Somehow, breastfeeding is still controversial. Despite the fact that moms should be able to make their own decisions on how best to feed their children, they can still regularly face stigmatization for their choices. That's why many moms are absolutely loving Gap's new breastfeeding ad, which recently debuted on social media, and features a mother breastfeeding her young son while wearing a stretchy V-neck shirt from the new Love by GapBody line. It's a beautiful photo, and has already proved deeply meaningful to many women who have seen it.
Gap posted the series of photos on its Instagram on Thursday. While the first image features a mother wearing the shirt and holding her child, a swipe to the next photo shows that same mother-child pair breastfeeding. Almost immediately, women began to express their appreciation. "THANK YOU for normalizing breastfeeding!!!!" one commenter wrote, while another chimed in, "This. A million times this. Thank you GAP for such a positive message!!" A third wrote, "Im a nursing mom and you have no idea how much this means to me and nursing moms everywhere."
Sure, many mothers are told that "breast is best" nowadays. But that doesn't mean that everyone is always accepting of the process. The same people who shame some women for using formula are often just as quick to shame breastfeeding mothers who dare to feed their children in public instead of rushing off in hopes of finding some secret hideaway each time a baby gets hungry.
When asked about the breastfeeding image, a spokesperson for Gap told Romper, via email:
At Gap, we encourage and empower all women to be the woman they want to be as a friend, partner, wife, mother and voice in today’s society. Love by GapBody aspires to give modern women luxurious comfort with intimates that make her feel great in her own skin and confident in her true self.
Clearly the photo struck a chord, racking up over 33,000 likes on Instagram, as opposed to the typical Gap photo, which gets between 5,000 and 6,000 likes.
Some pointed out that the breastfeeding ad was particularly meaningful because it featured a black mother, and there's an even stronger stigma against breastfeeding in the African-American community. A National Institutes of Health community study published in Pediatrics found that newborn African-American babies were nine times more likely than white babies to be given formula in the hospital, according to The New York Times.
And Rauslyn Adams, a member of a parenting group called Chocolate Milk Mommies, told People:
It is taboo within the African American home to breastfeed your child, let alone to do it past the age of 1. Breastfeeding has been seen by some African American women as reverting to "slavery days" when feeding a child by breast was the only option.
Luckily, things are starting to change. This Gap ad is only the latest step in reducing the stigma. Just a few weeks ago, actress Jessica Alba shared a photo of herself breastfeeding at work that received widespread praise. ("Felt very productive today," she wrote in the caption.)
And last year, Australian Senator Larissa Waters made headlines for breastfeeding her child on the Senate floor while addressing lawmakers. According to People, Waters explained her decision by saying:
I had hoped to not only feed my baby, but also to send a message to young women that they belong in the Parliament, and that they can be both Parliamentarians and be moms.
Of course, there's still a long way to go, when it comes to ensuring that mothers aren't defined by the ways in which they feed their babies. But this Gap ad is a great, and beautifully-photographed, step in the right direction.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.