There is no better, safer, and more welcoming place to be a breast-feeding mother than the Internet! All the intelligent people of the world log in for the sole purpose of supporting other women in their choices and praising beautiful depictions of motherhood in action. Nobody has ever been shamed, except for everyone, including but not limited to: Gisele Bündchen, that naked yoga lady, and now, model Ashley Nicole.
In all seriousness, though, it seems that any woman choosing to post a photo of herself breast-feeding on social media must unfortunately be prepared for a certain amount of backlash. Gisele, for example, took heat both because followers found her post to be over-sharing or even vulgar, and also because it was so glamorous it just couldn't possibly be realistic. (Remember her baby suckling away while G. gets attended to by a glam squad?) We're of the mind that any backlash a woman receives for feeding her child ridiculous, but this time it's bringing up a deeper issue.
The Root does an excellent job of unpacking the various factors at work in the case of Nicole, whose Instagram post from last week garnered some of the standard negative reactions. While it's not clear just how much of a "controversy" is really going on here (most of the comments under the photo now are overwhelmingly positive, though it's possible some may have been deleted since media outlets started picking up on the drama), it's nevertheless a good opportunity to take note of why we should be supporting women like Nicole who normalize images such as this one.
As Demetria L. Lucas writes, "black mothers are underrepresented when it comes to breast-feeding. Research finds that just 54 percent of black mothers attempt breast-feeding, while the national average is 73 percent. Experts say that one of the reasons black women fall behind in breast-feeding is that women just don’t see women who look like them doing it." Among those experts is Micky Jones of La Leche League, who previously told USA Today that "you don't desire something you don't see." And, "In the black community, you don't see a lot of black women breast-feeding."
While we sincerely hope that Nicole didn't let any of it bother her, it's extremely disheartening to know that people would leave any kind of negative comment on this post, including throwing around words like "ratchet" (in a comment that appears to have since been deleted). But, we are also very much encouraged re: humanity by all the support that flooded Nicole's Instagram since! Don't hesitate to leave some kind words yourself, and definitely check out the full breakdown over on The Root – it's worth a read.