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The story behind Gap’s breastfeeding ad is beautiful + important 👏

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.”

She continues, “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.”

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 weren’t in the industry that I’m in, I believe that fulfilling this goal would’ve 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 don’t have a designated area to pump in order to maintain their milk supply. Not only that they aren’t 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 I’m from). #normalizebreastfeeding #freedomtoexpress #knowyourworkplacerights #lovebygapbody #gap #love

A post shared by Adaora Akubilo Cobb (@adaoraakubilo) on

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.

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There are certain things that get less challenging with each child you have—like changing diapers or figuring out how to tie a Moby wrap—but breastfeeding just isn't one of them. Breastfeeding is different for every woman, and it can even be different for the same woman at different times in her life.

Mom of three Jessica Alba knows how true that is. She tells Motherly she's no longer nursing her 6-month-old son, Hayes, and while she's been through the end of breastfeeding with her older daughters, 10-year-old Honor and 6-year-old Haven, this experience was different and challenging in its own way.

"Emotionally, I know kind of what to expect. But every time, with all the hormones, it's so overwhelming. It doesn't get any easier," she says.

Alba and her husband Cash Warren welcomed little Hayes on December 31, 2017, and in the months that followed Alba shared several sweet breastfeeding photos on social media. In one, the Honest Company founder nursed during a board meeting, in another she breastfed Hayes in a Target fitting room. To her social media followers it seemed like she was always breastfeeding—and now we know that's because she was.

"I felt like he wanted to nurse 24/7, which was obviously really challenging when you're trying to go back to work," says Alba, who wasn't just busy with the Honest Company in the early weeks and months of Hayes' life, but also shooting her upcoming TV series with Gabrielle Union, 'LA's Finest.' The timing of the opportunity wasn't ideal, but the project was.

"I was actually bummed about it, I really did want to take four months but I got the pilot offer and it just happened to be shooting, so it cut into my maternity leave."

Alba was used to juggling the demands of working and nursing, having brought Honor to movie sets a decade ago and having welcomed Haven right when she was launching the Honest Company, but this time there was another hurdle, one many moms can relate to.

"Also my milk supply was challenged with him. I felt like I had the most milk with Honor and then it got less with Haven and even less with Hayes. And so that was just tough for me," she tells Motherly.

Although she had more milk supply back when she had her daughters, she's never been able to exclusively breastfeed for as long as she would have liked. She wrote about this challenge in her 2013 book, The Honest Life: Living Naturally and True to You.

"I breastfed as long as I could, but not as long as I wanted. I had to get back to work, and I wasn't able to keep it going. But I am proud to say I did the best for my daughters and I'm proud of all of my mom friends for doing the best they can on this issue."

Alba is hardly alone in having to stop breastfeeding earlier than she wanted. According to the Centers for Disease Control and prevention, "Although most infants receive some breastmilk, most are not exclusively breastfeeding or continuing to breastfeed as long as recommended."

More than 81% of American mothers start out breastfeeding, but less than half are exclusively breastfeeding by the time their baby is 3 months old and fewer than a quarter make it to the 6-month mark without formula.

Studies show that although it is incredibly common, supplementing with or switching to formula is a decision fraught with feelings of guilt, failure or "shattered expectations" for a lot of moms.

But you don't have to breastfeed for a full year or two for your child to benefit from the cuddles and the antibodies, and no mother should feel guilty about doing what is best for her child and herself.

Take it from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: The organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding but also recognizes that a mother "is uniquely qualified to decide whether exclusive breastfeeding, mixed feeding or formula feeding is optimal for her and her infant."

A bit of advice Alba wrote in her book echos the ACOG's statement:

"Whatever you do, trust that you're doing the best that you can for your baby."

Still, weaning earlier than you wished to doesn't get easier even if you've experienced it before.

Years after writing that line in her book, Alba tells Motherly, "The only thing you kind of know the third time around is that it will pass."

Alba is an amazing mama, and she is obviously doing what's best for Hayes. And by being so honest about her breastfeeding struggles, she's also doing a great service to other mothers who are facing similar challenges.

Thanks for the honesty, Jessica.

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Jinger Duggar is counting on 10 little fingers and 10 little toes! The former 19 Kids and Counting star welcomed a baby girl with husband Jeremy Vuolo. "Both mom and baby are healthy, doing great, and resting well. We are very thankful for her safe arrival and look forward to life as parents!" the couple announced on their blog.

Felicity Nicole Vuolo, was born on Thursday, July 19. She weighed 8 pounds, 3 ounces at birth.

While Jinger, Jeremy and all of Jinger's 18 siblings have names beginning with the Duggar's preferred initial, J, the couple broke with tradition in naming Felicity.

Or maybe it was part of a new tradition for a new generation of cousins? Jinger's sister Jessa named her sons Spurgeon and Henry, and Joy-Anna Duggar recently welcomed a baby boy named Gideon. Jill's kids are called Israel and Samuel. It seems this generation of Duggar's is dropping the 'J' names and going with a more diverse array of letters when choosing baby names.

J names aren't the only Duggar tradition the Vuolos skipped in their journey to parenthood.

After marrying in November 2016, they broke trend with most of Duggar's siblings by waiting to have a baby. When announcing Duggar's pregnancy in January on their blog, the couple said, "The past fourteen months have been the best of our lives as we have had the wonderful privilege of beginning our journey through life together in marriage... Now, the journey has taken an exciting turn: we are expecting our first child!"

In April, the couple learned they were having a baby girl—and then shared the news with friends and family during a fun gender reveal party. The Texas-based couple then spent the next few months preparing for their daughter's arrival, including spending some calm moments with Duggar's family. (And likely getting some last-minute advice from her sisters!)


Congratulations to the new parents! 🎉

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When your coworker is expecting a baby, what do you give them? A cute onesie? Some classic baby books? How about your own paid time off?

A recent report by Good Morning America has sparked plenty of online conversation about the growing trend of colleagues donating their own paid time off to an expecting parent in the workplace, and the overwhelming consensus is that while well intentioned, colleagues shouldn't have to crowdsource a substitute for parental leave.

As plenty of Twitter users have pointed out to GMA, paid parental leave is sorely needed in the United States, but in its absence, generous co-workers are giving up their own PTO so that a new mother or father can enjoy an extra day at home with their baby.

Last month The Washington Post reported the practice is common in federal offices. "Co-workers donate them to help extend parental leave so a frazzled new mom doesn't have to go back to work six weeks after giving birth," columnist Petula Dvorak wrote.

GMA interviewed mothers in non-federal workplaces who had their maternity leaves topped up by colleagues' donations.

Jessie Sampson works for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, but Nebraska does not offer state employees dedicated paid maternity leave. The state does allow "new moms who work for the state to receive donated time once they have used their own accrued sick time" thanks to a program launched in January GMA reports.

Sampson was able to have four more weeks with her second child than she did with her first thanks to the donations of coworkers. "I had more bonding time with my child and I was able to establish a much better breastfeeding routine," Sampson told GMA. "That's time [my colleagues] could be spending relaxing and to give it to me to spend time with my child, I'm really grateful for that."

Sampson is greatful, but Twitter users are outraged by the idea that programs like this should even have to exist, and point out that the colleagues of new parents shouldn't be sacrificing their own time off.

While well-intentioned to be sure, colleagues who donate their own paid time off may be putting themselves at risk. Research indicates that women who don't take their vacations time are eight times more likely to have a heart attack or develop heart disease than women who vacation twice a year, and when men at high risk for heart disease actually take their vacations they're 32% less likely to die of heart disease.

In short, we need our time off. And when colleagues feel pressured to donate theirs so a new parent can take a leave, they're putting themselves at risk of burning out. That's simply not fair, and it's actually not good for workplace productivity either.

"The mental and physical benefits of taking time off work include improved sleep, a better headspace, more clarity and increased creativity," Dr. Kathryn Smerling, a New York City based psychologist told NBC News. "By taking time off, you'll find a renewed sense of purpose, more energy to carry out tasks and in general, an overall sense of happiness."

Colleagues donating their own time off is a beautiful, generous act. But it's an itty-bitty Band-Aid on a great big gaping wound. America needs paid parental leave, and we need it now.

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Sometimes people get hungry when they're out and about, and since babies need to eat more often than most of us, they definitely get hungry away from home. Parents can't—and shouldn't—be forced to find a private spot for a breastfeeding break every time baby needs to nurse.

Breastfeeding is normal, it's natural and our right to do it in public is protected.

American mothers "have the right to breastfeed your baby wherever and whenever your baby is hungry," according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Office on Women's Health. Until this year, Idaho was the one state that had no protections for breastfeeding mothers, but that has changed.

Now all 50 states (and the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands) have laws that protect a mom's right to breastfeed in public, notes the National Conference of State Legislators.


The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the World Health Organization all encourage women to breastfeed and want to raise breastfeed rates in the United States. These organizations encourage exclusive breastfeeding because a growing body of evidence suggests breastfeeding offers optimal nutritional and immune system benefits, including lower risks for asthma, obesity, type 2 diabetes, ear and respiratory infections and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC, 63.74% of Americans believe women should have the right to breastfeed in public places, and 57.75% say they are "comfortable when mothers breastfeed their babies near me in a public place."

Just over 19% of Americans are not comfortable seeing mothers breastfeed in public, but it's important to remember that a mother's right to breastfeed is legally protected, comfort in public spaces is not. Unfortunately, research suggests that "restaurant and shopping center managers have reported that they would either discourage breastfeeding anywhere in their facilities or would suggest that breastfeeding mothers move to an area that was more secluded."

Those attitudes are changing, but there are still many people who do not understand that breastfeeding moms have a right to feed their babies in public.

Recently, an Illinois mother who was waiting in (a very, very long) line during the Build-A-Bear Pay Your Age event was reportedly discouraged from nursing by a mall security guard. Fellow moms were not having it, and held a peaceful protest inside the shopping center last Saturday.

"We do not agree with the officer's decision to approach the mother and his actions do not reflect the views of this shopping center," the mall's General Manager said in a statement to the Beacon News. The manager apologized and said the shopping center will continue to support breastfeeding rights in the future.

So what can a mother do if she is approached by someone who discourages her from nursing in public?

"Remember that the law protects your right to feed your baby any place you need to. You do not need to respond to anyone who criticizes you for breastfeeding," the CDC states on its website. "If you feel in danger, move away from the person criticizing you and look for people who can support you.


We can breastfeed at bus stops, at restaurants, at the public pool, at the library, at the mall, or anywhere we need to. It's our responsibility to feed our children when they are hungry, and it's our right, too.

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