Ask anyone who ever breastfed their child and chances are they’ll say breastfeeding in public made them a little nervous. For whatever backwards reason, some people whole-heartedly believe that nursing an infant is something that should be kept out of the public eye, done behind closed doors, and never, ever in view of anyone except perhaps a partner. Which is why, when USA Olympic Track and Field star Alysia Montaño breastfed her baby live during an interview on Tamron Hall on Tuesday, it was a win for breastfeeding parents everywhere.
In a scene that is familiar to anyone who has ever nursed, Montaño can be seen juggling a fussy baby, adjusting her top, and trying to hold a conversation all at the same time. The mother and five-time World Champion middle-distance runner appeared on the show to discuss the challenges of maintaining a career while raising a family.
“I was getting ready to sit in my chair and Lennox begins screaming his head off ready to nurse for his morning session,” Montaño wrote on Instagram, explaining how she wound up feeding her her 11-month-old son on the air. “No problem my sweet baby, I’ll get seated and nurse you while waiting for GO time.”
Though a PA initially objected to her doing this, her boss was all for it, fortunately. Especially since doing so illustrated her point. While nursing, Montaño explained that dreams, goals, and personal achievement don’t have to end when a baby arrives on the scene.
“You know, this is part of what it looks like to be a mom and my career track,” she said on the show. “And we’ve been fighting, women have been fighting this before I became a mom. This is something that I believe so wholeheartedly in, we need to allow more opportunities for our moms and for women to know, you know, there is a space for them in their career, their lives continue, they can continue to thrive, their goals can continue to be something that they, you know, can meet, regardless of becoming a mom, and we need to change that stigma. We need for motherhood to be visible. And this allows for you know, the future generations to know like, ‘Hey, this is what motherhood can look like, right?’ Moms can you know, be their full selves, and they can continue to go after their goals and thrive.”
Montaño believes that motherhood should be more visible. The elite athlete made headlines in 2014 and 2017 for racing while pregnant — a move that shocked not only her competitors but pretty much everyone else.
Regarding the criticism she received for her decision to continue to work during her pregnancies, Montaño told Hall, “What that comes down to is just being misinformed. And I honestly could not blame people who did not know, motherhood was an invisible thing,” she said. “It’s like people expected for the world to be populated and for babies to come about without knowing that women carry babies. … I think that what I got from my story, and even just trying to watch it from a third-party perspective, is that this is what it looks like to be a professional woman in her career track. At that time, that wasn’t happening and I found out later why it wasn’t happening. You know, it was so stigmatized that companies were failing to support women, and the women ultimately had to decide either career or family.”
Montaño hopes that through advocacy work with her new nonprofit &Mother working moms will finally get a fair shake and not have to give up on their dreams because they also want a family.
These other parents are helping to normalize public breastfeeding.