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Model breastfeeding in controversial gym ad is a huge win for womankind

As the new year rolls around, you might expect to see an upswing in gym advertisements. But what you might not expect to see is a popular gym advertising a glamorous model breastfeeding two babies as a way to entice fickle gym-goers to “Commit to Something.”

That’s the Equinox gym’s New Year’s motto splashed across the breastfeeding bosom of model Lydia Hearst, who is depicted holding two babies to her breasts. Hearst does not have any children of her own, and the “babies” are fake.

Equinox, a New York-based fitness club chain, said in a press release that seven different images showing commitment were released as part of a new ad campaign. The young breastfeeding mother ad, featuring Hearst, is meant to show public breastfeeding as unapologetic — and that’s the kind of stuff true commitment is made of.

Equinox breastfeeding ad
Image: Equinox

Is Equinox’s ad brave or borderline inappropriate? Well, it depends on who you ask. Ask any mother who has spent many a sleepless night trying to get her baby to latch after a day cooped up indoors because she couldn’t leave the house for fear of public breastfeeding judgment, and she might be giving Equinox a slow clap.

More: Teen mom’s photo of little boy goes viral for all the right reasons

Ask the rest of the population, however, and you might get a much different response. At face value, most people are for breastfeeding, just not in public. Many people recognize that breastfeeding is good for a baby: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first six months, and the WHO recommends breastfeeding with other complementary foods beyond two years.

So far, so good — until a mother is bold enough to breastfeed in public without a cover, as we saw in Hearst’s ad, and then everything hits the fan. In 2015 alone, we’ve seen literally thousands of cases of women who’ve been told to put their boobs away and stop publicly feeding their baby as Mother Nature intended. Moms have been chastised for breastfeeding in church, at public pools, at restaurants and even in public post offices. When you put yourself in the shoes of a mother of a hungry infant who doesn’t understand the meaning of “wait,” this breastfeeding finger-wagging becomes even more ridiculous.

More: Breastfeeding moms stop traffic in stunning photograph

The International Breastfeeding Journal broke down this common conundrum way back in 2008. The reason so many people are averse to seeing a mother breastfeed a baby without some kind of covering is because our culture has gotten confused. Most Americans now view breasts as sexual, overlooking their physiological function in feeding a child. This national discomfort about public breastfeeding — unless it is performed with extreme modesty — may be responsible for our increasingly poor breastfeeding rates.

With all this in mind, we’re betting that for most moms, Equinox’s new ad borders on badass. Sure, it may be jarring to see a beautiful model breastfeeding twins like a boss in a restaurant, but the more we see these so-called “provocative” images circulated, the more the general public will start to loosen up.

What’s perhaps most riveting about this photo is that Hearst herself is not a mother. We’ve seen unapologetic breastfeeding photo shoots before — like new mom Olivia Wilde’s 2014 spread for Glamour magazine. But the fact that Hearst is not a mom and is still spurring on public breastfeeding is beautiful in and of itself: It’s not every day that we see women supporting one another just for the hell of it.

More: 12 Things not to say to an extended breastfeeding mom

And let’s not forget the theme behind Equinox’s ads in the first place: commitment. Breastfeeding is not for every mom, and plenty of women choose not to or are not able to do it. But for the women who do, breastfeeding is a serious commitment that requires blood, sweat and tears to pull off. Instead of making it harder for these moms, we can support their commitment — whenever and wherever they want to feed their baby.

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