Courtesy of Gap

The Story Behind That Viral Breastfeeding Gap Ad Is So Hopeful & Heartwarming

by Josie Rhodes Cook

Remember that recent Gap ad that went viral partly because it featured a mother breastfeeding her son? Well apparently, that moment wasn’t planned. The story behind that breastfeeding Gap ad is so hopeful and heartwarming, because it was a truly organic moment that really advances the idea that breastfeeding really doesn't have to be a big deal. According to the model in the now infamous shot, Adaora Akubilo, her son just needed to nurse during the photo shoot and it just happened to become a part of the ad campaign, as the Chicago Tribune reported. That’s such a wonderful sign when it comes to normalizing breastfeeding for moms everywhere.

To catch up anyone who might not be aware of this story, in late February, Gap posted a new ad to social media featuring a mother wearing a sleep shirt from the company's new Love by GapBody line. That's not super notable all by itself, but the mom in the photo for the ad in question was breastfeeding her son in the advertisement, and the internet definitely took notice, People reported.

But according to the mom, as the Chicago Tribune reported, the moment the photographer captured during photo shoot is simply a"typical" one for her and her son. It happened right in the middle of the shoot, and Akubilo just did what she needed to do as a breastfeeding mother taking care of her son — because frankly, as many moms will attest, babies don't really care if you're working when they're hungry.

Courtesy of Gap

Akubilo told the Chicago Tribune she was "so happy" she and her son, Arinze, were both booked for the shoot, and for the opportunity to get to work with him on the job. And when he needed to nurse mid-shoot, the photographer and the team behind the shoot were totally supportive of them. She told the Chicago Tribune:

I let them know...They’re like, "Oh, my God, of course it’s OK, go ahead." And they said, "You can do it right here."

The photographer then respectfully asked Akubilo if she could take some photos while she breastfed Arinze, and Akubilo agreed. And the rest is history. Those photos in particular really took off, and it all started because Akubilo's baby was hungry, and because her attitude is simply, "If my son needs to nurse, I’m going to nurse him.”

The reaction to the photo of Akubilo breastfeeding her son in the Gap ad was swift and, thankfully, mostly positive. Days later, comments on the photos of mother and son on Gap's Instagram post included remarks like "Absolutely beautiful," "Breastfeeding is beautiful and it shouldn’t shamed," and "Thank you for supporting breastfeeding mothers! You just made me a customer for life! 💕"

"We aim for the marketing around Love by GapBody to 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," a Gap spokesperson tells Romper via email of the photo shoot.

Unfortunately, the positive comments on Gap's Instagram post and Akubilo's own Instagram are in contrast to the attitude of far too many people when it comes to breastfeeding in general. It's still a somewhat controversial topic, to the point that Normalize Breastfeeding became an organized movement in 2014 to combat the stigma around the act, according to Forbes. The Gap campaign featuring Akubilo and Arinze was a breath of fresh air to breastfeeding mothers everywhere who deal with the stigma in their everyday lives.

The fact that this very normal moment for Akubilo and her son ended up being the unexpected face of this particular Gap campaign is especially important because Akubilo is a woman of color — a Nigerian-American, according to the Chicago Tribune. And there's a significant gap in the African American community compared to other populations when it comes to breastfeeding.

In fact, newborn African-American babies are nine times more likely than white babies to be given formula in the hospital, according to a National Institutes of Health study published in Pediatrics and reported on by The New York Times. It's not exactly a leap to think that could lead to lower numbers of breastfeeding in that demographic if, right from the very start, mothers aren't encouraged to pursue the act with their babies.

Akubilo herself has faced "teasing" for continuing to breastfeed Arinze, and she admitted to the Chicago Tribune, "Our society in particular is not very supportive of women who nurse after a certain age.” But she told the publication her son’s pediatrician has been supportive, and that she hopes the image of her breastfeeding in the ad is "empowering" for other moms who may feel the stigma from society for breastfeeding.

In the caption of an Instagram post Akubilo made on Feb. 26, she wrote about giving breastfeeding moms support:

Friends of mine who are working moms and other working moms in various industries find that they have to fall short of their goals because they don’t have a private area to pump in order to maintain their milk supply. Not only that they aren’t given adequate number of breaks in order to pump. These mothers who need to work and nurse need all the support and love they can get.

And there's no doubt that that simple photo showing Akubilo and her son in a very normal, natural, unplanned moment has already encouraged so many moms.

For more information and education on breastfeeding and for breastfeeding support, visit La Leche League International's website.

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.