A recent image by Gap was intended to promote the brand’s new Love by GapBody sleep shirts—but an Instagram post by the clothing giant also promotes something else: breastfeeding.
The stunning photo of model Adaora Akubilo and her son, Arinze, has racked up views and accolades on social media, with commenters adding the hashtag #normalizebreastfeeding and calling the pic a “gorgeous depiction of motherhood.”
It truly is: As Akubilo told the Chicago Tribune, the shot organically happened when Arzine needed to nurse in the middle of his mama’s otherwise normal photo shoot. “I’m so comfortable just nursing my son anywhere,” Akubilo told the Tribune. “If my son needs to nurse, I’m going to nurse him.”
When the photo shoot wrapped, that image stood out not just because of its beauty, but also because of what it represents. As a Gap spokesperson tells Motherly in a statement about the company’s decision to post the image, “We aim for the marketing around Love by GapBody to encourage and empower all women to be the woman they want to be as a friend, partner, wife, mother and voice in today’s society.”
On her own Instagram account, Akubilo notes how thankful she is that her career allows her to bring her son with her to shoots, noting that the flexibility has helped her continue breastfeeding.
“I had the desire and determination to breastfeed for as long as possible,” she writes. “But the reality is if I weren’t in the industry that I’m in, I believe that fulfilling this goal would’ve been challenging or near impossible.”
Thank-you @byalisonbowen for featuring my son and I in your @chicagotribune article (click in bio link to read) to offer insight into an important issue. I had the desire and determination to breastfeed for as long as possible but the reality is if I werenât in the industry that Iâm in, I believe that fulfilling this goal wouldâve been challenging or near impossible. Most moms do not have the privilege of working with a brand like @gap or photographer @cassblackbird who supported me and went with the flow of the shoot as I nursed. My friends who are working moms and countless working moms in other industries find that they have to quit reluctantly because they donât have a designated area to pump in order to maintain their milk supply. Not only that they arenât given adequate number of breaks in order to pump. Hearing these stories is absolutely heartbreaking because these mothers want to provide the nutritional and health benefits for their children as well as have the opportunity to bond with their children in this unique way. When my son was born the hospital staff provided me with information about my rights as a mom in the workplace. Please learn about the laws in your state and pass the information along to your friends, your sisters, co-workers, bosses, and moms who you love. Learn your rights in your state. (Click on About on my Facebook page @adaoraakubilo to learn about the law for nursing moms in Connecticut where Iâm from). #normalizebreastfeeding #freedomtoexpress #knowyourworkplacerights #lovebygapbody #gap #love
Akubilo is right, breastfeeding can be challenging, especially in environments where it is not normalized, and the stats prove her point. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization encourage breastfeeding, and while most moms in America do start out breastfeeding, fewer than a quarter are able to exclusively breastfeed to six months.
Research indicates embarrassment is often cited as one reason why mothers choose not to breastfeed. Akubilo says she has been teased about breastfeeding her son, who is not yet two. “Our society in particular is not very supportive of women who nurse after a certain age,” she says. “I don’t want women to feel ashamed. It’s so important to encourage mothers.”
Akubilo’s photo is already doing just that. When big name brands like the Gap include breastfeeding imagery in campaigns, nursing moms see themselves reflected in the mainstream and other people begin to see breastfeeding as just a normal thing people do. Because that’s exactly what it is.