wrote on Facebook. "In reality, I'm staring into the eyes of a woman staring at me.
"She is looking at me with disgust and shaking her head with judgement in an attempt to shame me and indirectly tell me without words that I am wrong and need to cover myself."
But rather than letting the other woman intimidate her into covering herself or stop breastfeeding, Ashley took to Facebook to share her story and send out a very strong personal message of encouragement to all breastfeeding mums, especially those who nurse in public.
"You should not ever feel shamed, belittled, embarrassed, or wrong for feeding your baby the way nature intended," Ashley wrote.
She says that comments and sentiments that shame a mother for breastfeeding her baby, or insinuate that she should cover up out of respect, are close-minded and false.
"Breasts were made to sustain your baby's life before they were made to bring pleasure to any other man, woman, partner or spouse.
"Their sole purpose is to make food and dispense it straight into a baby's mouth. There is nothing weird about this and there's no difference in me feeding my baby with my breast than you feeding yourself with a spoon."
Ashley particularly feels strongly about allowing older children to see babies breastfeeding and understanding that it's perfectly normal and natural.
She hopes this encourages girls to "grow up with the goal to breastfeed and experience the incredible bond and invaluable benefits it comes with."
On the next page -- Why Ashley's photo and Facebook post is important in de-stigmatising breastfeeding in public
Why is breastfeeding in public still such an issue?
Decades ago, many women would not hesitate to nurse in public if their baby needed to be fed.
Now, showing a bit of breast flesh (while nursing, not otherwise) is turned into an issue of mammoth proportions. People get offended, they criticise and shame the nursing mum for "flashing", and expect mothers to nurse in toilets or dirty nursing rooms.
Such people don't seem to understand (as Ashley points out) that the breast is the natural conveyor of food to a baby's mouth. And while some babies don't mind being covered while nursing, others, like my own when they were nursing, hate it and protest.
One of the biggest reasons why breastfeeding in public has become such as contentious topic is because of how the female body has been sexualised, mostly by the media.
Many men (and women) find it difficult to see beyond the sexuality of breasts… even when there is a child getting nourishment out of them.
So, it’s no wonder then that mums are hesitant, and even ashamed, to breastfeed their babies when others are around.
This is where mums like Ashley play a huge role in the effort to de-stigmatise breastfeeding in public. And while some might think the motive behind Ashley's post and picture was just to get attention, she says otherwise:
"I don't post this for attention. I don't post this because I think everyone should nurse uncovered. I post this to give mamas encouragement. And to encourage others to make breastfeeding mothers feel accepted and supported; not alienated, ridiculed and judged."
Share your thoughts on the topic of breastfeeding in public -- just leave a comment below.