Any mom who makes a habit of feeding her baby in public knows how much courage it takes to unapologetically feed your baby, uncovered or otherwise, while strangers stare from across the room. Recently a 24-year-old mom of two not only bravely breastfed her child while a stranger shamed her, but she took things a step further by posting a picture of her experience online.
Ashley Kaidel was having a meal with her family when her 5-month-old son, who was teething and battling a cold, started to give her cues that it was time to eat. Having nursed in public repeatedly since her son was born, Kaidel simply did what felt natural to her — she uncovered herself enough for her son to latch and continued eating her meal.
While most people in the restaurant seemed to be completely unaware she was breastfeeding at her table, she noticed one woman staring at her and shaking her head in disgust. Later that day, she shared a beautiful picture her brother snapped of her feeding her son, with an important message to breastfeeding moms around the world.
“The reason I post these types pictures is for the mother that tried breastfeeding uncovered once and she got shamed, she got stared and pointed at, she got nasty comments, she got asked to leave the room, she got asked to cover up,” she wrote.
In her post, which has been shared over 100,000 times since she first posted it last Wednesday, she makes it very clear that breastfeeding in public without a cover or posting pictures of herself feeding her child on her Facebook has nothing to do with seeking attention. Instead, she wants to empower moms who have been shamed before or who feel too afraid to feed their child in public.
“I don’t post this for attention,” Kaidel shares. “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.”
Many new moms have trouble breastfeeding. In fact, the majority of mothers begin their baby’s life breastfeeding, but over half quit after just a few weeks. There is a variety of factors contributing to low breastfeeding rates in the United States, including concerns about the pain, anxiety about producing enough milk and struggling to teach their baby to latch properly. There is another reason that hits home for many moms that Kaidel addresses: the lack of support for public breastfeeding.
Becoming comfortable with nursing in public takes practice, and some moms never try or give up after their first try because they were embarrassed or confronted by a stranger. When moms feel they cannot feed their children in public, it seems that one of two things happens. Some spend the first year of their child’s life stuck at home, feeding their babes, or hiding out in their car, dressing rooms or public restrooms. Others, unfortunately, quit nursing altogether. No mom should be forced to do either.
This is why we need moms like Kaidel — this fierce, unapologetic breastfeeding mama who’s advocating for normalizing breastfeeding and sending a powerful message for all to hear. Not all moms will feel comfortable breastfeeding uncovered or posting a picture online, and that’s OK. But all moms should feel comfortable and empowered to feed their children however they damn well please.