If you’ve ever been a breastfeeding mom before, then you know the struggle is real. Not only is it an uphill battle to figure out how to get your baby to latch, but it can be an all-out war to try to feed your baby in public. No one knows this better than “loud and proud” breastfeeding mom Ashley Kaidel, who recently posted a viral response to the judgment she received for nursing at a restaurant.
Last week, Kaidel, a 24-year-old mother from Florida, posted a picture of herself breastfeeding to Facebook that showed her looking off into the distance. According to Kaidel, she was looking back at a woman staring at her with disgust for breastfeeding without a cover in public. Given how controversial “inappropriate” breastfeeding photos on Facebook have become, Kaidel’s photo and message quickly hit their mark, receiving over 118,000 shares and 375,000 likes in just a few days.
Kaidel wrote a lengthy response to this common judgment, emphasizing that a mother’s comfort when feeding her baby is most important of all:
“Number one, breastfeeding mothers are protected under federal law to breast feed any way, anyhow and anywhere they’re allowed to be in all circumstances otherwise. Number two, you should not ever feel shamed, belittled, embarrassed, or wrong for feeding your baby the way nature intended. I do this for the person that has the mentality, ‘Boobs are to be covered. They’re for your husband’s eyes only. They’re intimate. It’s a personal/private thing to feed your baby. Cover up out of respect. My kids don’t need to see that. Walk out of the room,’ and any other derogatory, close-minded comments and sentiments alike.
Again, 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.”
As fired up as Kaidel sounds, her post should not be easily dismissed as just another social media “rant.” This breastfeeding cause is near and dear to her heart. Kaidel created her Intactalactivst Mama Facebook page so that she could speak out about breastfeeding and provide support for other moms who have incurred the same judgment.
Kaidel explains that her first attempt at breastfeeding her now 4-year-old daughter lasted only two weeks because of a lack of information and education. As a result, Kaidel spent much of the time preparing for her second baby researching about birth, breastfeeding, and attachment parenting. After overcoming major hurdles like tongue-tie and mastitis (helped by a visit to a lactation consultant), Kaidel says she is proud of her breastfeeding journey with her almost 6-month-old son and plans to nurse on demand, without shame.
After hearing a story like this from such an honest mom who jumped through hoops to successfully breastfeed, it’s hard to imagine that anyone would have a problem with a mother so committed to feeding her baby. And still, we see the same story time and again. A mom chooses to breastfeed on a park bench, at a restaurant table, or at a family member’s home, and is given the side-eye for daring to feed her baby without covering up.
Kaidel is one of the many moms who think this “point and stare” response is far from OK, evidenced by the growing movement to normalize breastfeeding. In addition to moms taking a stand, a campaign known as NormalizeBreastfeeding.org is also raising awareness through “diverse variations of normal breastfeeding” in a stunning photo project created by photographer and mom Vanessa A. Simmons. Instagram and Twitter are buzzing with #normalizebreastfeeding, showing pictures of moms feeding their babies without a cover-up. Even celebrities have joined the cause, with A-listers like Jamie King and Giselle posting sweet (and often public) breastfeeding shots to social media.
For Kaidel, her passion to normalize breastfeeding provides benefits that extend to all moms. From her own struggles, she recognizes that not every mother can breastfeed and that “all that matters is the baby is being fed.” Supporting a breastfeeding mother’s right to feed in public is a way to support every mom’s right to feed her baby in the way she chooses.
As Kaidel tells Babble, she hopes her viral post will spark a conversation to make this pro-feeding attitude the social norm:
“It’s time to get back to basics and remember that breastfeeding is natural, beautiful, and best for both mother and baby. It’s time we make breastfeeding normal again.”