Last week, Gap posted a new ad on Instagram for its comfy-looking #LoveByGapBody sleep shirts. But it wasn’t just the gorgeous model or the soft, cozy shirts that caught people’s eyes. It was the second of two photos presented in the post, in which the model, Adaora Akubilo, is seen sweetly nursing her son.
The photo quickly went viral, with users enthusiastically applauding the way it positively presented a beautiful breastfeeding moment between a mom and her child. Not only does the photo feel authentic, but by depicting a young toddler breastfeeding, it gives a special shout-out to all the moms who continue nursing past the one-year mark, which is something you don’t normally see.
And to see this mama nursing with confidence in an ad for a nationally recognized brand like Gap is huge.
“Love this so much,” wrote one Instagram user. “I’m a nursing mom and you have no idea how much this means to me and nursing moms everywhere.”
Other users were quick to point out how awesome it is that Gap chose a woman of color who breastfeeds for the photo.
“Love that Gap chose an African-American momma that nurses her baby!!!” wrote one user.
“Thank you @gap for supporting inclusivity and equal representation!” wrote another.
And if all of that wasn’t totally awesome and amazing to begin with, once you hear the story behind the pic, you might just start grinning from ear to ear.
Adaora Akubilo, the Nigerian-American model behind the shot, told the Chicago Tribune that her son was booked as part of the photo shoot from the beginning, but that the breastfeeding part was actually unplanned, and came about because … well, her son needed to nurse.
“I let them know,” Akubilo recalled. “They’re like, ‘Oh, my God, of course it’s OK, go ahead.’ And they said, ‘You can do it right here.’”
Akubilo went on to explain that she’s the kind of mother who feels quite comfortable nursing whenever and wherever her son needs her to, and that she was happy the Gap crew just went with it.
“I’m so comfortable just nursing my son anywhere,” she shared with the paper. “If my son needs to nurse, I’m going to nurse him.”
And the mom was even more surprised and proud when the photo ended up being the anchor of the entire ad campaign.
“I was so happy,” she told the Chicago Tribune. “I felt it was affirming.”
The model posted the photo on her own Instagram as well, where she personally thanked the photographer for being such a trooper and capturing that real-life moment between herself and her son: “@cassblackbird thank-you for going with the flow and boldly capturing this real moment for @gap.”
As Akubilo explained to the Chicago Tribune, she actually never expected to be nursing her son this long, and that her goal had simply been to get to six months. But after the six-month mark passed, she and her son were still content to keep going, so she thought, Why not?
She says she’s gotten some slack before about her decision to breastfeed this long, with some people questioning why she’s “still” nursing her son. And at times, those remarks have definitely gotten under her skin.
“I felt like I was doing something wrong,” she shared. “Our society in particular is not very supportive of women who nurse after a certain age.”
And yet, with the help of her supportive pediatrician, she’s just kept going — and has come to find the experience of nursing her son empowering. And it’s just this kind of confidence and affirmation that she hopes her viral photo will offer to her fellow moms.
“I don’t want women to feel shamed,” she said. “It’s so important to encourage mothers.”
It sure is, and it seems that this gorgeous, inspiring photo is doing just that.